Building Engagement Into the Core Academic Mission of the University: The MSU Approach

"I've worked with Hi Fitzgerald, Burt Bargerstock, and Diane Doberneck through the Engagement Scholarship Consortium (ESC). MSU is the pre-eminent university in the country for engagement scholarship, historically as well as in the present. I get questions all the time that I point to Hi, Burt, and Diane—and have done for years. I send people to them for resources. I say pre-eminent because of the sustained high level [of] multiple leadership."

Nancy Franz
Professor Emeritus, School of Education
Iowa State University
Founder and Think Tank Participant, Academy of Community Engagement Scholarship

Ten years ago, in our inaugural issue of The Engaged Scholar Magazine, we posed the question, "What is an engaged university?"

Drawing on core university documents 1, we noted that for Michigan State University, engagement is not a separate "service" activity, detached from research and teaching; it is part of the core academic mission of the University, embedded within the traditional scholarly endeavors of generating, transmitting, applying, and preserving knowledge.

We asserted that scholarly engagement efforts should be mutually beneficial for all partners—community, faculty, and students—and that all should have the opportunity to participate in the design, operation, and evaluation of projects.

We also discussed principles to be observed in pursuing this work, such as giving careful attention to building relationships and communities, as well as favoring multidisciplinary and evidence-based approaches.

Over the past decade we've learned a lot about how to further these principles and values. Additionally, a growing literature has emerged from the study of engaged scholarship itself—its principles, processes, and practices—and a host of associations and other organizations have been formed to support and advocate for its place in higher education.

MSU had already recognized the significance of this movement in 2005, with the creation of the National Collaborative for the Study of University Engagement (NCSUE) within University Outreach and Engagement (UOE). NCSUE seeks greater understanding of how university engagement enhances faculty scholarship and community progress. How do scholars engage most effectively with their communities, and how, in turn, does such engagement enhance their scholarship?


  1. See, for example: Provost's Committee on University Outreach. (1993, October; reprinted 2009, June). University Outreach at Michigan State University: Extending Knowledge to Serve Society. East Lansing: Michigan State University. Retrieved from to text
  • Written by Linda Chapel Jackson, University Outreach and Engagement

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