Public Scholarship is More Than Outreach

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Want to engage in public scholarship but don’t know where to start? Already work with public-facing assignments and research but don’t know how that fits into public scholarship?

You’re not alone! I think teachers and researchers hold back from public scholarship because they hold a narrow view of it that doesn’t have room for their own work. Maybe you want your work to have a broader impact, but don’t want to write an op-ed or make a podcast.

Of course outreach like that is essential. I’ve benefited quite a bit from the generosity of scholars who share their research. When I was a state worker in Oregon, poring over applications and forms, I kept it together listening to outreach podcasts like the Poetry Foundation and the Tolkien Professor. I had my first experience of Sir Orfeo in Middle English while keying through Medicaid and Oregon Health Plan forms.

But that’s not all there is to being a public scholar.

There’s a broad understanding of public scholarship that includes outreach along with community engaged learning, student-driven scholarship, and even faculty training programs that make a space for public scholarship. Turning research into public-facing publications is an important part of public scholarship, but researchers who promote the common good in other ways are also public scholars.

To help faculty find a home for themselves as public scholars, I developed a workshop series on public scholarship at the Center for Teaching and Learning where I work. You can hear all about it in this talk I’m giving at the Engaging Open Social Scholarship gathering organized by the Implementing New Knowledge Environments Partnership (Register for the gathering here). I explain the broader view a little more and give suggestions for organizing a workshop series like this.

Here’s a closer look at the workshop sequence:

Since all workshops were virtual events offered over Zoom, we partnered with folks over at Baylor and Emory and invited participants across institutions to join us. That was something positive that came out of having to hold our events virtually. Though everyone has Zoom fatigue, it was much easier to interact with communities in different locations when we all expected to meet in a Zoom room.

  • What is Public Scholarship: This first workshop introduces participants to a broad understanding of public scholarship and provides a space to discuss the potential for courses and projects.
  • Pedagogical Series
    • Enabling Students to be Public Scholars: Inspired by the work of Alexandria Lockett, this workshop introduces faculty to strategies that enable student writing in public spaces through hacker name, bio-mythography, and wiki editing activities.
    • Blogging in the Classroom: The blogging in the classroom workshop introduces participants to crafting and assessing public-facing writing assignments in the classroom.
    • Digital Storytelling: The Digital Storytelling workshop will cover basic tools and techniques for assigning multimodal narrative projects in the classroom.
    • Podcasting in the Classroom: Featuring David Morgen from Emory University, this workshop introduces participants to integrating podcasting activities and assessments in the classroom.
  • Organizing Flightless Conferences: This workshop introduces participants to different remote conferencing models and discusses best practices. Joshua King, conference organizer and Associate Professor at Baylor University, will join us to discuss past and future conferences.
  • Public Scholarship Panel: The Public Scholarship series closes with a panel on engaging the public as a researcher. In this panel, Kayla Shipp, Digital Scholarship Specialist at the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, and Peter Kindle, Professor of Social Work, will discuss their work with public-facing research and promoting the public good.

What’s Next

We’re going to offer the workshop series in the spring term, and we want to inject it more with collaborative and community-driven work. The literature on public scholarship is moving more toward mutually enriching dialogue rather than a one-way service researchers offer the community.

Recognizing that, we will add a workshop on community engaged learning, partnering with the Gallagher Center for Experiential Learning and Education Abroad. I’m also hoping to partner with members of the local community in Vermillion, South Dakota, and Clay County.

And I’m looking forward to partnering with other amazing folks and hosting a panel on public scholarship!

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