TTI Research Group Lays Groundwork for Impact Study

By Imagining America | March 18, 2012

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.

Key Documents

The TTI was established to help campus leaders, faculty members, and emerging scholars themselves to understand and value public scholarship. Evaluating the work of civically engaged scholars in the humanities, arts, and design was then–and continues to be–a challenge. In the past, the IA research team has surveyed a large body of knowledge on this topic, conducted original research, and published several reports. These include a background study (2006); Scholarship in Public (2008)and “Laying the Groundwork for the TTI Impact Study: Purposes, Values, and Concepts” (2010).

“Laying the Groundwork,” our most recent paper, can be downloaded here We knew that our first task in “Laying the Groundwork” would be to sort out the relationships between the TTI-RG and complementary Imagining America projects and initiatives, as well as between the TTI-RG and several research collaborations with other organizations. Since we completed “Laying the Groundwork,” the emergence of the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP) has enlarged our reach and heightened the need for coordination.

Expanding Our Scope

The American Commonwealth Partnership was announced at the White House meeting, “For Democracy’s Future,” on January 10, 2012.  ACP has initiated a year of advocacy and activity under the banner, “For Democracy’s Future – Reclaiming Our Civic Mission.” To a collaboration with the White House Office of Public Engagement, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the American Commonwealth Partnership brings a broad alliance of higher education and civic groups, including Imagining America, the American Democracy Project, The Democracy Commitment, The New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE), the National Conference on Citizenship, Campus Compact, the Anchor Institutions Task Force, and more. The American Commonwealth Partnership is coordinated by Harry Boyte, former Imagining America board member.

ACP will expand the impact of IA’s leadership on the issue of faculty rewards. ACP has launched a Public Scholarship Working Group co-chaired by IA Director of Research Tim Eatman and IA board member John Saltmarsh. Julie Ellison, co-PI of the TTI-RG, is a member of that Working Group and serves on the ACP Council along with TTI-RG fellows David Scobey (The New School University for Public Engagement), Blase Scarnati (Northern Arizona State University), and Julie Plaut  (Minnesota Campus Compact).

Planned Activities

The TTI report has been enthusiastically received. Praised by KerryAnn O’Meara, a leading higher education scholar, as “the most persuasive and comprehensive guide to tenure reform supporting interdisciplinary and engaged research that we have as a field,” it is being used as a tool for dialogue, planning, and action across higher education.  Following the release of the report at a working conference in New York City in 2008, Imagining America convened a series of regional meetings in collaboration with Campus Compact. These meetings helped to advance the work by connecting communities of change from 58 institutions representing every higher education sector and several regions of the country.

We know intuitively that the TTI has had an impact. But we need to test our assumption of the degree to which it has been effective. The TTI-RG is in the process of gathering and evaluating information about the impact of the recommendations presented in the TTI report. Moreover, we are taking a broader view of where change is needed. For example, the national debate about the rewards system for contingent faculty members has not addressed their roles as publicly engaged teachers and scholars. The TTI-RG is planning several conference sessions  in 2012 to stimulate dialogue on this important issue.

The TTI-RG is looking at quantitative and qualitative evidence of the impact of the 2009 Tenure Team Initiative regional meetings.  A compilation of all related material produced before, during, and after the regional meetings is almost complete. In addition a brief follow-up survey of institutions that participated in the regional meetings is under development.

The Research Group is also examining institutional efforts at college and university campuses that did not participate in the regional meetings. Further, it is building bridges to allied research initiatives by initiating conversations with the Imagining America research collaboratories on Undergraduate Civic Professionalism and Integrated Assessment, as well as with Linking Full Participation to Higher Education’s Public Mission. Linking Full Participation is a national project conducted in partnership with The Center for Institutional and Social Change at Columbia Law School. We are also documenting related undertakings by other higher education organizations.

IA’s national conference in October 2012 is going to be an important event for the TTI-RG.  We hope to see the TTI-RG session at the conference be an exchange among several working groups: the TTI-RG, the Integrated Assessment and Civic Professionalism collaboratories, and Linking Full Participation. This session would make it possible for all of us to explore together the connections among promotion policies, liberal arts education, and curricular assessment.


For a complete list of TTI-RG Fellows, please see here.

The photo is from the June 2010 IA regional meeting in California, by Kim Yasuda.