Strengthening engaged scholarship for environmental and social justice (Part 2)

Strengthening engaged scholarship for environmental and social justice (Part 2)

Mission Santa Clara de Asís is a historic church on the campus of Santa Clara University.
Mission Santa Clara de Asís is a historic church on the campus of Santa Clara University.

Chad Raphael, Christopher Bacon, and Iris Stewart-Frey of the Environmental Justice Collaborative, Santa Clara University

This is a continuation of the previous Ecojesuit article that shared the first four of eight strategies in strengthening an engaged scholarship for environmental and social justice that the Environmental Justice Collaborative at Santa Clara University identified.

The Environmental Justice Collaborative is a two-year interdisciplinary faculty seminar on environmental justice and the common good that advances research, teaching, and university initiatives that contribute to the university’s Jesuit and Catholic vocation as a transformative force.  Faculty Collaborative members Chad Raphael, Professor, Department of Communication, and Christopher Bacon and Iris Stewart-Frey, both Associate Professors, Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences developed this paper and we now share the last four strategies:

5. Expanding scholarly communication

In most institutions, standards for faculty promotion and tenure continue to erect barriers to community-engaged scholarship. (Welch, 2016, pp 219-220)  Many faculty members are concerned that devoting the considerable time required to make and maintain collaborative relationships with community partners runs counter to some institutions’ demand for increasing numbers of faculty publications in the name of “scholarly productivity” and the fast publication cycles in today’s academic discourse.

In addition, restrictive standards that put heavy emphasis on journal articles and books from university presses lead faculty members to devote most of their energy to publishing in formats that fail to communicate scholarship to partners and decision makers outside the academy.  Too often, we reduce the impact of scholarship to the number of citations in prestigious journals, failing to include benefits to communities.  As a result, we can lose focus on the vital questions of whose knowledge we are contributing to, and to what ends?

As we review our hiring, tenure and promotion policies, we can ensure that they adequately:

  • Value a broader range of audiences, formats, and impacts of scholarly expression to include publications that directly address and benefit community members, professionals and advocates, and policy makers
  • Encourage and reward faculty for work that translates academic research into usable information for the public, implements research in the community, helps communities to express themselves, and invents practical tools and processes that enhance sustainability and social justice
  • Value the scholarship of teaching and learning in all fields which diffuses innovative and successful curricula, pedagogies, and projects, advancing the most basic educational purposes of universities.
  • 6. Assessing scholarly rigor and ethics

    Engaged scholarship also challenges us to rethink how we assess the rigor and ethics of research.  External review is slowly becoming more inclusive as academic associations and universities create review boards in which community members and academics work together to evaluate engaged research proposals and publications.  Many disciplines have developed standards of peer review specific to engaged scholarship which apply traditional criteria such as authors’ ability to reference and build upon prior work, but also assess how effectively academic researchers incorporate community expertise, the degree to which the work benefits communities, and other standards unique to engaged scholarship. (Jordan, 2007)

    In addition to traditional research ethics requirements for treatment of human subjects, evaluators of engaged research examine evidence that collaborations are guided by “mutual respect, shared work, and shared credit (and approval by an institutional review board and/or community-based review mechanism, if applicable).” (, 2018)

    In response, Jesuit universities can:

  • Recruit and train community members to participate in review boards to evaluate engaged research projects, and in hiring committees for faculty and staff who specialize in this kind of scholarship
  • Ensure that institutional review boards (human subjects committees) and tenure and promotion committees are trained to apply appropriate standards of peer review and research ethics to community-engaged scholarship
  • Recognize and value the benefits and coordination time invested in creating and sustaining longer-term community-based partnerships, especially with marginal communities, as these relationships often generate novel interdisciplinary scholarship, experiential learning opportunities, and new opportunities with partners.
  • Faculty members of the Environmental Justice Collaborative with Ecojesuit Coordinator Pedro Walpole
    Faculty members of the Environmental Justice Collaborative with Ecojesuit Coordinator Pedro Walpole

    7. Enhancing training and professional development

    Universities are only beginning to provide training for community partners who want to participate in engaged scholarship. Community organizations need help identifying potential partners within universities, understanding protections for human subjects and the requirements of funders and sponsored projects offices, and advocating productively for their needs while collaborating with academic partners. (Welch, 2016)

    Faculty partners also need professional development to build community partnerships.  In addition to practical knowledge of engaged research methods, faculty members need essential skills such as relationship-building, communication and listening, respect and empathy for diverse cultures, flexibility and adaptability, and the ability to collaborate across disciplines. (Campus Community Partnerships for Health, 2018)  Additional resources for these are skills that will also help the faculty to be better contributors to university life.

    Jesuit universities can:

  • Ensure that institutional review boards, sponsored projects offices, and faculty and staff experienced in engaged scholarship are resourced to offer training and advice to faculty and community partners
  • Potentially invest the partnership and center.
  • 8. Seeking new resources

    Few potential donors are aware of the existence and value of community-engaged scholarship.  Sponsored projects offices and faculty may not be aware of public funding agencies and private foundations that support this kind of scholarship. We can:

  • Prepare our development staff to educate alumni and other donors about the value of engaged scholarship for sustainability by students and faculty, and especially for the need to fund long-term community-university collaborations
  • Ensure that sponsored projects offices are responding to some funding agencies’ shift toward supporting interdisciplinary teams engaged in problem-oriented research, and encourage sponsored project to help catalyze these collaborations
  • Provide long-term funding commitments to campus centers that can spread and sustain a vibrant community of scholars who do engaged research.
  • References
    Campus Community Partnerships for Health (2018). Community-engaged scholarship toolkit. Retrieved from Community-Campus Partnerships for health.

    Campus Compact (2018). Research university engaged scholarship toolkit. Retrieved from Campus Compact. (2018). Peer review process. Retrieved from

    Francis, P (2015). Laudato si’: On care for our common home. Retrieved from The Holy See.

    Jordan, C (Ed). (2007). Community-engaged scholarship review, promotion & tenure package. Peer Review Workgroup,

    Community-Engaged Scholarship for Health Collaborative, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health. Retrieved from Community-Engaged Scholarship for Health Collaborative.

    Welch, M (2016). Engaging higher education: Purpose, platforms, and programs for community engagement. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.


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