More than 30 Years of Engagement for Ohio's Public Good

Community Engagement: A Strategy to Rethink Hierarchies and Paternalism in Higher Education

Katie Evans, Community Partner with Bowling Green State University

This presentation will highlight the overlap both in research and practice, and therefore, the relevance of collaboration, with community engagement and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).In this presentation, I will engage the audience in a variety of ways, in particular, asking for unique stories, strategies, and questions from individual campus contexts, while sharing some experience in building new programs and relationships in four years at Marietta College, both on and off-campus, including stories from racial equity and community engagement work across the country, available via the Collaboratory Open Dataset. Overall, a theme for this presentation is that DEI is core to HECE and vice versa, ensuring that we are not only using the mutual benefit, reciprocity, equity, and trust to talk about campus-community partner relationships, but also student-campus relationships.

Particularly, I found that institutions often perpetuate the status quo, adding DEI to a mission or strategic plan, hiring DEI professionals, and offering opt-in DEI training and workshops, while the structure and hierarchy of higher education have remained unchanged. Decisions, policies, and culture-setting efforts on campus are still led predominantly by white men, not employees and students of color who have relevant expertise when it comes to creating a racially equitable place. While it will take considerable work to reframe how students and employees are thought of and included overall in the institution, departments and units across campus can lead the way, treating students as equitable partners, with community engagement as a great place to start this work. People attending this presentation will hopefully leave with some strategies for continuing or forming partnerships with DEI and other departments on campus in furthering the goal of educating students empowered in solution-based thinking, social justice, and civic engagement.

In another 50 years, I hope we all don’t have to read research and hear students calling for their institution to more effectively respond to and include them as equity partners in their educational experiences, and that has been my experience today – reading articles from 50 years ago mirroring things that students are hoping for today and often disappointed in. And, with students increasingly interested in social change and diverse employees often being more attracted to want to work and stay at universities with more intentional strategies for DEI, we need a sense of urgency in this and related work.

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