PAGE Fellows Discuss the “Copernican Moment” in Higher Education and Civic Engagement

By the 2011-2012 Imagining America PAGE Fellows

This edited conversation among members of Imagining America’s 2011-2012 Publicly Engaged Graduate Education (PAGE) cohort is our attempt to both critique and enact the shift David Scobey anticipates in his talk, “Civic Engagement and the Copernican Moment” (which has been published as IA’s 11th Foreseeable Future, available for download here). We have used various media to create this response collaboratively: Mozilla’s open source Etherpad platform, email exchanges, and transcribed conference calls.

Professor Scobey reflects back on the development of Imagining America (IA) to examine the contemporary moment in the academy and its future, but what can PAGE’s development in this context say about “change, crisis, and innovation in higher education”? Since 2003, PAGE, first under the direction of Sylvia Gale and then Kevin Bott, has helped IA consider the full career arc of the publically engaged scholar (1) and contribute to trans-disciplinary professionalization and mentorship for graduate students. PAGE shares Scobey’s interest in what it might mean if the institution were not the center of our reality in higher education. We come together from various disciplines and campuses across the country for mutual support, reciprocity, camaraderie, and collaborative scholarship. While Scobey calls for a re-envisioning of place and pedagogy for undergraduates, new scholarship and artistry like Nick Sousanis’s, featured on this cover, also calls out for a re-envisioning of dissertations, doctoral programs, partnerships, and scholarly artifacts.

We invite your responses in the comments!


Just Published: Civic Engagement and the Copernican Moment

By Director Jan Cohen-Cruz, Imagining America

We are pleased to announce the publication of our most recent Foreseeable Future, the IA series featuring keynotes from our national conferences. This year’s text, Civic Engagement and the Copernican Moment, by longtime IA-er and national leader in public scholarship David Scobey, provides a seeable present: the state of higher education a decade into the 21st century and sorely in need of change. Evoking a paradigm shift on the scale of Copernicus’s discovery that the sun, not the earth, is the center of the universe, Scobey adjures, “there is widespread agreement that higher education faces a sea-change in its intellectual, institutional, technological, and economic organization.”

Focusing on the ramifications of this shift for public scholarship, Scobey commends civically-engaged pedagogies as energizing responses to stultified academic practices. However, he takes engaged scholars and artists to task for not fully understanding out-of-date assumptions about undergraduate education, given that increasing numbers of students must simultaneously work, may have families, and for various other reasons may not have “the time, space, and money for intensive, unpaid community-based learning.” (more…)

Citizen Alum: Engaging Alumni as Doers, Not (Just) Donors

Today, the American Commonwealth Partnership released a special-issue of its newsletter, “At the Forefront of Change,” with a focus on Citizen Alum — a national listening, capacity-building, and participatory research project to make public the civic passions of alums, current students, faculty, and staff. Based at the University of Michigan, Citizen Alum is led by Julie Ellison, IA Director Emerita, with Alex Olson, 2011-12 IA PAGE Fellow. Syracuse University is one of the project’s charter members, and in the newsletter, SU’s Engagement Fellows program is mentioned as a notable example of engaging alumni.

Read the newsletter here or download the PDF.

TTI Research Group Lays Groundwork for Impact Study

By Julie Ellison, Professor of American Culture, English, and Art and Design, University of Michigan, and Timothy K. Eatman, Research Director, Imagining America

The TTI Research Group (TTI-RG) builds on the work of Imagining America’s Tenure Team Initiative on Public Scholarship (TTI). Specifically it is committed to understanding the reverberations of the 2008 report, Scholarship in Public: Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University. 

 We aim to:

  • document changes in faculty rewards policies at a wide variety of colleges and universities;
  • map the impact of the report on efforts by higher education and disciplinary associations to value publicly engaged scholarship; and
  • create capacity for ongoing change by making findings from the impact study broadly available. (more…)

IA’s Growing Research Enterprise

By Director Jan Cohen-Cruz and Research Director Timothy K. Eatman, Imagining America

We are pleased to welcome Dr. Deirdra Stockmann as IA’s Associate Research Director. Deirdra will work closely with Research Director Dr. Timothy Eatman to support IA’s research enterprise while continuing to serve as a research associate with the Assessing Practices of Public Scholarship (APPS) team. Deirdra brings a decade of experience working with civic engagement programs at the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania. She recently completed her Ph.D. in urban planning at Michigan. Deirdra’s thesis examined the participants and socio-political processes behind food policy advocacy at the city level. Her research expertise and passions emphasize qualitative methods as well as survey development and analysis. She has taught courses on urban planning and community development and has advised many undergraduate research and field study projects. (more…)

Put Yourself on the Map: One Hour to Build Your IA Presence

By Kevin Bott, Imagining America Associate Director

Spring break is just around the corner, and it takes less than an hour to build your institution’s Imagining America web profile using our new interactive map. IA’s new website gets thousands of hits each month. By populating your institution’s map page, users will be able to find your engagement programs and initiatives by institutional type, by discipline, or by issue and theme.

Every IA member has a unique username and password to access their map marker page. By dragging and dropping relevant “tags,” and copying and pasting URL links, each institution can feature up to 100 items related to engaged scholarship at any time.  These can include curricula and courses, units and departments, projects and programs, and campus-wide initiatives. The map provides professional peers, prospective students, potential funders, and community members an immediate and comprehensive overview of your institution’s commitment to engagement.

Getting started is as easy as getting in touch with Jeremy Lane ( and obtaining your username and password. Take a look at the step-by-step guide and see just how quick and simple it is to “put yourself on the map!”

Art, Culture, and Community Development Collaboratory Begins Research in New Orleans

By Micah Salkind, Doctoral Student in American Studies, Brown University, Catherine Michna, PhD, Instructor, University of Massachusetts, Boston, and Ruth Janisch Lake, Assistant Director, Civic Engagement Center, Macalester College

IA’s Art, Culture, and Community Development Collaboratory spent Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend in New Orleans working on the first phase of our participatory action research. We documented and interviewed participants from several IA member institutions’ civic engagement programs and cultural partnerships in that city. We began at Xavier University, where longtime professor (and IA board member) Ron Bechet explained how the Xavier Art Department’s longstanding cultural partnerships with artists and community organizers shape his institution, affect his collaborators, and contribute to cultural life in the city. (more…)