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Forums defining scholarship of engagement at UNG

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A group of faculty, staff and administrators talk about defining engagement at a recent forum. Other forums are being planned to get staff and student feedback regarding engagement at the university.

Open forums for students, faculty and staff are being held on the University of North Georgia's (UNG) four campuses to help the institution define the scholarship of engagement, including how the definition applies to the university's Carnegie classification for community engagement.

UNG is one of only two public universities in Georgia to hold the prestigious Community Engagement Classification from The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which promotes service-learning and community partnerships and the many ways they can enhance the educational experience.

The first forum was held at UNG's Dahlonega Campus on Dec. 1. The forums are sponsored by UNG's Center for Teaching, Learning and Leadership.

"A large part of creating the definition will be separating community service from community engagement," said Dr. Pamela Elfenbein, head of UNG's Department of Sociology and Human Services and chair of the Defining Engaged Scholarship forums. "These definitions will have a significant impact on our university for many years to come."

Faculty from several of UNG's colleges discussed how best to begin the process, including how to keep the community informed of steps being taken and how to communicate and leverage the forum outcomes.

"The purpose of the faculty forums was to begin faculty-generated conversations about how we will define 'engaged scholarship,'" said Dr. Michallene McDaniel, associate head for the Department of Sociology and Human Services. "What do we want that to mean for us? What are some examples of projects current faculty members are working on that might be considered engaged scholarship? The way we define engaged scholarship for ourselves will impact tenure and promotion policies, hiring priorities and decisions, and professional development opportunities in the future. The Carnegie Engaged University classification dictates that we must really practice the ideals of engagement, and this will affect the life of every faculty member."

Dr. Mary Carney, director for UNG's Center for Teaching, Learning and Leadership and a speaker at Campus Compact's "Diving In: Institute for New Community Service-Learning Professionals" held in June at the University of Georgia, said UNG's commitment to community engagement is reinforced by the university's strategic plan.

"On all of UNG's campuses, faculty, staff and students are involved in building and furthering what the Carnegie Foundation defines as the gold-standard of community engagement — collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity."

Forums are also planned for UNG students and staff. The Student Government Association (SGA) for UNG's Gainesville and Oconee campuses will meet Dec. 8, and SGA and other campus student leaders for the Dahlonega Campus will meet Jan. 5. Staff forums will be determined at a later date.

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