On Thursday, March 2, 2023, I was honored to receive the 2023 MSU Institutional Champion Award for Community Engagement Scholarship. Below is the text of my remarks at the moving awards ceremony that took place in the Kellogg Center.
One of the great joys of being a dean is celebrating the accomplishments of our students, staff, and faculty. And while email can be the bane of a dean’s existence, there are moments when an email arrives announcing an award or an exciting achievement and my enthusiasm builds as I anticipate writing to celebrate the excellent work that our colleagues are doing every day.
So it was, one afternoon last December, when I received an email from Laurie Van Egeren about the 2023 MSU Institutional Champion Award for Community Engagement Scholarship. As I began scanning the message for the name of the colleague who had won this award, I was already beginning to compose the congratulatory message in my mind. So, it took me a beat or two to realize that it was Laurie who was congratulating me!
And as I read and re-read the email, I began to wonder precisely what it meant to be an institutional champion for community engaged scholarship. And this brought me back to early in my tenure as Dean of the College of Arts & Letters here at MSU.
Aligning Values and Practices
In 2015, I was drawn to MSU because of the way the community spoke so eloquently about the value of the land-grant mission; our commitment “to advance knowledge and transform lives” made me feel immediately at home.
But it wasn’t long before the ideals I had about the vital importance of publicly engaged scholarship and participatory action research came into conflict with the traditional practices and policies of faculty evaluation.
We had hired and recruited a dynamic cohort of faculty from traditionally under-represented backgrounds to do the transdisciplinary, community engaged work they found so meaningful. Soon thereafter, however, our new colleagues were asking to meet with me to talk about how their work was being torn apart by the categories of the tenure and promotion process itself. They understood their teaching, research, and service as an integrated whole, yet, in their annual reviews they were being asked to segregate their teaching from their research and their research from their service, and they were rarely being asked at all about what they considered their most vital work–the mentoring of graduate and undergraduate students of color.
During this time, I also had one of the most transformative experiences of my academic career. I joined a small group of colleagues at the Scholarly Communications Institute in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. We had gathered there in the fall 2016 to reimagine the metrics that determine academic excellence from a more humanistic perspective. In dialogue over the course of three days, we began to think about how we might move the academy from valuing what it measures, to measuring what it says it values. The Mellon-funded HuMetricsHSS initiative designed to align indicators of academic excellence with core personal and institutional values was born from those conversations.
And as my MSU colleagues and I considered how we might support the faculty we had recruited to do the work we said we cared most deeply about, we began to realize that we needed to change what we did—how we evaluated and rewarded the interdisciplinary, community engaged scholarship at the heart of the land-grant mission.
Charting Pathways of Intellectual Leadership
This led to the Charting Pathways of Intellectual Leadership initiative, which invites faculty to imagine how they might create a meaningful academic life by shifting the framework for advancement from teaching, research, and service to three higher order objectives that align more effectively with the purpose of the university. We now ask them how they will 1) share knowledge; 2) expand opportunity; and 3) participate in mentorship and stewardship activities. This shift opens the space for our faculty to put their values into practice through their teaching, research, and service by doing very traditional work or by pushing the boundaries of innovation in participatory action research, public scholarship, or new modes of digital engagement.
I’m proud to say that those faculty who came to the Deans Office feeling like their most important work was being torn apart have all been promoted as Associate Professors with tenure, having pursued a wide diversity of community engaged scholarship that aligns both with their personal purpose and with the purpose that animates the life of the university.
As you can hear, an interconnected web of relationships has shaped the work that is recognized today, for although I accept this award with gratitude and humility, I receive it on behalf of a dedicated, conscientious, and creative group of colleagues whose collaborative work made it possible. As Angela Davis put it when she visited campus earlier this semester: “We would not be who we are without relationality with others” (Angela Davis at MSU, February 9, 2023).
So let me end in gratitude, first for my wife Valerie, who is my truest partner and inspiration. Your commitment to living your values with integrity through your community service is a model to me and to our daughters, who were early on brought to the food bank in State College to begin their lives of service. To my colleagues on the HuMetricsHSS initiative, thank you for the wholeheartedness each of you brings to the work we do together—I am a better person because you have taught me how to be intentional about my values in everything I do. To my colleagues here at MSU—my leadership team in the College of Arts & Letters, and to our Chairs, Directors, staff, and faculty, thank you for creating a culture of care in which everyone can flourish. And to my colleagues in the Honors College—thank you for helping our honors students find meaningful pathways to their purpose. And to those who nominated me for this award, to my fellow awardees, and to all of you here today, thank you for your commitment to making good on the transformative promise of higher education.
Below you will find articles, websites, and stories about our community engagement scholarship efforts.
For more on HuMetricsHSS, please visit the HuMetricsHSS website.
- Interviews with more than 120 administrators, faculty, and librarians across the Big 10 Academic Alliance led to the publication of the Walking the Talk white paper: The HuMetricsHSS Team, Nicky Agate, Christopher P. Long, Bonnie Russell, Rebecca Kennison, Penelope Weber, Simone Sacchi, Jason Rhody, and Bonnie Thornton Dill. “Walking the Talk: Toward a Values-Aligned Academy,” February 17, 2022. https://hcommons.org/deposits/item/hc:44631/.
- This article, co-authored by the HuMetricsHSS team, articulates the theory behind our values-enacted approach: Agate, Nicky, Rebecca Kennison, Stacy Konkiel, Christopher P. Long, Jason Rhody, Simone Sacchi, and Penelope Weber. “The Transformative Power of Values-Enacted Scholarship.” Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 7, no. 1 (December 7, 2020): 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-020-00647-z.
Charting Pathways of Intellectual Leadership
- This essay outlines the implementation of the Charting Pathways of Intellectual Leadership initiative in the College of Arts & Letters: Fritzsche, Sonja, William Hart-Davidson, and Christopher P. Long. “Charting Pathways of Intellectual Leadership: An Initiative for Transformative Personal and Institutional Change.” Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning 54, no. 3 (May 4, 2022): 19–27. https://doi.org/10.1080/00091383.2022.2054175.
- Cilano, Cara, Sonja Fritsche, William Hart-Davidson, and Christopher P. Long. “Staying with the Trouble: Designing a Values-Enacted Academy.” Impact of Social Sciences (blog), April 23, 2020. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2020/04/23/staying-with-the-trouble-designing-a-values-enacted-academy/.
- Long, Christopher P. “Reshaping the Tenure and Promotion Process so That It Becomes a Catalyst for Innovative and Invigorating Scholarship.” LSE Impact of Social Sciences (blog), November 1, 2017. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2017/11/01/reshaping-the-tenure-and-promotion-process-so-that-it-becomes-a-catalyst-for-innovative-and-invigorating-scholarship/.
Supporting Less Commonly Taught and Indigenous Languages
The Mellon-Funded Less Commonly Taught Languages Partnership grant fosters collaboration across the Big 10 Academic Alliance in the teaching and learning of less commonly taught languages with a
focus on indigenous languages.
- Fritsche, Sonja, Luca Giupponi, Emily Heidrich Uebel, Felix Kronenberg, Christopher P. Long, and Koen van Gorp. “Languages as Drivers of Institutional Diversity: The Case of Less Commonly Taught Languages.” The Language Educator, Winter 2022, 45–47.
- Long, Christopher P., Sue Gass, and Koen van Gorp. “From Collaboration to Strategic Coordination: Creating LCTL Partnerships Across the Big 10 Academic Alliance.” Accessed June 10, 2017. http://www.europenowjournal.org/2017/06/05/from-collaboration-to-strategic-coordination-creating-lctl-partnerships-across-the-big-10-academic-alliance/.
- The National Less Commonly Taught Languages Resource Center is a Department of Education/Title VI-funded national language resource center housed in the Center for Language Teaching Advancement at Michigan State University.
The Public Philosophy Journal
The Public Philosophy Journal is an innovative online publication for accessible scholarship that deepens our understanding of publicly relevant issues.
- Long, Christopher P. “Practicing Public Scholarship.” Public Philosophy Journal 1, no. 1 (2018). https://doi.org/10.25335/m5/ppj.1.1-1.
- Avillez, André Rosenbaum de, Mark Fisher, Kris Klotz, and Christopher P. Long. “Public Philosophy and Philosophical Publics: Performative Publishing and the Cultivation of Community.” The Good Society 24, no. 2 (2015): 118–45. http://dx.doi.org/10.5325/goodsociety.24.2.0118.
The Honors College
When I talk to honors students at graduation, they often identify the Honors College Impact program, an annual service week focused on areas of social inequity and inequality in the greater Lansing region, as one of the most transformative experiences of their MSU careers. Last year, the team recorded over 800 hours of service in our local communities.
In addition, HC Impact connects incoming first-year students with faculty and mentors, creating a network that will last throughout their college experience. These students begin their journey at MSU with an open mind and a passion for helping others.
As an extension of HC Impact, the same students participate in an Honors seminar course focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Here, students each complete 24 hours of volunteer service dedicated to their choice of organization, totaling up to over 1,000 hours of service collectively as a class.