Engagement and Service


Engagement and Service: Conclusion

The University of Michigan has a long history and great strengths in engagement and service activities. Reflecting this range of activities is the compelling measure of our students’ and alumni’s commitment to this area of activity, with participation exceeding 80% of these cohorts. Perhaps the emphasis on engagement and service at the University is an essential part of what characterizes the Michigan Difference.

The University’s decentralized structure means that the schools and colleges, departments, programs, faculty, staff, and students select or develop engagement activities that fit their interests and their goals. A large amount of activity occurs under this model, enabling anyone to pursue ideas and initiatives. Our faculty members have received national and international recognition for their work in this arena. Also, our collective commitment to service, as articulated in administrators’ statements and by the number and variety of service efforts in place, has likely contributed to the University being a recipient of the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll award each year this national recognition has been bestowed. The University was also recently awarded the Community Engagement Classification from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Such recognition as a national leader in engagement and service will aid faculty, students, and staff in continuing and expanding our efforts.

The University has strong, positive relationships with its partners. These enable the faculty and staff members to continue to work together, but, in addition, they smooth the way for other faculty and staff members to establish partnerships. Good reputations facilitate others’ engagement. University alumni and many donors care deeply about the University’s engagement and service, as evidenced, for example, in outcomes from alumni focus groups held in fall 2008 to prepare for the 2010 reaccreditation process. The alumni network is an underutilized resource of potential partners in engagement work, and alumni and other donors are often prepared to make gifts to support such work as well.

Engagement and service contribute considerably to advancing University priorities. Our commitment to diversity leads to valuing engagement that emphasizes diverse communities and diverse forms of knowledge, intercultural and multicultural learning, and educational access. Depending on the kind of engagement, students and faculty members interact with people who often are not like themselves. They learn to address issues of privilege and cultural difference, social inequity, and racial discrimination. Engagement also advances the University’s commitment to encouraging young people to consider higher education who might not have done so otherwise. Many University students and faculty members work with youth in tutoring and mentoring programs. Engagement in international settings furthers student and faculty experience of and contribution to diverse cultures. Finally, engagement advances interdisciplinarity because the nature of partners’ concerns often cross disciplinary boundaries inside the University; in response, students and faculty members often recruit participants from other academic fields to help them address partners’ needs and issues. Despite students’ and faculty and staff members’ extensive engagement and service efforts, and despite the University’s many strengths in this area, we could do even more to enhance this work and address the barriers we face.

Many of the recommendations in this section involve using technology in new ways to enable people across the University to know more about what others are doing, to allow the institution to build its capacity in this area, and to enhance the environment for engagement. Because the University is large and decentralized, we need to address ways to further “scale up” these efforts. Today’s technological innovations can help us reach and benefit more students, faculty, staff, and community partners in their engagement and service activities. An engagement, service, and outreach web portal that includes course offering descriptions, funding initiatives and opportunities, registration of ongoing activities, and documentation of faculty, student, and staff experiences would support our growing campus needs in this area and further emphasize the University’s continuing commitment to serve the state, the nation and the world in multiple ways.