Our purpose, quite simply, is to help connect faculty and students to learning opportunities in the community, and to help those in our community identify the resources on our campus that can enable them to further their goals. We define our “community” broadly—after all, USF students and faculty are engaged in research and learning all over the globe. But our primary focus is likely to be in our own very large “backyard”—the Tampa Bay community in which most of us live and work.
Those of us working in the area of community engagement are fortunate to have had the benefit of Dr. Susan Greenbaum’s tenure as the OCEP’s founding director. Under Dr. Greenbaum’s direction, the OCEP has already made great strides in institutionalizing engaged research and learning on the USF campus. These accomplishments were duly recognized when USF was designated a Carnegie Engaged University, recognized for Outreach and Partnerships, as well as Curricular Engagement. All those who have worked with Susan Greenbaum appreciate her tireless efforts to create an engaged campus, and we wish her well in her retirement.
We look forward to hearing from faculty, students and community leaders about how the OCEP can best fulfill its mission of “expanding local and global initiatives that strengthen and sustain healthy communities, promoting social justice, and helping improve the quality of life for all.”
Dr. Elizabeth Strom, Director
[excerpts from the Executive Summary of the Community Engagement Task Force Final Report.]
Although for decades faculty have involved students in a variety of engaged learning experiences, the term “service-learning” was not used at USF until the College of Arts and Sciences Community Initiative brought national expert Edward Zlotkowski to campus in 2000. His training session and subsequent sessions sponsored by the Center for 21st Century Teaching Excellence have produced a core group of faculty familiar with the pedagogy. Meanwhile, limited funding opportunities were created to assist faculty in the implementation of the pedagogy.
In 2001 an internal Teaching Enhancement Grant was used by the CAS Community Initiative to fund five faculty members, representing the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, as they jointly went through the process of adding a service-learning component to one of their existing courses. In 2002 the CAS Community Initiative obtained a grant from the Florida Campus Compact to broaden this cross-disciplinary dialogue through a series of “service-learning coffees.” The same grant also provided funding for three faculty members to develop linked service-learning courses focusing on the neighborhood of Sulphur Springs. While these efforts were confined to the College of Arts and Sciences, the USF Collaborative for Children, Families and Communities was creating a university-wide mini-grants program for the development of service-learning courses. The Collaborative then utilized the service-learning pedagogy in its East Tampa Initiative.
These initiatives built a critical mass of support for service-learning among the faculty and their community partners but their efforts were sporadic and disconnected. However, they did catch the attention of university leadership, both faculty and administration. The Faculty Senate created an Ad Hoc Committee to make suggestions for expanding engaged teaching and research at USF. One of the subcommittees specifically addressed service-learning and curricular engagement. Administrative leadership (President, Board of Trustees and Provost) made community engagement a strategic goal of USF and specifically cited the number of service-learning courses as a metric. Meanwhile, student interest in co-curricular service-learning grew as the Volunteer USF (now the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement) infused reflective exercises into its rapidly expanding service activities.
The USF Task Force on Community Engagement (CE) was created by the Provost to advance efforts to assure commitment to community engagement throughout USF and to identify policies, strategies, priorities, procedures, structures, and implementation steps needed to institutionalize across the university. Recommendations of the Task Force are aimed at establishing USF as a national model for a university fully engaged with its local, national, and global communities (USF Strategic Plan 2007-2012). The CE Task Force recognized and built on the history of community engaged scholarship by staff members in multiple centers and faculty members throughout the university. Examples of these successful efforts include the Collaborative for Children, Families and Communities; USF Health; and the Faculty Senate Task Force on Community Engagement. These efforts resulted in USF being classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a Community Engaged and Research Intensive University.
A commitment to community engagement is manifest in Goal III of the USF Strategic Plan 2007-2012 to “expand local and global engagement initiatives to strengthen and sustain healthy communities and to improve the quality of life.” The Task Force found that USF lacked the infrastructure necessary for recognition as a national model for a fully engaged university, particularly among peer institutions. The Task Force provided a vision for engaged learning, engaged scholarship, and engaged outreach through community partnerships, and made recommendations for building the necessary infrastructure for realizing that vision. As a result, USF established a central Office of Community Engagement at a high administrative level, commensurate with its place within its strategic priorities. The founding director of the OCEP is Dr. Susan Greenbaum.
The USF Office of Community Engagement & Partnerships (OCEP) is responsible for developing, nurturing, and sustaining the organizational foundation, critical resources, and processes necessary to promote and advance engaged learning, research/scholarship, outreach and partnerships throughout USF. The functions of the OCEP pertinent to community engagement include: