Two years ago, actually three years ago, I began working as a research assistant for my former employer who was writing her dissertation on University-Community partnerships. She asked if I'd be interested in helping her with the second chapter, the literature review. After spending a week or so working on it I suggested it would be easier if I simply wrote the whole thing and that she could edit it or do as she saw fit after I had finished. I learned quite a bit in the process of writing this piece, although I think that if I had to write the whole thing over it would look rather different. For one thing, I would put more consideration into the early history of universities, which is rather thin here. I also seriously question my championing of university administrators, which was entirely influenced by the fact that I was an administrator and had hoped, at the time, to continue to be. I feel rather differently about that now.
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
The field of research on university–community partnerships (UCPs), like the partnerships themselves, is relatively young. The amount of statistical data is growing, but the methods for evaluating that data and determining the success of a partnership remain few (Murray & Weissbourd, 2005). One reason UCPs can be so difficult to evaluate is that they are not consistent in form (Begun, Berger, Otto-Salaj, & Rose, 2010; Butterfield & Soska, 2004). In order to survive, UCPs are often forced to occupy a nebulous gray area between different parties that do not always have compatible agendas. UCPs tend to be composed of multiple interest groups. In order to fund and sustain partnerships between universities and communities, one or several stakeholders are often incorporated. There are many areas of potential conflict between these interest groups. A state-funded project, for example, may be pressed to meet objectives contrary to those of the community and the university (Boyle & Silver, 2005; Mulroy, 2004). Universities, on the other hand, may allow a UCP more freedom than the state but may also be under greater financial stress (Boyle & Silver, 2005; Mulroy, 2004). Universities may also have research and academic requirements that must be met but that position the community as a lab experiment rather than as a co-member of the partnership (Boyle & Silver, 2005; Mulroy, 2004).
Success for a UCP can be measured according to how it balances its competing demands. This chapter then will examine how UCPs can facilitate greater reciprocity of interests between universities and their communities. This chapter also acknowledges that reciprocity is not always the optimal method and that top-down initiatives may be more effective in certain cases, especially in situations where decisions need to be made and enacted quickly. Nonetheless, this chapter will examine how partnerships that allow for greater reciprocity, or the working together of the university with the community to research community problems and devise solutions, tend to better fulfill the needs of all parties.
Success for a UCP can be measured according to how it balances its competing demands. This chapter then will examine how UCPs can facilitate greater reciprocity of interests between universities and their communities. This chapter also acknowledges that reciprocity is not always the optimal method and that top-down initiatives may be more effective in certain cases, especially in situations where decisions need to be made and enacted quickly. Nonetheless, this chapter will examine how partnerships that allow for greater reciprocity, or the working together of the university with the community to research community problems and devise solutions, tend to better fulfill the needs of all parties.
The nebulous character of UCPs noted above demands a thorough review of the literature if only in order to gain a clearer perspective on the scope of what UCPs are and do. In reviewing the history of UCPs and placing them in their historical context, this study will analyze the critical language currently being used to define UCPs. Bringing the language used to define UCPs to the foreground will clarify the nature and focus of the partnerships and, as a result, make them more open to evaluation. This chapter will review available literature on factors contributing to effective and sustainable UCPs. This historical overview offers a developmental summary of UCPs, including environmental factors, policies, relationships, and funding sources that may have helped or hindered their development and success since their conception. This chapter will also explore the complexities of the policies, internal structures, and ideologies that govern UCPs and the roles that institutional and community leaders, faculty, and staff play in the process. Current research is examined in the context of historical developments, and the measures of effective UCPs are addressed to frame the discussion on the future of sustainable partnerships between universities and communities that are mutually beneficial. The chapter will first address the evolution of IHEs, interdisciplinary dialogue within IHEs, and the culture of IHEs. The next section will relate the history of UCPs within the broader context of IHEs. In the closing section of this chapter, IHEs and UCPs will be examined in relation to current studies on complexity and complex adaptive systems (CAS) where the most pioneering work in interdisciplinary reciprocal partnerships is being done.
Literature used in this review relates to historical and current information on UCPs, the historical and current structure and state of UCPs, civic engagement, service-learning, and engaged scholarship. The review will also examine the philosophical underpinning of UCPs and how this foundation relates to current theories of complexity and (CAS). Theories on complexity will serve as a model for how UCPs can be formed and conducted in the future. This study researched books, peer-reviewed articles, journals, dissertations, and documents from the University of Phoenix’s library as well as local university and public libraries as data sources for the literature review and the foundation for the framing of the study. In particular the research made use of JSTOR, ProQuest, and EBSCOhost databases as the bases for the literature review. Other data sources used include relevant documents and materials on university, college, or government Web sites.
Methodology of the Historical Overview
The purpose of this qualitative, phenomenological study is to explore factors contributing to effective and sustainable partnerships between universities and communities. A key factor to effective and sustainable partnerships is having clear and open lines of communication. Partnership facilitators need to use a consistent lexicon of engagement, which entails being aware of the historical context in which engagement takes place. In looking at this developing language, this study will present an overview of the origins of universities before tracing their development in America from the colonial era to the present day. The historical overview places the development of UCPs in the context of the development of IHEs. It then examines UCPs in relation to the concept of scholarship and civic engagement, and in relation to the internal and external relationship dynamics and support systems. The historical overview also addresses the impact major stakeholders and decision makers can have on the success or failure of UCPs, including government, institutional, and community leadership and corporations. Providing a historical overview of universities and the emergence of UCPs is not an attempt to present a simple linear chain of cause and effect. Rather, this chapter will draw attention to some of the most salient elements that have persisted until the present day and that have influenced UCPs.
This concept of engagement will serve as the foundation from which the interview questions will be composed for this study. One of the first steps in conducting qualitative, phenomenological research involves formulating interview questions to be posed to research participants. These participants are not only research subjects but also partners who will be made aware of the reciprocal nature of this research project. Before formulating questions, a researcher must have a clear vision of the goals of this partnership with research participants and the information and knowledge to be gained from the interviews. As Moustakas (1994) stated, “Researchers must have a topic and question that possesses social and personal meaning” (p. 104). In other words, the topic should be of interest to researchers as well as have a social meaning of interest to the research participants. Moustakas emphasized the choice of diction and the phrasing of one’s topic and questions while also recognizing the importance of keeping oneself open to new directions in which the research may lead during the interview. Although it is important to have a clear goal for the research project, it is equally important to be flexible and open to new lines of inquiry. Interview questions, therefore, will have a reciprocal interest for researchers as well as research participants. Researchers bring the historical context of UCPs, and research participants bring the specifics of their own contemporary situation. Interviews that maintain the interest of both perspectives will tend to be more effective and relevant than those whose interest is one-sided.
Institutions of Higher Education
The concept of institutes of higher education. The history of IHEs reveals various modes of existence ranging from mobile to institutionalized structures, independent faculty to bureaucratic governance, restricted to open enrollment of students. One quality that has persisted since the conception of universities in the Middle Ages is a sense of “placelessness” (Bender, 1998, p. 25). This “placenessness” has manifested itself most prominently in the institutions’ mobility, independence, and cosmopolitan scope. Hacker and Dreifus (2011) located these qualities of higher education in the institutions’ dedication to free inquiry and the cultivation of the imagination. College students they define as simply being “more interesting people” (p. 6). An underlying theme to this chapter will be that in order to preserve academic standards, institutions need to maintain mobility, independence, and a scope that encompasses both the local and the broader world. The medieval origins of universities as “a cloistered and separate area in which inquiry is engaged in for its own sake and not because it yields useful results” (Fish, 2013, para 15) has been exchanged, as this chapter will demonstrate, for “various forms of instrumentalism” (Fish, 2013, para 15) that undermine universities’ capacity to maintain these core academic goals. These historical qualities—mobility, independence, cosmopolitanism, placelessness, the desire to promote education for its own sake and not any ideology or objective—are essential to promoting reciprocal partnerships.
The medieval university. Prior to the establishment of universities, monasteries served the role of educational institutions (Bender 1998). Unlike the first universities, the medieval monasteries were less mobile and less open. The work of a monastery was generally confined to the town it was established in, and it did not seek to educate the general community but only those interested either in joining the monastery or in becoming part of the priesthood or clergy.
The first university in Europe, the student-university in Bologna (Università di Bologna, Italy), was established in 1088 (Bender, 1998). The university in Bologna exercised a greater degree of mobility and independence than other educational institutions of the time because it was not established out of the monastery (Bender, 1998; Overman, 1971). At the University of Bologna students formed a guild (association of people with similar interests) and initiated their learning by hiring masters to teach them. Students were able to exercise greater freedom in directing their education because the University of Bologna was organized as a guild rather than a monastery (Bender, 1998; Pederson, 1997).
In contrast, the University of Paris (Université de Paris, France), founded in 1229, was a guild of teachers (Bender, 1998). The University of Paris was rooted in the monastic tradition of the studium. The studium was a fixed location where students were accepted from different places to study in the arts, law, medicine, or theology. As a result of its roots in the monastic tradition, the studium was not as mobile as the University of Bologna (Bender, 1998; Cobban, 1980).
The student and teacher guilds later merged in what became known as the studium generale (Bender, 1998). This was an educational institution that was granted the status of jus obique docendi (the right to teach everywhere) by the pope. This decree granted the institution and the teachers in these institutions official status in the eyes of the church as well as permission to travel and teach anywhere in the world. The unlocalized character of the early universities and later the studium generale defined these institutions as being more cosmopolitan than metropolitan (Bender, 1998).
By the end of the 17th century, European academies had become far less international and mobile (Bender, 1998; Cobban, 1980). Although universities would ultimately find it more convenient to have one fixed location, the concept of a mobile institution that was inherent in the original universities, seen in its cosmopolitan scope and the tendency toward free inquiry, persisted throughout the evolution of universities (Bender, 1998).
The early history of IHEs in America. It is impossible to chart the development of UCPs in America without researching the evolution of IHEs. The ability for IHEs to contribute to social causes was and continues to be largely dependent on the economic and political context they are operating under. As Jonathan Cole (2009) wrote, “The history of universities in America is inextricably bound up with the history of America itself” (p. 45). This chapter is indebted to many historians and historical studies, foremost among them John Thelin’s A History of American Higher Education (2011). Thelin’s history not only provides a lucid account of the development of IHEs in America but demonstrates how contemporary disciplinary perspectives can be integrated into this historical context (Eisenmann, 2004).
The history of IHEs in America begins with the colonial colleges. Colonial colleges were primarily religious, teaching theology and oratory to prepare pastors to serve their immediate communities. At the time, the University of Pennsylvania (then known as the College of Philadelphia) was the first of the colonial colleges to be an explicitly secular institution organized to produce orators, public speakers, and politicians rather than scholars and ministers (Bender, 1998; Thelin, 2011). Unlike the medieval colleges, the colonial colleges were not established by mobile teachers and their students but were shaped by the men who founded and oversaw them and the communities that supported them (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007; Fleming, 1999). Although many of the colonial colleges imitated Oxford and Cambridge (the two great British institutions) in terms of architecture, the collegiate system of classical learning and their student life they differed significantly in terms of institutional leadership. The colonial colleges maintained a strong governing body rather than an independent faculty as the Scottish and Continental universities did (Thelin, 2011).
Ultimately, the colonial colleges were severely limited, in both scale and scope. The colleges received little imperial funding and tended to have small student bodies with low retention rates (Thelin, 2011). This lack of funding resulted in the colonial colleges’ marginal status. The colonial colleges, by today’s standards, have more in common with secondary schools than with institutes of higher learning (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007). An example can be taken from the degree of neglect the physical buildings themselves received, which went unnoticed until the late 1890s (Thelin, 2011). It was not until universities began to give considerable weight to their historical roots that these earlier structures would be sought out for renovation and preservation (Thelin, 2011).
How IHEs would develop from marginal institutions to global leaders in education depended on several factors. In large part their rise was due to the investments of independent donors and federal funding. But equally important was the American emphasis on individual freedom and self-reliance, as well as a national tendency toward utilitarianism and pragmatism.
The process of transitioning from small colonial colleges to state colleges and modern research universities occurred in two overlapping stages (Thelin, 2011). First, there was a shift in identity between the years 1860 and 1890. The period between 1880 to 1910 marked the realization of the new identity. During the first period debates were held nationally over the nature of universities. These debates were largely the result of the 1858 lectures of John Henry Newman on “the idea of a university” (Cole, 2009, p 16). Newman argued against the notion that universities should be research institutions and held a conservative position that they should maintain their role in teaching. Although the main thrust of Newman’s argument would ultimately be rejected, he served as an important catalyst in the ensuing years. The end result of these debates would be an amalgam of both teaching and research (Cole, 2009).
American universities were slow to fully realize themselves. Thelin (2011) described the early history of American universities as more a shift in ambition than achievement. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, American colleges and universities were still predominantly local, not cosmopolitan; therefore, the colleges still tended to reflect the attitudes and aspirations of the surrounding community. As Thelin stated, “Seldom did a college or university have the luxury of carrying out a coherent philosophy of higher education without at least considering concessions that would favor institutional survival” (p. 107). As universities expanded and traded local ties for cosmopolitan networks, they experienced greater degrees of freedom (Dippo, 2005). From a contemporary perspective, this severing of ties has revealed adverse effects. There are now universities that are fighting to alleviate illiteracy around the globe while being seemingly oblivious to the illiteracy in their own backyards (Scott, 2013).
The two major influences on the development of IHEs in the 19th century were the French Enlightenment and the German research institutes (Thelin, 2011; Williams, 2006). The former shaped the ambitions of the earliest state universities that arose between the years 1780 and 1820. State colleges were largely following the Enlightenment model that Benjamin Franklin conceived for the College of Philadelphia as well as the thinking of Francis Bacon and other Enlightenment intellectuals. These state colleges emphasized secular instruction, a wider curriculum, and an ambition to make education increasingly available to wider segments of the population. Although state universities continued to proliferate during this time, they remained small and largely ineffectual until after the Civil War.
The turning point in the history of state universities were the land-grant acts passed near the close of the 19th century, between 1862 and 1914 (Cole, 2009). In 1862 Congress passed the Morrill Act, undoubtedly the most consequential event for IHEs in the 19th century. The act expanded and consolidated federal interest in such fields as agriculture, military training, and engineering. Under the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862, land-grant colleges were established for the promotion of these practical fields. Other acts, such as the Hatch Act of 1887, the renewal of the Morrill Act in 1890, and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914, were also drafted in support of many of the newly founded state colleges. These acts are often cited in the scholarship on UCPs as marking the beginning of federal interest in promoting community involvement among universities, with the University of Wisconsin being the principle example.
From 1880 to 1910, American research universities also underwent a formative period (Thelin, 2011) that began shortly after the founding of Johns Hopkins in 1876. Following the model of the German research institution, professional ranks became conventional, and academic freedom was institutionalized. American scholars visiting Germany, however, were selective in the practices they brought back home. Americans were most preoccupied with the outward forms of German scholarship, such as scientific rigor and an emphasis on research, in which they tended to be even more rigorous than the Germans; at the same time, they passed over the philosophical underpinnings of the German method (Cole, 2009). The German philosophy was both a quest for an underlying theory that would ground all of scientific research as well as an understanding that the work of the universities should benefit the nation. American research abandoned the quest for an underlying principle in favor of a pragmatic and utilitarian approach. Americans were also less willing to tie their research to any specific national cause (Cole, 2009). Despite these philosophical differences, the research institute became such an influential model that many of the old liberal arts institutions—such as Yale, Princeton, and Columbia—were compelled to adopt its methods or risk losing enrollment to their European precursors(Cole, 2009).
By the turn of the 19th century, the growing productivity of the nation’s research universities had begun to generate an unprecedented level of funding for the sciences from many of the most prominent American businessmen and entrepreneurs (Cole, 2009). For the nation at large, the integration of science into IHEs was received with little controversy. In turn, the scientific community responded to the religious criticisms of science they received with an open mind. The climate among scientists was more of an interest in harnessing religious idealism than in repressing it (Thelin, 2011). At this early stage, Americans were making key discoveries in at least one field, genetics, even if they could not compete with Europe in the fields of physics and chemistry (Cole, 2009). Cole referred to this time as the age of “little science” (p. 59). America did not take the lead until several decades later, when hundreds of scientists began fleeing Germany and Europe to come to America in anticipation of a second world war.
The private investors, such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, who took an active interest in expanding the scientific and technological capacity of IHEs also began to take an interest in developing standards of education (Cole, 2009). The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was established in 1905 to develop nationwide standards for higher education as well as establish criteria to determine which were America’s elite institutions (Cole, 2009). Foundations were established by a progressivist mentality that sought to shift the nation away from inefficiency and sprawl toward efficiency and coherence (Thelin, 2011).
Perhaps the single most important change in the first two decades of the 20th century was that higher education became desirable and accessible to the majority of Americans. The postwar American universities saw many developments that are still recognizable today. The most visible was the interest in sports, specifically the push to build football stadiums on campuses. This was a clear sign of the popularization and growing accessibility of higher education (Thelin, 2011). The growing popularity of universities, combined with unprecedented levels of funding from independent investors, gave rise to what is often considered the golden age of education in America (Ward, 2003; Brubacher & Rudy, 2007; Thelin, 2011). This period of mass education blossomed from 1945 to 1975, marking an era of unprecedented accessibility to higher education, as well as greater levels of economic and social diversity than any time previous. These changes were not limited to IHEs. The nation as a whole was experiencing unprecedented levels of economic equality and social mobility (Judt, 2010).
The modern university was very much an amorphous and evolving institution. Williams (2006) identified five pivotal stages in the history of IHEs in America. The first three define the evolution of IHEs through the 19th century. In the first stage were the small, ill-funded, and marginal sectarian colleges. The next stage witnessed the birth of state universities, beginning with the University of Missouri in 1821. With the emergence of state universities came an increased effort, on the part of IHEs, to reach out to larger segments of the general population. The third stage marks the influence of the German research university, which initiated graduate programs and many of the administrative processes now associated with higher education. Williams noted that American universities, unlike their German model, were never national institutions but have always incorporated state and private interests and influences. The fact that Americans were generally disinterested in the philosophical roots of German higher education demonstrates the pragmatic disposition of the nation. While not true of the whole of the nation, segments of America have always demonstrated a historical willingness to sacrifice unity and stability in favor of diversity and mobility.
As late as 1910, there was still no consistent definition of what constituted a university in the United States (Thelin, 2011). There were basically two qualities that were asserted as defining a university: the presence of graduate programs and a commitment to science. Both assertions were contentious, because often self-proclaimed universities lacked either one, or the other, or both. Thelin (2011) noted that despite an ambition to ascend in prestige, universities tended to be expansive and linear: “the American university of 1910 was an adolescent—gangly, energetic, and enigmatic” (p. 153). How Americans were able to harness and utilize this rapid growth comprises their history in the 20th century.
Williams (2006) identified two final stages in the history of IHEs. The first is the emergence of the “Golden Age” (Cole, 2009, p. 145) of IHEs after World War II. In the wake of World War II, IHEs were overwhelmed with waves of new students. The response was to create increasingly larger administrative networks. The second turning point spanned the 1970s and has had repercussions into the present. It marks the waning influence of IHEs over American public life. IHEs responded by shifting away from the administrative model to a business model. Rising inequality and declining student performance in the 21st century have led many educators and theorists to propose alternative models to the reigning corporate model. In the next sections these final two transitions and their repercussions will be examined.
Modern IHEs in America. The rise of American universities to global preeminence owes a large debt to achievements in America’s science departments. If the sciences were the catalyst to American universities’ “path to greatness” (Cole, 2009, p. 75), the humanities were an example of one of its failures. In fact, the late 20th century is largely a history of the rise of the sciences and the parallel marginalization of the humanities. The turning point for both of these developments began in the mid-1960s.
The mid-1960s experienced a greater level of federal support than any other time in the nation’s history. Up until 1965 federal involvement in higher education was largely peripheral (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007). The project for a national university is a case in point. The first six U.S. presidents all supported and fought for a national university, and numerous public speakers and politicians continued to support the concept as late as 1930. The movement failed initially because the majority of Americans were skeptical of any federal involvement in state affairs. This was a period when the philosophy of state’s rights was very influential among the populace (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007). With the passing of the Morrill acts and the rise of state universities, it became increasingly difficult to convince American society of the necessity of a national university.
The next major attempt was made by President Harry Truman (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007). Truman was the first U.S. president to successfully make nationwide educational reform a federal concern. Even though previous presidents had sought educational reforms, none had the scope that Truman envisioned and initiated. Truman, however, presided over a difficult period marked by mutual suspicion between universities and the federal government. Universities were hesitant to accept any federal impositions of standardization or incursions into school policies. The government was also becoming fearful that the universities were becoming radicalized. This was, after all, the era of McCarthyism and the Red Scare, when university professors were often accused of having communist sympathies. Although anyone was open to suspicion, universities in particular tended to serve as lightning rods for the nation’s fear and paranoia.
Education reform had already begun to sweep across the nation in the wake of World War II (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007). The war draft revealed that a large percentage of Americans were illiterate. As education began to be reformed and modernized, enrollments increased. As a result, more graduate programs were established to train the faculty needed to teach the incoming students. Faculty members were already working to procure tenure. In 1940 the “Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure” was issued, although it would be another three decades before tenure was commonplace.
Truman initiated the Commission on Higher Education to eliminate all impediments that Americans wishing to enter higher education faced (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007). As might be expected, Truman’s ambition was immensely controversial. Even the statistics on which the commission was based were debated by scholars and academics. For example, it was contended whether students were really competent to enter higher education. There was also skepticism surrounding what was really preventing students from entering higher education: was it economic and social barriers, or could other factors be involved, such as lack of motivation (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007)?
Although the majority of the commission’s goals were never realized, there were some exceptions. The veteran and G.I. bills are the most prominent recommended changes that became policy in this atmosphere of skepticism (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007). Thelin (2011) argued that the commission’s failure can be attributed in part to Truman’s own position as a fiscally conservative Democrat as well. Truman was facing severe criticism from Congress and the press over his strained budget, international programs, and military expenditures, and had little room to negotiate on education. Nevertheless, if only for its scope and ambition, the commission remains a milestone for IHEs.
The postwar expansion of the universities came at a cost. Ward (2003) noted that in the late 1950s, the diversification and expansion of IHEs created confusion in faculty identities as greater emphasis was placed on the role of faculty as researchers rather than teachers. By the late 1950s, the first wave of funding had leveled off. The new impetus for funding was taken by the National Defense Education Act in 1958 in response to the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik. Williams (2006) noted the dichotomy that emerged after World War II with both the optimism of the New Deal and the pessimism of the Cold War. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt, the New Deal responded to the Great Depression by mobilizing and unifying the country while drastically alleviating unemployment. The Cold War was as successful at dividing the country as the New Deal was at uniting it. Alongside the socialization under the New Deal and later federal involvement that allowed for radical transformations of the university came a burgeoning military budget legislated in response to the Cold War.
Thelin (2011) emphasized that the escalating generational tension that erupted in the 1960s was not simply a dichotomy of liberals and conservatives or institutions and individuals. Quite unintentionally, it was the establishment that provided the alienating rhetoric that fueled the angst of the 1960s generation. It was Dwight Eisenhower who coined the term “military-industrial complex” (Thelin, 2011, p. 310), and Clark Kerr, president of the University of California, who called the university a “knowledge factory” (Thelin, 2011, p. 310). Despite the student anger and protests against IHE involvement in the Vietnam War, it was not the students who bailed on the universities but the federal funding agencies (Thelin, 2011). The Department of Defense responded to the mounting tension between universities and their students by withdrawing military funding from IHEs and providing funding to private institutions.
By the mid-1960s, IHEs were experiencing the largest financial crisis in their history (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007). Ward (2003) saw the 1960s as torn between an increasingly diverse student body desiring educational experiences that prepared them to integrate into the world and time-strapped faculty being pressured to publish or perish. To alleviate some of these tensions, Congress pushed for federal involvement in higher education. The Higher Education Act of 1965 was a breakthrough in that it was the first time the federal government succeeded in making this lasting commitment to involvement in higher education. The act provided funding for research and education on various community problems such as housing and public health (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007). The community action programs established during the 1960s were ultimately far less successful than UCPs, precisely because they were cut off from the power elites, most often the heads of universities or foundations.
The tension that existed during the late 1960s was not about the universities’ role but about the appropriateness of that role (Thelin, 2011). In the 1960s and 1970s, IHEs faced similar challenges with the growing student bodies, but handled them differently. In the 1970s, universities were unable to accommodate large numbers of students and became overcrowded. Although they remained respectable institutions, most were losing focus and were unable to cope with the diverse demands of a rapidly burgeoning student body. University leaders in the 1960s were confident that they could handle these pressures. Confidence began to wane by the 1970s, when no clear solution had yet presented itself (Thelin, 2011).
There was a call from the general population for greater accountability from IHEs, both public and private. As a result of a widespread decline in academic performance in the early 1970s, the accountability movement was established to improve performance. Because by this time most IHEs were public, the general population had a stronger political voice in the direction of IHEs. Private universities, which had been relatively immune to government regulation until this point, were under increased scrutiny. Enrollment in private IHEs was dwindling. In the early half of the 20th century, there was an equal percentage of enrollments between public and private IHEs, but by the 1970s, 76% of students were enrolling in public institutions (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007).
Student protests against the Vietnam War had faded as early as 1973 but continued to influence enrollment rates, which continued to decline, seeing their most marked drops between 1975 and 1976 (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007). As a result, IHEs began to open enrollment to part-time students and to offer educational opportunities for adult learners to boost enrollment. IHEs continued to expand to meet the needs of newer segments of the population entering higher education. New terminology such as “nontraditional student” began to redefine the concept of the university (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007).
IHEs began redesigning campus life to attract an increasingly diverse student body. New developments include the proliferation of career-planning offices and other student services (Thelin, 2011). Universities became increasingly student-centric. Dormitories had better facilities, and co-ed facilities were available. Community colleges emerged as a quieter, more affordable response to public needs. Vocational education became more prevalent as well. New degrees in business, administration, management, and accounting were being more commonly offered. Brubacher and Rudy (2007) noted how this student- and career-oriented approach differs from European models. In Europe, IHEs are largely limited to the education of students with the understanding that students will handle all nonacademic responsibilities on their own. The American attitude is in part a product of trends established in the colonial colleges, which were charged with developing the beliefs and social conduct of their students (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007).
By 1975, the earlier turmoil had subsided, but the universities that emerged were radically different from the previous institutions (Brubacher & Rudy, 2007). Thelin (2011) described IHEs in the 1970s as both a huge enterprise and a troubled giant. This characterization resulted from a managerial (institutional) push to expand enrollment through a broadening of the curricula rather than specialties in order to attract a wider range of students. The result was universities that lacked specialization and that were beginning to look increasingly homogeneous.
Thelin (2011) argued, furthermore, that the problem of the 1970s was not that the universities’ center had failed to hold but that “the modern American university had no center at all” (p. 316). One sign is that most IHEs lacked clear mission statements. Instead, vague ideals were offered such as advancing research. IHEs were also failing to communicate their research to the general public. Cole (2009) notes that the sciences were more prominent in the popular imagination due to the scientific and technological breakthroughs that had become parts of the population’s day-to-day lives. Important developments in the humanities, on the contrary, tended to go unnoticed.
As a result, IHEs are now in a state of contestation similar to when Cardinal Newman gave his lectures on the idea of a university in the 19th century. Williams (2006) identified five directions the debate has taken. Underlying all five areas is a concern with the influence of capitalism on IHEs. Three of the five are direct criticisms of the influence of capitalism, including criticism of academic capitalism, criticism of academic labor practices, and theoretical critiques. The fourth position mostly tries to make do with what seems the inevitable and irreversible influence of capitalism. The final position, arguing from history, is as contested as one would expect any contemporary perspective on history to be. Williams concluded that IHEs have always been mobile institutions in America and that the business model adopted in the 1970s is no longer suited to contemporary students.
The primary reason is that the rise in corporate power has brought about a rapid decrease in social and economic equality (Williams, 2006). This has affected not only student access to higher education but also the ability of IHEs to compete with one another. From the 1970s until the present, the influence of universities has become increasingly fragmented between the most prestigious institutions and everyone else. As Cole (2009) noted, although the absolute number of research institutes since World War II has grown, there has been a simultaneous increase in the gap in achievement (and funding) between the most prestigious research institutes and all others. Before examining further the history of IHEs and the growing inequality between these institutes and American citizens in general, it is important to examine in more detail the founding culture of IHEs and how the modern institutions have diverged from them.
Culture of IHEs in America. American culture is democratic and pragmatic. Both the philosophy of pragmatism underlying American research universities and the democratic spirit under which universities, such as the University of Pennsylvania, find their original expression is in the writing of the American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (Bloom, 2011; Cavell, 1988; Teichgraeber; 2010; Whicher, 1953). Pragmatism and democracy are aligned in Emerson’s conviction that what is best and strongest in individuals can only be found when they abide by their common nature and not in an abstract system (Bloom, 2011). Democracy and pragmatism, for Emerson, are realized only when individuals are in pursuit of their own voice, in striking out a new path.
These statements require some unpacking. Democracy and pragmatism require flexibility and mobility. They do not conform easily to a rigid hierarchical structure. Teichgraeber (2010) noted that the most celebrated successor to Emerson, Walt Whitman, continually warned of an elite culture that would distinguish its partisans rather than unify ordinary people. Whitman’s concern was that the nation would divide into factions at the expense of individual liberties. Whitman followed Emerson in seeing the founding of schools and systems as being antithetical to what is most uniquely American.
This American spirit can be found rhetorically in Emerson’s method of writing. Emerson, as Teichgraeber (2010) observed, was constantly troping his sources. The verb to trope is derived from the Greek, meaning to turn. It is a general term for the use of any form of figurative language, whether metaphor, allusions, alliteration, or any other figure of speech. Emerson’s troping has an absorbing quality. He picked up whatever contemporary concern came most readily to mind and filtered it through his own imagination. He did not turn away from the popular conceptions of culture but wrestled with them. Higher culture, both at this time and throughout history, is generally thought of as a mere refinement of life. Emerson said that culture, if anything, must be a stimulus and a provocation. As Whicher (1953) wrote,
The task of culture, as [Emerson] now understands it, is to refine and release the primary vigor of man. Every man has his proper bias, an original impulsion, by which nature contrives to get the work done. A certain primary energy is the spring and motive force of life. (pp. 162–163)
Whicher picked up on Emerson’s continual exhortation to his readers to speak the thoughts latent within them. The challenge is severe, as Emerson urged nothing less than to overturn all the past, all tradition. As Bloom (2011) wrote, “His discontinuous rhetoric is designed to break down conventional responses . . . he wants you to wrestle with him, a frustrating demand on the reader because Waldo is too slippery to hold” (p. 210).
Charles William Elliot is one exemplary Emersonian. As president of Harvard in 1869, Eliot shared Emerson’s conviction in crafting the university as a “liberal culture” (Teichgraeber, 2010, p. 6) where students were free to choose their own courses and path of study. Eliot, like Emerson, was influenced by contemporary German philosophy. Eliot’s concept of a “liberal culture” (Teichgraeber, 2010, p. 6) was in the same class as the German Bildung (Education), where the goal of education was to train the whole individual. The crucial difference, however, as stated earlier, is that Eliot and the institutions that followed in his path would forgo the philosophical underpinnings of a centralized authority so important to the German model.
The Morrill Act is another example of the rather paradoxical nature of American culture. The Morrill Act was a pivotal event in the opening up of higher education to a far greater range of the American population. In this sense it is one of the foundational movements in the establishment of UCPs. The scholarship on UCPs is in general agreement that the Land Grant Act first initiated what is now called community engagement (Fleming, 1999; Ward, 2003). Ward (2003) cited the land-grant movement as “instrumental in developing the university into a multiversity—a multipurpose institution inclusive of many offerings, designed to attract a diversity of students with variable interests, and an expanded mission” (p. 27). The movement was also, in important ways, largely antithetical to Emerson’s vision of what education should be (Williams, 2006).
Emerson (1983) scathingly criticized the tendency toward careerism in his 1837 essay “The American Scholar.” In this essay Emerson attacked the idea of reducing individuals to a single profession and argued that education should be directed at the whole individual. Louise L. Stevenson noted that the period in which Emerson was writing, between 1830 and 1880, was marked by a shift from a curriculum focused on preparing students for public life, centered on oration and social conduct, to one of preparing students for specific occupations or specialties (as cited in Bender, 1998). The rise of vocationalism, corporatism, and business schools in the modern university by the mid-1970s was therefore a direction that Emerson would have been highly critical of.
Does Emerson’s legacy amount to nihilism and disorder? That is always the threat inherent in democracy. Richard Rorty (2000), arguably the greatest modern American philosopher in the Emersonian tradition, is typically represented as being an antifoundationalist, which can be equated with nihilism. Antifoundationalists believe that the quest for inquiry and knowledge is not based on predefined principles and beliefs. Cruickshank (2007) stated that antifoundationalists use an epistemological argument in which “what was real is what we knew to be real, and what we knew to be real would be constituted by the norms and concepts of the perspective in which we are situated” (p. 8). This philosophical position sees all statements of truth as being contingent on prior truth statements. There is then, for Rorty, no absolute truth but only contextual truths. Under this premise Rorty saw the role of education as first socializing us into the system of established truths and then allowing room for self-individuation against these truths. In this, Rorty noted that he finds himself indebted to Dewey.
Rorty (2000) echoed Emerson when he argued that Dewey’s most lasting contribution to a theory of education is that it helps “us get rid of the idea that education is a matter of either inducing or educing truth” (p. 118). The position Rorty advocated is often designated, by both his detractors and some admirers, as expressing postmodernism, even though Rorty himself was critical of many of the forms that postmodernism and deconstructionism have taken. What legacy postmodernism has left for the humanities and higher education in general is still open to debate. The challenge Emerson and modern philosophy proposed, and the one Thelin (2011) evinced when he claimed that our universities have no center, is how to find direction and purpose without sacrificing freedom and mobility.
The Development of University and Community Partnerships in America
Early and contemporary history of UCPs in America. There is no definitive first UCP in America, just as there is no definitive first American university. Although today’s formal UCPs are a recent development, having emerged over the past two decades, traces of them can be seen as far back as the origins of the university itself. In looking at the historical context of UCPs, this study follows an evolution of concepts that have come to shape today’s definition of university and community relations. The concepts that will be examined in this section include service work, community engagement, service-learning, and education–business partnerships.
Examples of UCPs in America can be traced as far back as Harvard’s program to educate Native Americans in the late 17th century (Furco, 2010; Ward, 2003). Contemporary scholarship has criticized the program’s aim to proselytize Native Americans and suggested that for these reasons it does not qualify as a true UCP (Demb & Wade, 2012). Another early example is the University of Pennsylvania (then the College of Philadelphia), the first secular colonial college. Harkavy and Hartley (2010) emphasized Benjamin Franklin’s intentions in founding the college to be particularly in line with the objectives of UCPs. Franklin founded the University of Pennsylvania in 1755 in Philadelphia because it was one of the largest and most important cities in the American colonies. In 1749, Franklin published a pamphlet titled “Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania” (as cited in Harkavy & Hartley, 2010, pp. 10–11), in which he envisioned an institution not merely based on an elite classical education but one that intended to serve all students capable of serving their country and people. This inclusive and democratic scope Harkavy and Hartley found to be central to the ambitions of UCPs.
Many of the initiatives discussed earlier that lead to the making of more democratic and egalitarian universities can also be seen as forerunners to modern UCPs. Examples include federal initiatives like the college land-grant acts of the 19th century as well as state initiatives such as those performed at state schools such as Wisconsin and Michigan. The most concentrated effort by the nation to extend university services to the general public occurred with the Higher Education Act of 1965. The rest of this section will explore how UCPs developed out of these earlier initiatives into independent institutions.
Although UCPs did not begin to develop until the 1980s they were nonetheless products of federal policies and structural changes made in many universities made in the 1970s. The outlook at the turn of the 1970s was gloomy and charged with overhyped forecasts of university failures and potential mass closures (Thelin, 2011). The reason why most IHEs were able to revamp and avoid closure was a strategic shift from a “managerial revolution” to an “enterprising evolution” (Thelin, 2011, p. 337). As discussed earlier, this was a process whereby IHEs began to shift their focus from improving management to developing better ways of marketing themselves. One of the largest changes was an exponential increase in business degrees. Other examples of the enterprising evolution include offering online courses and adult education courses.
As universities began to gradually recover, service programs funded by the government were in a state of flux. Beginning in the late 1970s, popular opinion on the welfare state’s inability to provide answers to societal problems was growing and affected government support to IHEs. In reality, the public saw the welfare state itself as part of the problem (Boyle & Silver, 2005). With the fall of communism in the east, these perceptions began to take hold, and however beneficial such programs were, their ultimate sustainability was being questioned (Judt, 2010). The argument from the Republican administrations was that poverty is an issue too complex for government to handle and is best dealt with by local communities and those experiencing the situation firsthand. Williams (2006) listed three major departures from the welfare-state model to the new privatized model that IHEs experienced. These include (a) attention to producing marketable goods including knowledge, (b) exponential increase in tuition, and (c) what Williams called “the casualization of labor” (p. 195), meaning the replacement of tenured faculty positions with adjunct and teacher assistants.
The 1980s can be seen as laying the groundwork for the rise of civic engagement programs of the 1990s. Ernest Boyer, the former president of the Carnegie Foundation, first referred to service work in the 1980s as engagement and started the conversation about broadening definitions of scholarship and education to include service (Braxton, 2002). Boyer, although frequently cited in this context, was not operating out of a vacuum. There was a desire in IHEs for a “civic turn” (Boyle & Silver, 2005, p. 239) that would extend the influence of universities beyond serving the market.
Weerts and Sandmann (2008) argued that the 1980s’ profit-driven motives of IHEs spurred business partnerships, which were the first step toward two-way relationships with entities outside the academy. Some of the most successful partnerships between businesses and educational institutions were the compact initiatives, which began in Boston and were later replicated in Great Britain (Hartley, 1992). The aim of these initiatives was to give students ownership of their education. In the compact, a student enters into a formal agreement between his school and a local business so that when the student meets the conditions of the agreement he or she will be offered a job. Signing the agreement itself lends some sense of ownership to the student. The programs varied from school to school. In some programs students are required to monitor their progress, which also adds to their sense of ownership over their contract and therefore their education and job prospects. Campus Compact, an organization to which more than a fourth of all IHEs in the United States belong, began to lead and support services and civic engagement in communities from the time of its founding in 1985. Hartley (1992) described compact initiatives to be, in part, an indulgent, student-centered approach directed toward underachieving young adults in the 1980s. Hartley (1992) stated that the compact initiatives aimed to address three specific areas: (a) cultural (modernism), (b) economic (capitalism), and (c) political (liberalism). He identified autonomy to be the linking factor across the three areas, and indicated that compacts were making a head start in addressing them. With the cultural aspects, they addressed the limits of individualism. With economics, they addressed the media’s incessant message of consumption by promoting a strong work ethic in students. Finally, with the political, they sought to undermine a tendency toward radicalism that elevated individual rights over the public good.
The Boston Compact was established in 1985 with the goal of developing students’ sense of responsibility for their education in response to the high rates of dropout and drug use in the United States. The compact initiatives enabled IHEs to make agreements with local businesses to offer students jobs if they met specific criteria. The requirements for compact students included maintaining proper attitudes and dress codes in addition to obtaining good grades.
Another example of university–business partnerships formed for community benefit are the service-learning initiatives. Harkavy and Hartley (2010) noted that the term was coined in 1966 but did not gain currency until the 1980s, when the National Society for Experiential Education adopted it. The philosophy of service-learning is that a comprehensive higher education must include a civic-engagement component in addition to academic learning (Harkavy & Hartley, 2010; Hartley, 2009).
Despite early initiatives, service-learning did not achieve national status until the early 1990s (Harkavy & Hartley, 2010). Furco (2010) found that although 95% of 300 surveyed IHEs cited civic service as central to their mission, service work was not readily visible in the schools. The programs lacked sustainability as well. The majority tended to die shortly after their grant money ran out, and those that survived quickly drifted to the margins. Moving from the margins, Furco argued, requires steps toward institutionalization. Furco emphasized that the more that civic-engagement programs can ensure their sustainability past the duration of their grants, the more likely they are to receive faculty support of their initiatives.
The 1990s saw a marked increase in the number of federal and private grants issued for community development (Harkavy & Hartley, 2010). One of the earliest and most successful outcomes of this new funding was the Community Outreach Partnership Centers (COPC) funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) from 1993 until 2005 (Butterfield & Soska, 2004). COPC was a step forward in extending UCPs beyond an IHE’s immediate surroundings. As championed by Boyle and Silver (2005), the centers were examples of real community empowerment (Arbuckle & DeHoog, 2004; Furco 2010). In Portland, Oregon, the Summer Institute on Youth Mentoring (SIYM) was cited as an exemplary instance of COPCs’ ability to create reciprocal benefits between institutions and communities (Jones, Keller & Wheeler, 2011). This project entailed a small, manageable number of participants who were carefully selected and university professors who were encouraged to conduct research with the participants during the project. Under the agreement, there was an explicit understanding that knowledge was reciprocal among the professors and participants and that they would co-construct the study results. There was a strong emphasis on what the university researchers could gain in the study from participants’ local and qualitative knowledge in addition to quantitative statistical data.
Hartley (2009) found the UCPs of the 1980s and 1990s to present important lessons in how leadership can either sustain or sink their programs. The primary trait he outlined is flexibility. Hartley defined flexibility as not mistaking one’s core mission for one’s method of achieving it. He used the well-known apothegm of the railroad barons who neglected to realize that they were in the transportation business and not the railroad business. He cited the Campus Outreach Opportunity League (COOL) as one example of how this kind of inflexibility sank a program. COOL refused to transition away from service-learning that promoted volunteerism to service that entailed a curriculum-oriented approach. The challenge to being flexible, Hartley wrote, is balancing the ideological fervor that keeps the core members of a group motivated with the practical results that give a program community and institutional support. COOL, Hartley found, was unable to incorporate practical measures into their ideological vision of their program.
Comprehensive Community Initiatives (CCIs) are another form of civic engagement with similar objectives to UCPs. Boyle and Silver (2005) noted that “CCIs are foundation-funded anti-poverty partnerships, while UCPs are collaborative endeavors between colleges and their neighborhoods” (p. 234). CCIs and UCPs have a number of similarities: both developed during the 1990s, both emphasize community empowerment, and both see community partnership as a means of fighting issues such as poverty (Boyle & Silver, 2005, p. 234). Boyle and Silver defined community empowerment as giving communities a voice so that they are enabled to enact policy change for their own betterment. Boyle and Silver found community empowerment to be rooted in the self-empowerment rhetoric of the 1960s. Unlike the antipoverty movements of the 1960s, however, CCIs and UCPs are focused not on battling power elites but on serving as moderators between the elites and the communities they serve.
The position of UCPs in the 1980s and 1990s is characterized, therefore, by the growing number of partnerships between IHEs and communities with businesses and other stakeholders (Boyle & Silver 2005; Williams, 2006). The lesson of the 1960s is that these partnerships cannot flourish on goodwill alone. These changes occurred alongside shifts within the governance of IHEs as well. What the latter half of the 20th century witnessed was the shifting of autonomy between higher education and business. Whereas in the early half of the 20th century IHEs were largely free and unregulated by the 1980s, businesses enjoyed significant autonomy while IHEs were mired in bureaucracy.
The chorus of the 1990s was, “Why can’t a college be run more like a business?” (Thelin, 2011, p. 390). In many ways this was the only apparent option. IHEs who responded to this sea-change by taking on business models tended to thrive. For-profit colleges, to name only one example, grew in prominence, with the University of Phoenix being the most successful example. Furthermore, nearly all colleges and universities incorporated business leaders and corporate executives into their boards of trustees (Thelin, 2011). The result of this transition is difficult to measure. What is known is that since the 1980s, levels of inequality have continued to rise in America, suggesting that alternative models are needed (Judt, 2010; Rodgers, 2012).
Trends had established themselves by the early 2000s for which institutions were most likely to foster community partnerships. According to Antonio, Astin, and Cress (2000), service work was most predominant in public 4-year colleges, religiously affiliated institutions, and IHEs with service centers. They emphasized that service centers primarily draw attention to engagement. Service centers allow a university to uphold its dedication to service through engaged scholarship while being a bridge between the university and the surrounding community, for whom the university is usually an estranging and unwelcoming environment. Service centers have the flexibility to incorporate lifestyle mentoring to help community members develop the professionalism and self-confidence needed to engage with university culture (Moneta, 1997).
The best gauge of 21st-century UCPs is the Carnegie Foundation. The Carnegie Foundation was instrumental in leading the national dialogue on UCPs and presenting a series of indicators for community engagement. According to Awwad (2009), “the Carnegie indicators of institutional community engagement include mission, marketing, leadership, traditions, recognitions, budgetary support, infrastructure, faculty development, and strategic plans” (pp. 86–87). These indicators were the basis for the higher education institutional classifications that the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching introduced in 2006 and that 76 IHEs later endorsed (Driscoll, 2008). In 2008, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (2008b) recognized 119 colleges and universities as community-engaged, of which 43% (or 51) were private institutions. In 2010, Carnegie recognized 115 more colleges and universities representing 34 states, of which 61 are public and 54 are private institutions classified as research universities. The qualities that marked a successful UCP will be discussed in the following section.
The shape of contemporary UCPs. The success of a UCP often hangs on a series of interdependent conditions. UCPs need clear and sustainable objectives in order to survive. Sustainable objectives in turn require UCPs to be institutionalized in their host IHEs. Institutionalization often involves faculty buy-in, which can include involving faculty research in the UCP projects, or engaged scholarship. In this section these and related qualities such as clarity, sustainability, institutionalization, engaged scholarship and scholarship of engagement, reciprocity, critical agency networks, and boundary spanners will be discussed.
The two primary qualities most successful UCPs share are clear, measurable objectives and sustainability. A common threat to the sustainability of UCPs is what Murray and Weissbourd (2005) called “projectitus” (p. 179), or the tendency for a project to take on too many objectives at once. The result is not only a lack of focus but also increased difficulty in determining what success is. With too many variables, it is difficult to isolate the factor creating positive change. Murray and Weissbourd stressed the need for UCPs to simplify their projects and to focus on “core academic outcomes” that can be easily quantified and analyzed (p. 185). They emphasized creating projects with a small scope and a clear aim, given that these projects are both more likely to have a lasting impact and much easier to evaluate for success. They warned, further, that making lofty and generic claims such as “eradicating illiteracy” or “greatly boosting math proficiency” tends to only further disenchant and alienate an already cynical public (Murray & Weissbourd, 2005, p. 190).
The second essential quality in measuring a project’s success is its sustainability. Sustainable projects are projects that are able to continue after their original funding has expired. Boyle, Ross, and Stephens (2011) drew attention to sources of sustainability in their cross-analysis of two projects in the metro Boston area. They examined how these projects were able to maintain stakeholder interest over a period of several years. They focused on what they termed “stakeholder salience,” or the visibility of stakeholders in a project (Boyle et al., 2011, p. 102). The stakeholders in these projects were the participating faculty and community members. Salience was established as a question of balancing power in the collaboration process and maintaining flexibility. In other words, it was a question of making sure that the community was involved in diagnosing its own problems and that faculty members were involved in developing measurable responses to those solutions. Flexibility proved to be the most essential element in maintaining funding, because it was a project’s ability to shape its objectives to the changing needs of the stakeholders that made it continually relevant.
Sustainability also requires institutionalization, faculty buy-in, and faculty involvement. One of the central means of achieving this is through engaged scholarship. Engaged scholarship is an umbrella term for faculty research that directly benefits the local community. Harkavy and Hartley (2009) provide three talking points for the sustainability of UCPs : (a) community problems demand a response, (b) UCPs can actually bring in funding rather than drain it, and (c) UCPs ground IHEs, add new voices and ideas, and give a broader meaning to scholarship. Engaged scholarship broadens scholarship by applying faculty research to real-world problems in the IHE’s local community. Engaged scholarship can be a key means of gaining university investment because it integrates the faculty’s roles of research and teaching with their service role. Combined with service-learning, this covers the two primary tasks of IHEs, which is educating students and advancing faculty research.
The concept of scholarship of engagement (Harkavy & Hartley, 2010) is also as important as engaged scholarship. Scholarship of engagement is the work of documenting and setting up criteria for evaluating UCPs. The scholarship of engagement is increasingly pressing as UCPs become more and more established in America’s IHEs. According to Harkavy and Hartley (2010), UCPs have a strong case to make to universities for their involvement in the partnership, and it is the scholarship of engagement that will present that case. Harkavy and Hartley saw UCPs as one of IHEs’ foremost priorities because of their potential to transmit knowledge to society and to serve as a vital asset for promoting and strengthening democracy.
Building on the call for engaged scholarship, Weerts and Sandmann (2008) advocated scholarship’s need for reciprocity. Weerts and Sandmann related reciprocity to knowledge-flow theory, or the theory of how knowledge is exchanged in universities and communities. The theory is a reflection on the transition in the 1970s from an objectivist to a constructivist worldview. The objectivist views knowledge as a detached entity that can easily be transferred between parties. Objectivists view the receiver of knowledge to be a blank slate to be written on or an empty bucket to be filled. Constructivism views knowledge as local, complex, and dynamic. Weerts and Sandmann listed qualities that have been shown to promote a two-way flow of knowledge: (a) strong interpersonal relationship skills, (b) ability to promote trust, and (c) comfort with power sharing. The UCP itself, Weerts and Sandmann argued, should be accessible, available (to communities), and adaptable. They also found that traditional qualities, such as strong leadership, remain as vital in two-directional engagement as they were in traditional one-directional engagements.
Kiyama, Lee, and Rhoades (2012) applied nonlinearity to administrative culture. Kiyama et al. stress the need to refocus service on administrators and mid-level positions. Although faculty members are essential for the longevity of a program, it is the administrators, they found, who are best fitted to build it and keep it running. Kiyama et al. labeled these “critical agency networks” (p. 276). Vision, focus, and initiative do not have to come from the top down, they argued. In this exploratory study (Kiyama et al., 2012), the researchers sought to give more leadership space to the administration and found that the limitations on this model of management are mostly related to long-term issues, such as the procurement of funding and the expansion of infrastructure.
Weerts and Sandmann (2010) identified mid-level administrators as boundary spanners. Boundary spanners most often have backgrounds in service work, either with nonprofit organizations or community organizing. Weerts and Sandmann found boundary spanners to typically have four attributes: (a) listening skills, (b) a service ethic, (c) an ability to competently manage power, and (d) neutrality. Fish (2008) urged faculty to remember that administration is “an intellectual task” (p. 61). Fish (2008) argued that faculty members do not have enough time to organize effective service work in addition to fulfilling their other two roles as teachers and researchers. Boundary spanners and critical agency networks are both examples of individuals and networks that can be the link between the academic work of the university and the practical needs of communities.
UCPs, democracy, and CAS. The extent to which universities should engage in social and political activism is a point of debate. Opinions range between minimalist positions, such as that of Fish (2008), who emphasized academic integrity’s dependence on political disengagement, to the proponents of the scholarship of engagement, such as that of Harkavy (2000), who saw the university as a principal means of promoting democracy. UCPs can function as both vehicles for promoting democracy and aids to universities who wish to conduct community engagement but who lack the necessary resources.
In the previous section, UCPs were described as being composed of boundary spanners. Boundary spanners were defined as middle-level administrators who facilitate reciprocal lines of communication between universities and communities. What boundary spanners do is participate in knowledge flow between the partners of a UCP. This process of communication was described as local, complex, and dynamic. The following section will describe in greater detail the nature of complexity and why UCPs should model themselves after institutions that imitate complex systems (CAS).
Democracy and the rising inequality in America. IHEs have begun looking beyond corporate models of the enterprising evolution to nonlinear platforms capable of accommodating both local and national concerns (Lerner, 2000; Williams, 2006). The need to invent new models is more pressing in the light of contemporary concerns such as growing inequality and declining academic performance. One criticism of the business-oriented model for education is that it produces a bland uniformity and is, furthermore, unable to respond to local needs (Judt, 2010). This same criticism has been lodged against contemporary political discourse as well. Rodgers (2012) contested that Americans live in an “age of fracture” (p. 6). Rodgers saw political discourse in the United States as not so much rifted by partisan arguments but as lacking a language with which to debate. He conceded that Americans are more tolerant but they are less able to speak clearly and articulately on who they are and what they are about. Rodgers stated that this inability to communicate has facilitated changes that have led to increasing inequality. From the 1940s to the 1970s, Rodgers stated, economic and social inequality were slowly diminishing. This changed drastically, and for reasons not entirely known, during the 1970s, when inequality began to rise exponentially. From the late 1970s on, this economic and social inequality continued to expand, and for the past 20 years it has done so more rapidly than at any time in the previous century.
Judt (2010) argued that many of the social and economic advances of the mid-20th century were due to its social democratic programs. One example of social democracy he cited was the mass education movement from 1945 to 1975. Judt argued that a lack of cohesion in government and society threaten democracy far more than their opposites. Rodgers (2012) and Judt agreed that there is no simple explanation for the loss of social cohesion. Judt shared Rodgers’s belief that this loss is in large part due to losing the ability to think about a situation with fresh eyes. Judt emphasized the influence of the market over academic and political concerns. The consequence is a consumer-driven education (Fish, 2008). Business schools and career centers have more prominence than early student movements for social justice and international issues. Judt found this to be the result of the left having lost its ideals as well as a historically buttressed narrative: “All that remains is politics: the politics of interest, the politics of envy, the politics of re-election. Without idealism, politics is reduced to a form of social accounting, the day-to-day administration of men and things” (pp. 142–143).
Studies have been conducted on the psychology that motivates individuals to make decisions against their best interests. One famous example is by Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University. Ariely’s study, performed with Michael Norton, targeted individual perceptions of what constitutes equality (Norton & Ariely, 2011). Ariely (Norton & Ariely, 2011) asked philosopher John Rawls’s question: If you were to be born in a random state with no knowledge of what social sphere you would occupy, what qualities of wealth distribution would you choose for that state to have? The first option represented a state of complete equality. The second option gave levels close to those in Sweden, chosen because it ranks highest globally in economic equality. The last option gave levels close to those seen currently in America. A survey of 30,000 Americans revealed that over 92% desired a state like that in Sweden, although a large share of these individuals opposed what they perceived as European socialism.
Norton and Ariely (2011) found the rationality behind this choice to be rooted in a stagnation of language and an inability to see beyond one’s own environment. Norton and Ariely argued that instead of having a small government and a system in which people take care of themselves, what is needed is a mobile, pragmatic government that adjusts to the strengths and weaknesses of individuals. Norton and Ariely’s model indicates that partnership initiators should start asking what people think and want, before any action.
The scholarship of engagement reflects a growing number of programs that support participatory democracy and expanding other nonlinear forms of addressing inequality. Harkavy and Hartley (2010) have been at the forefront of researching the philosophical underpinnings of the scholarship of engagement. Harkavy and Hartley (2010) found in the ideas of Franklin and Dewey a shared emphasis on expanding knowledge by trying to solve real-world problems. Franklin’s dream, as noted above, shared in the democratic vision of Emerson and Whitman. Harkavy links statements Franklin made at the founding of Pennsylvania to John Dewey’s conception of participatory democracy. Harkavy & Hartley (2009) emphasize this definition of participatory democracy as an ethical ideal whereby men and women would build communities that provided all of their members equal access to resources so that they might live up to their full potential.
One criticism of advocacy of democracy is that it undermines the politically neutral stance of academics (Harkavy, 2000; Harkavy & Hartley, 2009, 2010). Fish (2008) wrote about and tirelessly promoted the importance of maintaining institutional integrity by demanding that each profession know its requirements and focus on achieving them without being distracted by political goals. As Fish (2008) pointed out, it is surprisingly easy to confuse academic objectives with political ones; however, once one realizes that the function of academics is always inquiry and not partisan support, most of the confusion is usually cleared up. Fish’s (2008) position challenges the idealism of figures such as Boyer and Bok (and many universities’ mission statements, for that matter), who he argued are neglecting the already exacerbated demands of research universities. McConnell (2012) aligned Fish with contemporary critics who share a common interest in the rhetoric of engagement. McConnell noted that although the critics diverge on their responses to what constitutes meaningful engagement; they all recognize the importance of the language used to present engagement. The language used to represent the academy and its relationship to the community can have just as big an impact, McConnell argued, as any action that partnership facilitators undertake.
Complexity, causality, and CAS. To review, this is a study based on qualitative phenomenological research methods. Qualitative studies differ from quantitative studies in that they focus on a narrow range of subjects that they study extensively rather than a broad range of subjects that are studied narrowly (Moustakas, 1994). Similarly, phenomenology is employed to study a subject, in deceptively simple terms, as it is. This sounds simple enough, but phenomenology is conscious of how, all too often, sensations give way to abstractions and how impressions turn into generalizations. Phenomenology resists generalization and abstraction.
In studying how communities function one is studying a complex system (Holland, 1995). The scientific definition of complexity is a system whose composition is capable of generating order. The movement from complexity to order is called emergence. CAS are systems that emerge from complexity. The central component of complexity, as noted earlier, is nonlinearity. As explained above, nonlinear systems do not follow a simple chain of cause and effect. Nonlinear systems are characterized by unpredictability, approximation, and random behavior.
Studying complexity and emergence involves the study of causality (Holland, 1995). Causality is more than the study of causes and effects. Grotzer (2012) described eight common misconceptions of causality: that it (a) is sequential, (b) is obvious, (c) has active or intentional agents, (d) is event-based, (e) is deterministic, (f) is local, (g) is immediate, or (h) is centralized. Grotzer argued that the study of causality reveals that, more often than not, the described event is none of these. The study of complex systems, then, involves moving beyond a linear line of cause and effect to explore how change occurs in varying spatial-temporal scales.
Writing of CAS, Holland (1995) stated they are composed of seven components: (a) aggregation, (b) tagging, (c) nonlinearity, (d) flows, (e) diversity, (f) internal models, and (g) building blocks. Aggregation is the process whereby elements in a system are brought together. Tagging is the means by which certain elements in the system are singled out as most important for the system to operate. Nonlinearity takes account of the whole of the system; nonlinear systems do not follow a simple chain of cause and effect but must be seen in the aggregate, with complex interactions occurring at all levels. Flow describes the power of a system to adapt to change. A degree of diversity is needed for a system to come alive and can make systems more adaptive and resilient to change. Internal models are the initial ideas that shape the course of the system. Finally, building blocks are structures that emerge within the system to aid in functioning.
A growing number of institutions and initiatives are adopting the study of CAS and using them as frameworks for their initiatives. One exemplary institution founded on this model is MIT’s Media Lab. Joi Ito (2012), the current director of the Media Lab, described what the lab does as “interest driven learning” (para 2). The understanding is that by investing small sums in quick prototypes, more avenues can be tested than in larger projects that demand greater investments in infrastructure and resources.
Ito’s principles for the Media Lab mirror many of the properties Holland (1995) identifies in complex systems. Holland’s first components of CAS are aggregation and tagging. Aggregation in the Media Lab is the process of selecting interest-driven students. Tagging is the process of identifying their skills so that a student developing robotics can connect with those interested in, for example, psychology and engineering. The new building for the Media Lab works in a nonlinear way. It is composed largely of glass walls, creating a transparency that allows students to overlook each other’s work and encouraging inspiration and cross-disciplinary influence. All systems depend on certain elements for their efficiency. Flow describes how elements can redirect themselves when those necessary elements are restricted. Diversity is one of the hallmarks of the Media Lab, which includes artists, engineers, psychologists, philosophers, linguists, physicists, and hosts of others. Ito (2012) outlined nine principles for the internal model for the Media Lab. Building blocks in the Media Lab can be anything from the facility itself to structures within the facility to designed elements that students create, such as computers, networks, and so forth, to aid in their work.
Another variation on a complex adaptive system can be seen in Christensen’s (2010) work on disruptive innovation, Disrupting Class. Christensen distinguished platform-based planning from discovery-based planning. Platform-based planning makes assumptions and then builds projections on those assumptions. Discovery-driven planning makes projections first and then reflects on the assumptions necessary for those projections to happen. The difference is that one is a top-down, theory-heavy practice while the other is a bottom-up, experiential practice. CAS are always of the latter sort.
A third example is the Deshpande Center’s Social Innovation Sandbox, first begun by Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande in India as an experiment in combining entrepreneurship with social innovation to combat hunger (Scott, 2013). Deshpande has now begun further initiatives in the Boston area. One example is the Merrimack Valley Sandbox, designed to promote social entrepreneurship and leadership in the Lowell and Lawrence communities. Deshpande’s sandbox initiatives are what Lerner (2000) called “laboratory-type centers” (p. 40). Deshpande’s aim is to cross-fertilize entrepreneurial ingenuity with the compassion that drives community engagement. In other words, his projects bring the execution excellence of for-profits to nonprofits. The advantage of this interdisciplinary approach is that it combines the strong communication for-profits have with their customers, a feedback loop often absent in nonprofits, with the compassion of nonprofits.
A general agreement within the literature on UCPs indicates four common qualities of effective partnerships (a) collaborative planning and goal setting, (b) shared power and resources, (c) group concurrence, and (d) leadership (Campus Compact, 2003; Sandy & Holland, 2006; Schulz, Israel, & Lantz, 2003):. Studies have shown that effective UCPs require bringing together the strengths, values, and systems of higher education with those of the surrounding communities (Peters, 2003; Peters, Alter, Jordan, & Adamek, 2006). Studies also indicate that successful UCPs are built upon mutual trust, respect, reciprocity, and commitment to shared missions and goals, and collaborative decision-making processes (Judd & Adams, 2008; Maurrasse, 2001; Peters, 2003; Peters et al., 2006).
Sustainability is identified as a fundamental quality to determine effectiveness of a UCP, with reciprocity, flexibility, engaged scholarship, and shared decision-making at the center of the collaboration (Boyle, Ross, and Stephens, 2011). The literature also reveals the importance of a two-way flow of knowledge, including strong interpersonal relationship skills, trust, flexibility, leadership, and balanced power (Weerts and Sandmann, 2008). Effective partnerships establish specific missions and goals, and are mutually beneficial to all stakeholders (Campus Compact, 2003; Holland, 1997).
The literature review offers a nonlinear, local, and bottom-up solution. These models require increased flexibility, attention to the local context, and reciprocity. As noted at the outset, the problem with evaluating UCPs is that they are often too generally conceived. The argument has been that small projects with clear goals are the most easily evaluated and replicated. They are easy to replicate, more open to development, and more likely to be sustainable. In addition, environmental factors, institutional structures and competencies, appropriate evaluation measures, group dynamics and communication are paramount in the success and sustainability of UPCs. These factors confirm the theoretical framework that is the basis for this study and that will guide the data collection and analysis process (Schulz et al., 2003).
The reviewed literature, including peer-reviewed journals, articles, and books, provided a general overview of factors affecting the effectiveness and sustainability of UCPs. UCPs are in the unique position of having intimate ties with the communities they serve, the universities in which they reside, and the states from whom they (more often than not) receive funding. From this position, they can be valuable relayers of the engaged scholarship called for by Harkavy and Hartley (2009).
The task of this chapter has been to review the historical and current literature on UCPs. Although research questions framed the literature review, the theoretical framework (Schultz et al., 2003) was used as a guide throughout the analysis, descriptions, discussions, and arguments the research investigator made. The information gained from the literature review and the inferences made through the process will provide critical information to the data collection and analysis process.
Chapter 3 describes the research method that will be used to conduct the current phenomenological study. The chapter will also examine the research method, the appropriateness of the design, the research site, population and sampling, data collection, and analysis procedures and systems. Chapter 3 will define the research methodology, reframe the research questions, and expand on the rationale for conducting this research.