Center for Community Engagement
Teaching and Research

Community-Engaged Scholarship

  • Community-engaged scholarship is an approach to the research process that brings together scientific inquiry and critical analysis with community-identified needs. This approach is deeply embedded in the Jesuit catholic tradition of social justice. Colombian sociologist Father Camilo Torres Restrepo was one of the pioneers of cooperative research for social change. This methodology, according to Strand, et. al., has the “potential to unite the three traditional academic missions of teaching, research, and service in innovative ways” that promote sustainable institutional change.¹

    Campus-Community Partnerships for Health defines community-engaged scholarship in this way:  

    By “community engagement” we mean applying institutional resources (e.g., knowledge and expertise of students, faculty and staff, political position, buildings and land) to address and solve challenges facing communities through collaboration with these communities. The methods for community engagement of academic institutions include community service, service-learning, community-based participatory research, training and technical assistance, capacity-building and economic development. By “community-engaged scholarship” we mean “teaching, discovery, integration, application and engagement that involves the faculty member in a mutually beneficial partnership with the community and has the following characteristics: clear goals, adequate preparation, appropriate methods, significant results, effective presentation, reflective critique, rigor and peer-review.”²

    The Center for Service and Community Engagement uses the concept community-engaged scholarship to embrace the diversity of discipline-specific traditions that engage collaborative research between faculty, students, and community members to address community needs. This includes:

    • Action Research
    • Community Action Research
    • Community-Based Research
    • Empowerment Research
    • Participatory Action Research
    • Popular Education

    While there are discipline-specific methodological differences between these traditions, there are three central features to community-engaged scholarship:

    Research is a collaborative enterprise between academic researchers (faculty and students) and community members;
    The research process seeks to democratize knowledge by validating multiple sources of knowledge and promoting the use of multiple methods of discovery and dissemination; and the goal of the research is social action for the purpose of achieving social change and social justice.³

    The Center for Community Engagement offers a variety of services to support faculty research, including:

    • Individual consultations;
    • Workshops for faculty and community partners;
    • A library of books and periodicals on community-engaged scholarship;
    • Resources for disseminating community-engaged scholarship (conferences, peer-reviewed publications, academic organizations);
    • Direct support in making connections with community organizations;
    • Resources to connect community-engaged scholarship with academic service-learning;
    • Supporting faculty interested in pursuing community-engaged scholarship funding opportunities and assisting with specific trainings;
    • Identifying and supporting community organizations interested in partnering with SU faculty; and
    • Assisting in scoping and coordinating community-engaged research projects that link to courses.

    Contact Elizabeth O'Brien if you are interested in deepening your understanding of community-engaged research.

    ¹Kerry Strand, Sam Marullo, Nick Cutforth, Randy Stoecker, & Patrick Donohue (2003). Community-Based Research and Higher Education: Principles and Practices. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    ²Gelmon SB, Seifer SD, Kauper-Brown J and Mikkelsen M. (2005) Building Capacity for Community Engagement: Institutional Self-Assessment. Seattle, WA: Community-Campus Partnerships for Health.  

    ³Ibid at 1.