Director Academic Community Engagement, Duquesne University
Graduate Student Network Chairperson, IARSLCE Board
As a graduate student, I am grateful for the ways in which the Association nurtures novice researchers and helps them to connect their interests to a deepening body of community engagement research. The theme of Connected Knowing reflects a spirit within the Association that has influenced my own research and development as a connected practitioner scholar.
My current work (a dissertation) is concerned with community-university partnerships that are democratically oriented. It draws upon and connects research in education, organizational and institutional development, social psychology, and social coalition building. As I considered multiple disciplinary bodies, epistemologies, and ways of knowing, I was moved beyond my primary disciplinary training. I found it necessary to connect my strong educational research foundation to other bodies of work and as a result, encountered the loneliness that can accompany developing scholarship outside of a traditional trajectory. This is a loneliness that is not all that unfamiliar to those of us who consider ourselves to be what John Saltmarsh describes as the next generation of engaged scholars. Many of us have a few supportive faculty within our respective graduate programs who understand service-learning and community engagement. Some of us are fortunate to have faculty who have contributed to these literatures. From my conversations with the Association’s graduate students, we most often find ourselves needing the support and guidance of scholars outside of our campus homes and beyond our disciplinary fields.
As the next generation of engaged thinkers, we intuitively seek to build connected knowing; we embrace identities that shatter a traditional faculty role, taking on mantels as practitioner scholars, scholar activists, and even critics to engagement research; and we weave our intellectual traditions with those of other cultures and epistemologies. The Association provides a home to this spirit of intertwining and intervening work, and this year’s conference theme most appropriately brings this spirit to life.
Our Graduate Student Network (GSN) provides opportunities for me to connect my thinking to other incubators of thought. I have served as an Editorial Fellow, an experience that positioned me to critically review many innovative research projects. I am mentored and mentor others. I found a group of critical thought partners who were all interested in the construction of reciprocity and we established a thinking and writing group to which our divergent interests contribute strong analysis. Finally, I have the opportunity to use the upcoming conference as a vehicle to connect my studies to other cutting edge work and to develop a plan for how I might continue a research trajectory. While my trajectory may have once felt outside of the norm, it now feels supported and connected, giving me a sense that I am doing important work with other engaged thinkers. I feel connected. My work is connected. And, I look forward to connecting to your work at this year’s conference.