Message from the Interim Associate Provost

Laurie Van Egeren, Interim Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement

Laurie Van Egeren, Interim Associate Provost for University Outreach and Engagement

Dear Engaged Spartans and our partners in Michigan and around the world,

As 2020 draws to a close, we recognize the challenges every member of the MSU community has faced this year, including those of our faculty and staff researchers and our partner communities. Just as community-engaged researchers have devoted this year to adapting to restrictions and obstacles, so community partners have faced extreme hardships caused or exacerbated by COVID-19.

In the new year, faculty will be eager to resume research collaborations with the communities from which they have been distanced. But what will this look like? What should faculty consider before they begin to reconnect?

In August 2020, UOE colleagues on the outreach and engagement subcommittee of the MSU COVID-19 Reopening Task Force held four listening sessions with community liaisons and stakeholders on the front lines of the pandemic. Through these sessions, we sought community input about how researchers and communities could resume collaborative work in ways that are safe, ethical, and equitable.

See summary notes from the August 2020 listening sessions.

Subsequently, several listening session participants served as panelists for a December 1st discussion hosted by UOE on “What Communities Expect from Researchers.” A number of themes emerged from the discussion that may serve as useful guideposts for researchers engaging with communities in the current context. These include:

  • Trust is everything. Get to know the community, create processes for equality in decision-making (including about resources), and emphasize the critical role of local knowledge
  • Acknowledge times of turmoil as a fertile context for change; together, seek innovative solutions to the conduct and use of research at this time
  • Be an advocate: Listen deeply to community concerns and interpretation, and share data and outcomes meaningful to the community if you want to create real change

Of course, these themes do not only reflect engaged research values; they are human values. So as we leave this year behind and head into the new year, I hope that we are able to reflect, not just on what has separated us, but on the fundamental values of caring and collaboration that bring us together.

Wishing you a joyful, healthy, and prosperous New Year.

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