Boyer's Scholarship of Engagement. What if We Could Make a Difference?

Boyer's Scholarship of Engagement. What if We Could Make a Difference?

Original Article Published in Phoenix Scholar, Vol 1, No 3 – Summer 2018
Dr. Jan Cardwell and Dr. James Gillespie
Across academia, Boyer’s (1990) scholarship domains are used for student scholarship training, faculty scholarship, and as a theoretical underpinning for research. The primary domains include: teaching, discovery, integration, and application. What is not widely referenced is a fifth domain offered by Boyer (1996) titled the Scholarship of Engagement. Perhaps less attention has been given to this domain, which was introduced in a speech on October 11, 1995 for the Induction Ceremony of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, because the article and the speech were published after Boyer’s death in December 1995. Beyond the historical foundation, most important is what Boyer offered as the Scholarship of Engagement.
According to Boyer (1996), “on one level” the Scholarship of Engagement involves “connecting the rich resources of a university to our most pressing social, civic and ethical problems, to our children, to our schools, to our teachers, and to our cities” (p. 19). As read, this statement is very broad and lofty while encompassing a great deal of societal issues. To clarify his intent, for this domain, Boyer added this commentary: “Increasingly, I’m convinced that the scholarship of engagement also means creating a special climate in which the academic and civic cultures communicate more continuously and more creatively with each other… enriching the quality of life for all of us” (p. 20).
Interpreting this more deeply, Boyer’s Scholarship of Engagement could be a “what if” scenario, which is how Detroit Rising (DR) began. DR is a project created and co-led by the Center for Organizational Research (COR) in the School of Advanced Studies (SAS) at the University of Phoenix (UOPX). Detroit Rising was initiated on December 1, 2017 by Dean Mark McCaslin (Dean of Research and Scholarship, Office of Scholarship Support), Dr. James Gillespie (Research Chair & Leader, COR), Dr. Jan Cardwell (VP Campus and Academic Director, Detroit UOPX), and over 50 leading executives from the business and community sectors during a
strategic planning meeting in Downtown Detroit. The primary purpose for the meeting, hosted, on a complimentary bases, by a prestigious law firm in Detroit, was to uncover needs for research and scholarship among the Detroit group of leaders, but there was something else that resonated with this group of leaders. They were not interested in talking about their needs. Instead, they selflessly wanted to talk about how to help the City of Detroit and the surrounding region to sustain its economic comeback. As the conversation evolved, an excitement, energy, and awareness permeated and drove the discussion. Leaders shared how they could contribute resources and talent, including legal and financial advice. Discussions turned from personal needs to contributions for the good of the City.
Commentaries and discussions were captured and later sent out by email, which prompted more feedback, thoughts and ideas. In essence a movement was launched. Most importantly, the foundation of a new service and support organization was launched – Detroit Rising. Detroit Rising will focus on economic development, entrepreneurship, and training in the greater metropolitan Detroit region. The goal is to create an entity that is independent of but highly collaborative with organizations from the academic (particularly the University of Phoenix), community, foundation, governmental, and industry sectors. Detroit Rising allows us to examine how scholarly leadership has potential to become applied practice. Using Boyer’s (1996) Scholarship of Engagement as the theoretical underpinning, the practical question for the Detroit Rising project is “What if we could make a difference?”
Armed with a momentum, commitment, and purpose, our first step was to form an Executive Advisory Council of highly distinguished Detroit-based leaders. This group of volunteers is adding more detail and legs to the initiative. This “special climate of continuous communication and creativity,” as Boyer articulated (1996), is being cultivated with a frequency of communications and activities. For example, a strategic planning session was organized on February 22, 2018 and facilitated by a former General Motors strategic planner, at no cost. The intensive session was to grind out the mission, vision, and core values. With these foundations in place, the next step is a process of discovery to systematically and objectively identify collect, analyze and catalogue what is already being done by service and support organizations in Metropolitan Detroit. In addition, every event and activity for Detroit Rising is examined with a research lens, covering the study of leadership and organizational behaviors. We look forward to a bright future for this exciting initiative which bridges the gap between the world of academic and the worlds of work and community

About the Author

Janice Cardwell



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