For the Public Good, Together: Catalyzing UC Davis Impact

A Call to Action 

A recent Gallup Poll found that confidence in U.S. higher education has fallen from 57% to 36% between 2015 and 2023. As UC Davis deepens its public impact and commitment to community engagement, what is our response to this concerning trend? How can UC Davis demonstrate and showcase the university’s collective impact in the Sacramento region, California, and the world?

UC Davis has taken significant steps to promote and support the tremendous efforts of faculty, researchers, students, and staff who engage community partners through mutually beneficial research, teaching and public service. The university has launched multiple initiatives, established dedicated offices and programs, and provided resources and funding to facilitate meaningful partnerships and collaborations. Some of these efforts include:

  • 2017: Creating Aggie Square as an innovation district, economic development catalyst, and bridge between the university and local communities;
  • 2018: Establishing the Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement to integrate public scholarship and community engagement into research, teaching and learning;
  • 2020: Initiating the Anchor Institution Mission (AIM) for Community Health to address social determinants of health in the surrounding communities; and
  • 2021: Launching the Grand Challenges initiative to organize research teams to holistically address global problems.

These investments foreshadow increasing attention to “broader impacts” and “community engagement” as well as calls by elected officials and policymakers for increasing involvement by institutions of higher education to address a myriad of economic, environmental, health, and social problems. This is a once in a generation opportunity to leverage the diversity of UC Davis resources and expertise.

Creating greater synergies and demonstrating collective impact can catalyze a transformational shift that will:

Support our community, region, state, nation and world through mutually beneficial and impactful partnerships that reflect a firm commitment to our mission and increase the visibility and reputation of the university. (Strategic Plan Goal #4 in To Boldly Go) 

Working toward the milestone of Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Reclassification in 2026, the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor is funding a multi-year process to document and assess the impact of community partnerships and engagement activities — one that is consistent, reimagines the land-grant university, and is guided by evidence-based principles of practice. Beyond Carnegie Reclassification, these efforts will build the necessary infrastructure and mechanisms for on-going data collection, assessment, and communication of public impact — to boldly go where no university has gone before.

Background

In 2015, UC Davis was nationally recognized for community engagement via The Carnegie Foundation’s Community Engagement Classification. The classification, held by around 400 universities nationwide, “affirms the importance of community engagement in higher education and recognizes collaboration between those institutions and their communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources.”  Only 31 out of over 400 institutions of higher education in California hold this designation, and only three of the ten UC campuses.

UC Davis is now up for Reclassification. This process spans multiple years and will require collaborations with different units across the university to collect and analyze data per Carnegie requirements. Through funding from the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, the Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement will play a lead role in providing facilitation, organization, and support for this process, in partnership with a Steering Committee. 

Key Goals

  • Data portal: University-wide adoption of an externally facing data portal that can be used by faculty, staff, and students, to log, track and explore community engagement activities and data. A portion of the data portal will be publicly accessible to community partners.
  • Data dashboard: An internal data dashboard focused on public impact and community engagement that addresses student outcomes, faculty research, and institutional investments.
  • Public-facing website: A website that highlights the value of UC Davis public impact and community engagement efforts, includes established University-wide definitions, vision and values, and curated stories of public impact and community partnerships that can be used for university, college, and school marketing and communications.
  • Feedback mechanisms: A systematic approach for collecting and listening to faculty, staff, student and community partner feedback.
  • Sustainable strategy: A strategy for sustainable investment in understanding and evaluating public impact and community partnerships at UC Davis.

Process and Timeline

The proposed process follows the recommendations of a multi-unit Steering Committee composed of members from the Offices of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Government and Community Relations; and Public Scholarship and Engagement; and Amanda Wittman, a Carnegie Classification consultant who provided a report and recommendations on Data Infrastructure to Support Carnegie Reclassification in Spring 2023. The process will be led by an expanded Steering Committee, three working groups and consultation with the university’s leadership councils (Figure 1). Public Scholarship and Engagement will staff each working group and be responsible for Steering Committee and working group coordination; gathering data and information from various units throughout the university; and developing data collection protocols and instruments. View the working group membership.

Black and white graphic that shows the organizational structure for the Carnegie Reclassification.
Steering Committee

The Steering Committee will guide strategy, support activities of the working groups, act to cultivate community and mobilize resources to support the work. The Steering Committee will also provide oversight for the change management elements of this process, including communications to the university community, and university-wide adoption and training of new data platforms and software. Steering Committee members will provide bi-annual updates in the Fall and Spring to the Provost’s Leadership Council and the Chancellor’s Leadership Council. 

Working Groups

Three working groups will be convened beginning in January 2024 and meet monthly. The working groups will be cross-disciplinary and will represent a broad spectrum of offices, programs, and specialties across the campus community. Each working group will also have representatives from external community partners. Each working group will have co-chairs, who work with PSE staff to set agendas, delegate work/assignments to working group members, manage committee members and any conflicts that arise, and report on progress/milestones to the Steering Committee. 

Community Partnerships

  • Refine community partnership and engagement definitions.
  • Identify and categorize community partnership and engagement case studies defined by size, scope and location, e.g., region, state and international.
  • Guide development and implementation of community partner and faculty surveys.
  • Identify strategies for inventorying university-wide community engagement activities.

Assessment and Integration 

  • Identify shared goals of data collection for community partners, faculty, students, staff and university leadership.
  • Develop a set of data analytics used to measure public impact and the quality of community partnerships across the university.
  • Draft data visualizations to explore public impact and community partnerships, e.g., longitudinal trends, spatial and temporal mapping.
  • Recommend plan to provide sustainable investment in public impact and community partnership assessment.

Communications & Messaging

  • Develop a broad and integrated messaging strategy around public impact and community partnerships. 
  • Create messaging for multiple communication channels based on findings of other working groups.
  • Develop marketing strategy to improve university-wide adoption of data collection system.
  • Develop a plan for management, curation and dissemination of public impact and community partnership stories.

Timeline and Milestones

The initiative will be launched beginning in January 2024. The start dates for the working groups will be staggered beginning with the Community Partnerships working group in January 2024, Assessment and Integration in February 2024, and Communications and Messaging in March 2024. Each group will work toward a set of related milestones between May 2024 and April 2025. The Carnegie Reclassification application will be submitted in April 2025, but it is expected that outcomes of the working groups will inform a strategic plan for institutional investment and coordination of community engagement.

Black and white graphic with text that outlines the timeline for the Carnegie Reclassification.