A photo showing the community engagement summit at UC Davis. People are sitting at round tables and engaged in conversation. A few people are standing along the edge of the room. Colored windows in yellow, orange and blue are overhead.
The UC Davis Community Engagement Summit.

Charting the Future of Engagement at UC Davis

Fall summit drives progress on principles of community engagement

Nearly 60 faculty and staff from UC Davis and UC Davis Health gathered on October 12 for the second Community Engagement Summit to develop shared goals and principles that will guide UC Davis in its continued commitment to community engagement.

The summit outcomes will also inform a broader effort to understand and assess public impact and community engagement across the university and its communities. “This framework will not only enhance our collective impact but also ensure that our actions are guided by a common purpose and a commitment to fostering positive change with our community partners,” said Michael Rios, vice provost for public scholarship and engagement.

Strengthening the Core Mission

Community engagement revolves around the idea of individuals, organizations and institutions working together, equitably and inclusively, with the communities in which they operate. It's about fostering meaningful connections, understanding the needs and concerns of those in the community, and collaborating to create positive change.

By collaborating with community organizations, advocacy groups, and others, researchers benefit from a wealth of knowledge, experiences and skills that are not present within the academy, Rios said. “These transdisciplinary collaborations enrich the research process, leading to novel research questions, comprehensive and holistic approaches to addressing complex societal challenges, and new imaginations of the worlds we want to create with community partners,” he said.

Photo of people sitting inside at a round table. They are looking at a large white paper pad that is covered in colorful notes.


Community engagement also plays a crucial role in educating and training UC Davis’ next generation of leaders and problem solvers. Community-engaged learning experiences through coursework, undergraduate research and internships enhance students' understanding of complex societal issues and promote critical thinking, empathy and civic responsibility. Additionally, evidence shows that participation in community-engaged learning also enhances a sense of belonging and academic success, especially among underrepresented students, Rios said.

Building Stronger Connections for Positive Change

At the summit, participants shared ideas for strengthening community engagement, as well as frustrations and institutional roadblocks. By the end of the event, the walls of the Student Community Center were adorned with comments and suggestions, offering a visual representation of the diversity of perspectives. The collective input, inclusive of both the October summit and a similar event held in June at UC Davis Health, will be shared with the campus community and university leadership in 2024. 

A word cloud with words related to core values of community engagement. The most popular words are in the largest font. They are trust, respect, reciprocity and collaboration.
A word cloud with contributions from people at the Community Engagement Summit.


“Community engagement is vital to our UC Davis mission,” Chancellor May said in a video welcoming summit participants. “The work you’re doing across the university helps us to be a better community partner and to further efforts that benefit our surrounding communities, our state and far beyond.” 

Hendry Ton, associate vice chancellor for health equity, diversity and inclusion at UC Davis Health, highlighted the collaborative efforts that made the event possible, acknowledging contributions from the Office of Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement, the Center for Regional Change, and more. “We are a community together, and we are ready to take the next step as an organization that wants to be a long-term community partner,” he said.

UC Davis is recognized as a national leader in community engagement by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education and in rankings such as Washington Monthly’s College Guide. In recent years, the university has taken significant steps to further promote, support, and institutionalize community engagement efforts, including establishing the Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement (PSE). 

PSE is now leading a university-wide effort to build a robust community engagement assessment infrastructure. This process, extending over several years, emphasizes gathering data to assess public impact and community engagement by the institution and its faculty, staff, students and communities. “Our goal is to think big about how to set up a permanent infrastructure to understand the impact of community engagement,” said Tessa Hill, associate vice provost of academic programs for PSE. In addition to tracking community engagement activities and data, the effort will also assess student outcomes, faculty recognition, institutional investments and research impact.

Additional Resources

  • We invite UC Davis faculty or staff who engage with communities in their work, or are interested in connecting with other community-engaged practitioners and scholars, to join the Community Engagement Collaborative.
  • For stories and faculty blogs featuring community engaged research, teaching and learning across UC Davis and UC Davis Health, visit PSE News.


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