I am one of those academics. You know, the kind that labels themselves with buzzwords like: a scholar-activist or publicly engaged scholar. These are common terms used to differentiate traditional academics from the more applied, participatory academics. Both of these identities–scholar-activist and public engaged scholar–emphasize the relationship that the scholar has with the broader public.
This is not to say that traditional academics do not care about the public; its that they see the impact of their work as emerging through more traditional pathways: publishing in peer-reviewed journals and debating theory and method with “experts” in their field. The question typically is, “will my work have an impact on the field”? Don’t get me wrong, I care about these issues too! (check out my CV!). In fact, I enjoy conducting research, writing, and debating the nuances of an issue with other scholars. However, I am also committed to breaking down the ivory tower of academia in whatever ways I can. Brick by brick. Project by project.
I am committed to making my research, teaching, and service meaningful to those in the communities where I live and work.
It was this commitment to community engagement that led me to writing this blog. I am a member of the Scholars Strategy Network. I have written short articles for trade publications and local newspapers. I will continue to be active in with these ways and through those media. However, this blog offers something more: It offers a way for me to process my ideas and refine my arguments in a publicly accessible manner. I anticipate that the blog will challenge me to refine my writing– making sure that my work is accessible to a broader audience.
My self identification with these terms and my commitment to community engagement stems from a number of sources:
- My fields (and sub-fields) of study: Public administration and policy, community development, nonprofit administration, and urban affairs all place significant emphasis on applied research and scholarship.
- My previous career: Before entering the academy, I was the assistant director for volunteer management and community outreach at a university-based women’s center. It was my job to build bridges between the university and the community. I worked to build sustainable and equitable partnerships that not only met the needs of the students and the nonprofit organizations, but the community.
- My feminist & activist identities: At my core, I am a feminist activist. I sought a Ph.D. to be a better activist.
Writing a blog, in and of itself, does not constitute community engagement. I know this. But I hope that this blog provides one more mechanism for me to engage with a community outside of academia… outside the ivory tower…