Engaged scholarship makes a difference in our communities
When we welcome strangers, something unexpected often happens: we learn more about who we are. Our college was recently reminded of this when asked to provide information for the incoming UC Davis Chancellor, Gary May—not exactly a stranger but certainly a newcomer to our community. He begins his new role on August 1. On his next pre-move visit to campus, Dr. May will meet with Sacramento-area leaders. In advance of that meeting, we are sharing with him some “boots on the ground” projects that college faculty are pursuing locally.
We have at least three dozen active Sacramento-area projects that our faculty are collaborating on with more than 100 regional organizations and community leaders. The activities range from applied research projects promoting farmer viability and consumer health and nutrition, to facilitating citizen engagement in transportation planning, to supporting public schools with garden-based learning curricula, to data mapping that informs agricultural and environmental decisions. The project snapshots reveal another facet of our amazingly diverse and active college. Yes, we are a world-ranked program with an impressive international reach, but we are also deeply engaged closer to home.
Many of the Sacramento-area projects defy the traditional notions of “outreach” or “extension.” Instead, they represent community-engaged scholarship, in which new knowledge is created through two-way partnerships. Faculty perspectives and research are enriched by the local knowledge of community members. Similarly, faculty research and information helps the community refine and advance its own goals. Engaged scholarship takes time, commitment, and a certain kind of humility by everyone. No individual or group has all the answers—or even all the right questions.
Students frequently participate in these projects and are benefiting from hands-on learning that strengthens their knowledge and skills, as well as preparing them to be community leaders. For many, that leadership will be exercised here in the region. Indeed, it is hard to attend a meeting in Sacramento and not run into one or more alumni from our college and/or UC Davis.
In these ways—and many more—our college is practicing and promoting good work and civic engagement among its Sacramento-area neighbors. We’re excited to show the newcomer in town how UC Davis is helping transform lives and communities in meaningful, lasting ways.