Imagine an "engaged" university. What is it like?
It was this question that UT alumnae Julie E. Williams, Ph.D, attempted to answer at Thursday's lecture, titled, "What does an 'Engaged' University Look Like?" As the senior vice provost for Engagement and Academic Outreach at the University of New Hampshire, Williams visited UT to introduce new ideas and practices that could help the university become more involved with the local and global community.
Developing countless projects in the community and within the university, Williams is responsible for transforming UNH into one of the leading community engagement institutions.
Having established the first Office of Engagement and Academic Outreach at UNH in 2001, Williams later founded the Engaged Scholars Academy, as well as the Engaged Scholars Writing team.
"Back in 2001, when I first went to UNH, engagement was the thing you did before you got married," Williams said. "So, it's very important to be clear that we mean a variety of things but solely a mutually benefiting collaborative partnership between institutions and community."
By outlining the successful community and research projects of other universities, Williams presented an array of investments that could help UT achieve the Carnegie's Classification for Community Engagement.
Created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1973, the Carnegie Classification is awarded to universities in order to categorize their institution and allow comparisons between other institutions of higher education for research projects.
"We are growing our resources for engagement right now, and part of our aim in pursuing the Carnegie's Community Engagement Classification is to figure out how to expand our outreach and extension missions," Elizabeth Burman, director of community engagement and outreach, said. "To be part of our community means we have to honor and collaborate with our community. This is an ongoing challenge and process."
Receiving the Carnegie Classification for community engagement would allow UT to evaluate where it ranks among other universities, highlighting areas needing improvement.
Williams sought to dispel the notion that engagement exists solely outside the university, encouraging the school to utilize the resources already available on campus.
"I think there is a lot of talent on campus that we don't know about and essentially it's our job to create those kinds of research opportunities on campus," Williams said. "Student learning and civic engagement is key. ... I mean, essentially, that's why universities exist.
"If engagement is done well, it's an incredible opportunity because of the energy and ingenuity of students."
Sponsored by the Office of Outreach and Engagement, Williams' presentation was the first in a year-long series of lectures focusing on how to better UT's internal and external community engagement.
"It is such a powerful thing to bring someone in from somewhere else who can tell us what's going on at other universities," Burman said. "What I'm excited about is all the work we're doing already, all these terrific community-campus partnerships and projects. ... I'd like us to keep going in the direction we are already going, becoming ever more present in the life of our local, regional, national and global community."