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UC Davis Showcased in National Report on Publicly Engaged Scholarship

A UC Davis grant program that helps faculty launch equitable community partnerships is featured in a new Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) report, "Modernizing Scholarship for the Public Good: An Action Framework for Public Research Universities."

The APLU report provides institutions with a roadmap for bolstering their publicly engaged research. The grant program — the UC Davis Public Impact Research Initiative (PIRI) — is highlighted as a case study on funding that supports relationship-building with community partners.

"UC Davis is at the forefront of driving innovative research that addresses the most pressing challenges facing our communities and the world. Our endeavors in publicly engaged scholarship serve as a benchmark for higher education research programs, and we are honored to receive recognition for these efforts in APLU’s latest report,” said Chancellor Gary May, who served as chair of the APLU’s board of directors from 2022-2023.

Public Impact Research

PIRI grants alleviate a common challenge for faculty who wish to partner with non-university groups: covering the costs associated with establishing and nurturing relationships outside academia. By offering financial support for the crucial initial steps in forming collaborations, the grants position researchers to pursue greater funding and build capacity in research areas that include mutually beneficial partnerships.

The PIRI grant program has awarded more than $360,000 to 45 projects since its launch in 2020 by the UC Davis Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement (PSE).

“PIRI grants empower our faculty and researchers to truly make a positive impact through their work,” said Michael Rios, vice provost for public engagement and a member of the APLU’s Commission on Economic and Community Engagement Executive Committee. “Several recipients have leveraged these connections to secure larger grants from various sources, showcasing the program's potential for building long-lasting community partnerships.”

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.

Supporting Public Engagement

The APLU report outlines eight overarching recommendations for advancing public research and scholarship. Here are a few of the ways that UC Davis has accomplished the recommended actions.

Develop committed institutional leaders

UC Davis established PSE within the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor to foster awareness and understanding of the value of engaged research. PSE nurtures faculty leaders through fellowship programs and grants. These leaders foster an institutional culture that values community engagement. And in partnership with the UC Davis Health Office of Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and the Center for Regional Change, PSE held two summits in 2023 to develop shared goals and principles that will guide UC Davis in its continued commitment to community engagement.

Reform appointment, retention, tenure and promotion practices

As a reflection of advancing conversations about the incorporation of public engagement in faculty recognition at UC Davis, in May 2023 the Office of Academic Affairs announced a new optional statement for Contributions to Public and Global Impact that is now  part of the Federation and Senate merit and promotion process.

Invest in institutional structures and networks

PSE facilitates connections and learning around community engagement best practices through the Community Engagement Collaborative, open to all UC Davis staff, students and faculty. PSE has also played a pivotal role in establishing the UC Community Engagement Network, an initiative to amplify community engagement efforts across the entire UC system.

Establish stronger reporting structures at the institutional level

The UC Davis Public Engagement Portal, developed in partnership with the Office of Government and Community Relations, houses information about activities that include, involve or impact individuals, groups and communities across and beyond California. PSE plans to leverage the Carnegie Community Engagement Reclassification process to create a stronger foundation for assessment of community partnerships, public impact and outcomes for students, faculty, staff, and community.

Build capacity for engagement and equity work among faculty

Through programs such as the Public Scholarship Faculty Fellows, PSE supports faculty working on publicly engaged research. Additionally, PSE created Community Campus Connect to facilitate new partnerships between non-university groups and university scholars.

Launch and maintain catalytic funding programs

The PIRI grant program was established to recognize and support research that is cogenerated with community partners, is of mutual benefit, and has a positive public impact. Several PIRI recipients have subsequently secured further funding for their projects, such as Hellman Fellowships and grants from state and federal agencies. Faculty may apply for the 2024 PIRI grant cycle through January 19, 2024.

Develop awards and programs to recognize and celebrate work

UC Davis offers a variety of awards, fellowships and grants aimed at recognizing and celebrating achievements in public scholarship. In addition, four faculty have been honored by the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement (IARSLCE) for research and partnerships with a tangible impact on people’s daily lives.

Formalize curricular training and professional development opportunities for students

Programs that support student community engaged research  — but are not limited to —  the Public Scholars for the Future graduate fellowship and the UC Davis Library Graduate Student Prize. Applications are currently open for Public Scholars for the Future.

Dana Topousis, chief marketing and communications officer for UC Davis, contributed to the report as a member of APLU’s Modernizing Scholarship for the Public Good steering committee. 

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