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Doing the tough work| Care and the dynamics of community-university engagement

<p> Many colleges and universities offer their commitment to partnering with local communities, and often do so with the goal of addressing societal needs. A growing field, such engagement between higher education institutions and community partners continues to evolve, including the purpose and rationale for this work, how engagement is accomplished, theoretical contexts, and how success is viewed by stakeholders. A qualitative case study was undertaken with the following questions at the fore: how does a self-described &ldquo;engaged&rdquo; university center function when viewed through the prism of an ethic of care? What are the characteristics of engagement efforts undertaken by staff, faculty and community partners associated with this center? What is a cultural description for the work associated with this center? The case studied was the Center for Community Research and Engagement (CCRE) at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Data collection included a combination of participant-observation, document analysis, and open-ended interviews. Overall findings point toward many aspects of an ethic of care that can be understood to be prominent characteristics of CCRE, including the dynamic of relationships, longevity, and a focus on needs and attention paid. Further, acknowledgement of care is not one-directional, with undergraduate students, and by proxy the university, recipients of care. Findings suggest that relationships are the tough work, easily overlooked because they are difficult to quantify and capture in forms other than the perceived experience between people. The challenge of funding is also an ever-present reality, and contributions by university staff is a new and novel finding given the previous focus on faculty and students. A description of CCRE necessitates an understanding of context, core center efforts, and additional cultural dynamics that include a changing university. Findings from this research contribute to the theoretical development of engagement through the consideration of Care Theory, and also deepen understanding of community-university engagement by describing the complexity of human relationships.</p>
Date24 July 2015
CreatorsCook, John B.
PublisherUniversity of New Hampshire
Detected LanguageEnglish

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