Michigan State University masthead graphic Michigan State University masthead graphic
 
Volume 10
2015

Developing Infrastructure to Support Faculty Engagement: RP&T

In reports published nationally in the late 1990s, reappointment, promotion, and tenure (RP&T) policies were cited as a major barrier to faculty involvement in outreach and engagement activities.

Following a recommendation of the 1993 Provost's Report on University Outreach, a faculty committee supported by UOE led efforts to revise the faculty review guidelines and forms with the goal of integrating engagement activities into the qualifications for RP&T. The revisions, which were implemented in 2001, allowed faculty to report their outreach and engagement throughout the form rather than in a separate section.

Implicit in this change was the assumption that outreach and engagement are part of how many scholars conduct their research, their teaching, and their service—and they should be able to characterize this work as such when seeking reappointment, promotion, or tenure. The new forms also emphasized the use of multiple ways to document quality, and distinguished service to the broader community from service to scholarly and professional organizations or to the University.

Six years later, UOE researchers conducted a study to determine how and to what extent faculty were reporting their engagement work on the revised forms, what types of activities were being reported, and whether demographic variables made a difference in reporting. Document analysis of 244 forms focused on faculty members who successfully underwent RP&T review between 2001 and 2006.

The study found that most faculty members (90%) reported at least one outreach/engagement activity on their RP&T form. Noncredit instruction was the most common activity (70%), closely followed by public events (69%) and technical assistance or expert testimony (56%). The researchers' findings have also informed the development of a useful typology of publicly engaged scholarship and observations about disciplinary variations in faculty members' approaches to community-engaged scholarship.

In addition to journal articles and presentations on this study, UOE researchers produced institution and college-level reports for each college and a discussion guide for departments and colleges about RP&T and engaged scholarship. More information about the study, as well as a summary of the revisions made, is available at: ncsue.msu.edu/research/reappointment.aspx.

  • Written by Linda Chapel Jackson, University Outreach and Engagement