Editor’s Note: In my column last week (From the Editor’s Desk: Ten Definitions of Engagement, 2/21/13), I invited readers to submit their personal definitions of engagement. This letter is offered in response, more are welcome.
In 2003, the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities produced a series of compelling reports under the title of “Returning to our Roots.” In the volume devoted to “The Engaged Institution,” the following definition deserves to be cited: “By engagement, we refer to institutions that have redesigned their teaching, research and extension and service functions to become even more sympathetically involved with their communities, however community may be defined. Embedded in the engagement ideal is a commitment to sharing and reciprocity. The Kellogg Commission envisions partnerships, two-way streets defined by mutual respect among the partners for what each brings to the table.”
More recently, the Carnegie Foundation has also challenged visionary colleges and universities stating that, “Community engagement describes collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.”
As a vibrant land-grant university that is responsive to the challenges and opportunities of the future, MSU has enhanced the role and visibility of engagement. We are part of a select group of institutions that take exceptional pride in establishing mutually benefiting relationships with groups and communities. At the end of the day, engagement is about commitment over time. In these relationships, it is almost impossible to ascertain which side is the teacher or which side is the learner, nor is it possible to determine who benefits the most.