Whose Job Is It Anyway? The Place of Public Engagement in the Liberal Arts College

Paul A. Djupe, Luke D. Christie, Sean Patrick O'Rourke, Elizabeth S. Smith


The calls for academics to engage the public have grown, motivated by concerns for civic health and for maintaining public and political support for higher education and academic research. Whatever its value to the public sphere, there is still considerable uncertainty about whether and how public engagement counts–is it valued by colleagues and institutions in promotion and tenure decisions? We sought to provide evidence to assess the value of public engagement with experimental and observational methods set in a survey of faculty from seven liberal arts colleges. We find that public engagement is valued and engaged by these faculty, with variation observed by institution, mode of public engagement, and college division (arts faculty the most supportive and science faculty the least). We recommend institutions communicate clearly how they value public engagement; until that point, academics should tread carefully as they seek public audiences and partnerships.


public engagement; liberal arts; experiment; survey

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