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Engaged University: What does it do?

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Several recent examples of ‘engaged’ university have been brought into public discourse about civic engagement and social responsibility in higher education. Many still wonder: What does it look like? What does it do?
Take a look:

  • Students of a senior undergraduate class interpret ‘literacy’ based on their field projects in local immigrant communities
  • A graduate course on participatory inquiry in community sustainability has mature students getting ready to undertake thesis research
  • Graduate class in fisheries is doing a two year research in partnership with Atlantic communities to improve livelihoods
  • In community neighbourhood around the university campus, a team of faculty and students have set up a centre for providing technical, professional and intellectual support to local small business
  • Arts museum on campus conducts educational programmes co-designed by different faculty, community groups, and students of local high schools
  • Mayors from cities in the province regularly dialogue with students and faculty around emerging challenges in cities
  • Ten field research and outreach centres in different regions of the province undertake research based on local issues and provide new information and technology to local communities

The above list is impressive, though not quite exhaustive.

This is what I saw at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, Michigan (USA) in action last week.

One of the first land grant universities in America, MSU began in 1855 as an agriculture college. Today it has more than 50,000 students in a wide range of disciplines. Over these years, MSU has become increasingly more ‘engaged’ in its core functions of research, teaching and service.

Strong and committed leadership, sustained investment in building systems and capacities of students and faculty to get engaged, and a culture of building and nurturing mutually respectful relationships with a diverse set of external, community and business stakeholders have made MSU an exemplary ‘engaged university’ today.

Rajesh Tandon                                                October 23, 2016
UNESCO Co- Chair

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