- Publicly Engaged Scholars: Next-Generation Engagement and the Future of Higher Education eds. by Margaret Post etal.
Publicly Engaged Scholars: Next-Generation Engagement and the Future of Higher Education, edited by Margaret Post, Elaine Ward, Nicholas Longo, and John Saltmarsh, examines the life and careers of university faculty and staff who have a passion for engaging with the community. These professionals see engagement with the community as essential to their work as scholars and educators, and thus advocate for the same recognition, opportunity, and legitimacy as traditional “publish or perish” scholars. Most of the contributors to the volume belong to a working group known as the Next Generation Engagement Project, and the book emerged from a variety of informal gatherings at conferences and meetings. Each chapter captures the struggles, setbacks, and sacrifices faced by those in professorships and administrative positions who have found a calling in community engagement, both accomplished and novice, while analyzing the structural forces that make up the existing tenure and promotion system of the academy.
Publicly Engaged Scholars is neatly organized into three sections. The first section, “The Collaborative Engagement Paradigm,” explains with clarity what community-engaged scholarship is, when and how the movement started and advanced, and the specific ways the prevailing structure of institutions of higher education inhibit it and its practitioners. The second section, “New Public Scholars,” breaks from the standard book chapter structure in order to present the narratives of 22 engaged scholars across six chapters. Finally, the last section, “The Future of Engagement,” discusses where to go from here.
In the clear and concise introduction, the editors frame “the entire system of knowledge generation and dissemination” as “in flux” (p. 1) and suggest that the sort of engaged scholarship to which this book is devoted is “an alternative to the neoliberal, market-driven, and privatized university” (p. 3). Perhaps the most thoughtful and comprehensive conceptualization of what the authors and editors mean by publicly engaged scholarship comes from Hartley and Saltmarsh in Chapter 3, who say that engaged scholarship “sees nonacademic knowledge as not only legitimate but also necessary in the generation of new knowledge aimed at solving public problems. It positions experts without academic credentials as peers in the generation of new knowledge” (p. 34).
The first six chapters serve as an all-inclusive history of the movement, starting from 1984, for publicly engaged scholarship. Saltmarsh and Hartley describe in Chapter 2 the building of the academic silos that today are oft-derided yet still seemingly are impenetrable. They discuss, for example, how federal funding priorities and the creation of the National Science Foundation in the Cold War “fragmented knowledge into increasingly narrow specifications” (p. 16), giving rise to the ongoing critique of universities as out of touch with the problems of everyday people. Chapter 3 walks the reader through four stages of the movement, from 1984 through 2012, with references to the future, while providing direct quotes and summaries from the most significant publications on engaged scholarship from each period. This provides significant context to the events of other chapters while allowing the reader to develop an additional reading list.
The editors recruited authors for the second section through their networks and grouped them into virtual co-author communities informed by emerging themes. Each chapter captures firstperson vignettes of three to four “scholar-practitioners.” If the editors structured this section in order to make any reader feel like they could succeed in community engaged scholarship, and to let those doing the work of engaged scholarship know that they are not alone in their thoughts, desires, and struggles, then they succeeded in spades. [End Page 316]
The honest, deep, moving stories humanize and contextualize scholars in a field that normally only values lines on a CV. They do not hold back from harsh reality and often show the deep and personal motivations of first-generation scholars, who felt out of place and...