Envisioning Public Scholarship for Our Time
reviewed by Carrie B. Myers & Scott Myers - September 05, 2019
Title: Envisioning Public Scholarship for Our Time
Author(s): Adrianna Kezar, Yianna Drivalas, & Joseph A. Kitchen
Publisher: Stylus Publishing, Sterling, VA
ISBN: 1620367769, Pages: 256, Year: 2018
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Envisioning Public Scholarship for Our Time: Models for Higher Education Researchers, edited by Adrianna Kezar, Yianna Drivalas, and Joseph A. Kitchen, is a timely and important contribution. It updates how higher education and social science researchers can meaningfully inform and participate in national and community issues and policies. This sentiment is averred in the Foreword and throughout the volume in light of the historical and emerging societal issues and the tenuous influence of research-based knowledge among decision makers.
In Chapter One, the concept of public scholarship is framed beyond just reaching out or translational research. Instead, the authors argue that public scholarship in the form of higher education research has the ability to create an equitable and diverse democracy to promote social justice. The stakeholders in society are numerous and include traditionally marginalized communities. Public scholarship, the authors argue, works best with a bottom-up approach; that is, simply engaging elites is not the best way to achieve social change. Researchers must move beyond traditional research methods and outlets of dissemination by embedding and including these public stakeholders within their research.
The book is divided into three sections. Part One sets out to define public scholarship and the context in which it is situated. Part Two details some of the different forms of and approaches to public scholarship. Part Three addresses the current lack of ways to teach and learn how to do public scholarship. Throughout the three sections, most of the contributors draw on their own research and lived experiences to explain and frame the content.
In the second chapter in Part One, the author provides an autobiographical account of her public scholarship and the lessons learned along the way. The various avenues and stakeholders are discussed as well as the rewards, challenges, and struggles of engaging in public scholarship. One of the challenges of public scholarship is addressed in Chapter Three. Specifically, how best to make decisions by practicing ethical mindfulness in public scholarship. The authors rely on their own experiences as well as qualitative research to detail the different kinds of ethical situations and decisions that researchers will face.
Part Two is the largest section with eight chapters. The first situates public scholarship within the legal realm and discusses various cases and outcomes from engaging the public. This chapter highlights the importance of understanding ones mission in public scholarship and working with and helping underrepresented groups. The next chapter follows nicely as the authors describe how public scholarship can be practiced effectively to help black students and their communities. Chapter Six has a racial equity focus, describing how public scholarship can expose and work to eliminate racial inequality (and other forms of inequality) in higher education. The author also details her shift from traditional research methods to critical action research. A great line summarizes her motivation for this shift: I knew that I wanted to do research to create change rather than describing how change happens (p. 83). The authors in Chapter Seven take a different approach. They conduct a qualitative case study on the efforts to use white papers to influence education-related policy decisions by the Nevada legislature. The important findings are two-fold: (a) faculty can conduct traditional-style research (i.e., empirical white papers) as a form of public scholarship when supported by administration; and (b) this research did influence policy at the state level.
The second half of Part Two begins with a dynamic chapter that not only advances public scholarship as a way to fight for racial justice, liberation, and public goods for all, but also offers a critique of the current structures and demography of higher education institutions. Here, the notion of fugitive planning is elaborated and illustrated using involvement in national movements. Chapter Nine discusses the history of cooperative extension in our land-grant institutions and their public scholarship roles. The author emphasizes the two-way engagement of extension, detailing an interesting engagement of agents and researchers with the state of Georgias blueberry industry. The section concludes with two final chapters. In Chapter Ten, the author contends that public scholarship disseminated through social media can enhance its reach, especially for underserved stakeholders, which can in turn lead to the democratization of knowledge. The final chapter introduces a concept that is probably unknown to most researchers: arts-based research (ABR). The chapter defines ABR and provides examples of how it can be an important element in helping public scholarship reach a wider audience.
Part Three tackles the issue of how few researchers are explicitly taught about and socialized into public scholarship. Chapter Twelve takes the lead by using sociocultural theory to elaborate how graduate students can be trained and socialized into public scholarship and the process of writing for the public. The next chapter also focuses on graduate students and programs by highlighting the interactions between four female researchers (one graduate student and three faculty members). The process of socialization included modeling, mentoring, and pedagogy that focused on the notion of community-engaged scholars.
Chapter Fourteen may be of special interest to faculty as the authors discuss how their career stage influences their involvement in public scholarship. The chapter also brings in the role of institutional resources and, as in other chapters, discusses the tension between traditional expectations and public scholarship. Chapter Fifteen takes a different spin than that of Chapter One; namely, that academic researchers can engage in public scholarship by working with elite academic organizations within Washington, DC. This chapter takes you through the world of associations in DC and the types of research that work best in this world. It also provides guidance on opportunities, training, and interactions. In the final chapter, the authors provide an example of public scholarship from the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California. The issue at hand was how the policies of the Trump administration have changed the campus climate for specific groups, such as DACA and Muslim college students. The remainder of the chapter is largely a summary of the integral learning themes throughout the volume.
Envisioning Public Scholarship for Our Time: Models for Higher Education Researchers is an engaging, varied, and interesting read. As you read each chapter, the autobiography and first-hand accounts of the authors make the stories and elaborations of public scholarship quite lively and relatable. The sheer variability of each chapter is definitely a strength of this volume. Another strength throughout the chapters is the willingness of the authors to explicitly state that engaging in public scholarship is not easy, often not supported by the structures of higher education, and may leave one feeling vulnerable. Some of this vulnerability is because most of the authors were not trained explicitly for public scholarship but instead had to learn on the ground and by reflecting on their missteps along the way.
The main limitation is the lack of voices from administrators (e.g., deans and department chairs) and others who often design and implement faculty load policies. It would have been nice to hear these individuals discuss how they view public scholarship as a form of faculty productivity. The engaging nature of the volume and the explicit details on the methods and avenues of public scholarship make this book ideal for a number of purposes. These include but are not limited to graduate courses in theory, methods, and substantive higher education issues, as well as faculty workshops and development programs. More informally, this volume can add to a faculty members understanding of the ways in which their traditional responsibilities can be construed and executed.