John Saltmarsh, Co-Director, the New England Resource Center for Higher Education, Professor of Higher Education Administration, University of Massachusetts, Boston.
The conference theme of connected knowing resonates strongly with my research interests and my observations of the trajectory of the civic engagement movement, in the United States and globally. What the authors of Women’s Ways of Knowing identified as a different way of knowing - a way of constructing knowledge that is relational and ontological (as bell hooks puts it, about ways of knowing and habits of being) and that had implications for women in the academy, now, it seems, has much broader implication for women and other underrepresented groups in higher education.
Connected knowing is at the center of the explorations underway of the next generation of engaged scholars. Research is emerging that indicates that a new generation of scholars in graduate school and in early career faculty positions are increasingly diverse, are more inclined to connect community issues to their pedagogical practice, are more inclined to design research agendas tied to social issues and improvement of the human condition, are more inclined to understand knowledge generation as a collaborative process of networked knowledge creation, resist attempts to fragment the integration of the faculty roles, and have expectations that the institutions that they are a part of will support their engaged scholarly work.
It is my hope that the conference theme will serve as an invitation to researchers who are exploring the dynamics and implications of the many dimension of faulty culture associated with next generation engagement. While there is a growing body of research, much of it cited in the paper entitled Full Participation: Building the Architecture for Diversity and Public Engagement in Higher Education (www.fullparticipation.net), we need more studies of how graduate students are socialized into professional identities as engaged scholars. We need to know more about the expectations of engaged graduate students as they enter into their careers as academics. We need to know more about how institutions of higher education are responding to this next generation of scholars, and how campus leaders are creating organizational cultures that not only allow engaged scholars to thrive but that shift institutions from, as Harry Boyte has written, “scattered civic activity to deep civic identity,” integrating institutional priorities of diversity and inclusion, student success, and public engagement.
The conference theme is an opportunity for researchers to share their research on the implications of connected knowing and to design research studies that will generate deeper understanding of next generation engagement scholars and campuses.