From the Balcony

Over the past three months, I’ve been all over campus to listen and learn about the best of GVSU’s community partnerships. To date, over 80 faculty and staff members have shared compelling stories about how their community engagement work has transformed their students, their communities, and themselves.

In the process, I have had the opportunity to observe the unique culture of each college, unit, and center. I make sense of it all by thinking of the university as a dance floor—we’re all here for the same party, even if we’re doing a different dance. Regardless of individual cultures on campus, one thing is obvious: we are all dancing as fast as we can. Full teaching loads plus research plus committee work leaves little time for reflection. This is particularly true of our engaged scholars, integrating their teaching and/or research in a mutually beneficial collaboration with a community partner. Engaged teaching and engaged research simply take more time and more resources.

A farm girl by upbringing, I’m all for working hard. But what opportunities might we be missing because our heads are down, focusing on our steps? If we were to move from the dance floor to the balcony, we might find that others, just across campus, are also doing the tango. Or that someone could teach us a new dance. Or that if we planned and practiced a dance together, we might bring about a whole new movement.

Let’s connect. Join one of the new CLAS research clusters—Borders, Brain, Health, Urban, and Water. Infiltrate another college to look for allies. Or just call me with your engagement interests. With my view from the balcony, I may be able to connect you with someone who shares your passion and complements your work.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Thanks for helping us all connect our work, Ruth. Love the analogy!

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