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Community Engagement & Service

COCES Leadership Council

White Paper: Future Structure and Functions of the Coordinating Office

The 2011-2012 COCES Leadership Council assumed responsibility for drafting a number of concept papers related to that focus that ultimately would be shared with the university community.  The first of these papers focuses on ideas related to the future structure and functions of the Coordinating Office.  That paper was authored by the following Council members:

  • Dr. Susan Alexander, Director of Undergraduate Research and Service-Learning, South Carolina Honors College
  • Dr. Jimmie Gahagan, Director of Student Engagement
  • Mr. Tom Halasz, Director of the Career Center
  • Ms. Kim McMahon, Director of the Russell House University Union
  • Ms. Erica Nelson, Coordinator, Life Skills and Community Outreach, University of South Carolina Athletics
  • Ms. Pamela Robinson, Director of the Pro Bono Program, University of South Carolina School of Law
  • Dr. Dottie Weigel, Assistant Director for Student Engagement and Service-Learning

The following is an abbreviated version of the concept paper and addresses two basic questions:
1) Why is a Coordinating Office necessary? and 2) What should be the major goals of that Office and initiatives undertaken?

A full version of the paper that addresses additional concerns including proposed internal organizational alignment, staffing, and budget can be obtained by contacting the COCES at
803-777-6462.

Topics

The Need to Establish a Coordinating Office for Community
Engagement and Service

  • Research has shown that community engagement supports the university’s strategic goals in terms of student retention, persistence, and integrative learning.
  • In order to position the University of South Carolina as an institution of character and influence and to be able to shape students as servant leaders equipped to face global and local challenges over the next decade, the creation and staffing of the Coordinating Office of Community Engagement and Service should take precedent in terms of resources and funding.
  • As South Carolina’s flagship research institution, we have a moral and civic obligation to expand community engaged research and partnerships that address our state’s most pressing needs.
  • Currently the Office of Community Service Programs, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and the Office of Student Engagement coordinate the university’s volunteer, community-based research, and service-learning efforts respectively.  However, the University lacks a central coordinating portal to both document the university’s community impact and provide targeted leadership to address identified community needs through a multidisciplinary, integrated approach.
  • Benchmarking with peer and peer aspirant institutions clearly indicates that a central office must be established in order to advance the work of community engagement at the University of South Carolina.
  • Establishing a Coordinating Office will increase USC’s ability to compete for federal and external research grants through demonstrated capacity building and targeted efforts to address state and national concerns.

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Recommended Primary Goals (Functions) of the COCES

  • Provide a central, coordinating, web-based portal to serve as an initial point of contact for faculty, staff, students, and external parties who wish to either enhance their current engagement and service initiatives or develop new partnerships.
  • Document the University of South Carolina’s community impact for assessment and accreditation
  • Support and increase community engaged scholarship by assisting in the development of resources, reward and recognition structures, and standards for faculty, staff, and student participation in community engagement and service
  • Monitor institutional and community issues that influence community engagement at the University
  • Coordinate opportunities to recognize the University of South Carolina’s community engagement efforts locally, regionally, and nationally.

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Recommended Initiatives Aligned with Goals

Goal 1
Provide a central, coordinating, web-based portal to serve as an initial point of contact for faculty, staff, students, and external parties who wish to either enhance their current engagement and service initiatives or develop new partnerships.

  • Initiative 1a. – Provide a dynamic and public-centric COCES website to serve as the initial point of contact for faculty, staff, students, and external parties.
    • Create Community Engagement Knowledge Maps similar to what can be found at Duke University.
    • Establish a centralized community engagement email address.
    • Highlight the work of community engagement across the University through vignettes, pictures, and video.
  • Initiative 1b. – Coordinate a communication structure that facilitates information sharing between internal and external stakeholders.
    • Establish a COCES Coordinating Council comprising faculty, staff, and student representatives selected from a variety of academic and service units for their expertise in community engagement and abilities to assist in mobilizing a wide variety of stakeholders and communicate information between COCES and academic and service units.
    • Responsibilities of Council members could include:
      • Assisting the development of the unit’s plan to foster a culture of community engagement as noted in Focus Carolina.
      • Participating in all council functions and serving as a liaison between the council and one’s unit.
      • Documenting activities and interests related to community engagement of faculty, staff, and recognized student groups within one’s unit, especially those related to the University’s focus areas of education, access to health, and economic development.
      • Supporting the development of community-based learning, scholarship, and service opportunities.
      • Serving as a liaison and contact between one’s unit and other USC units to facilitate collaboration on community engagement opportunities.
      • Disseminating information about community engagement opportunities, including funding opportunities, to faculty, staff, and students.
    • Meet with Community Service Programs, Office of Student Engagement, and Office of Research and Sponsored Program staff on a monthly basis to coordinate community engaged initiatives.
    • Create a Community Advisory Board made up of representatives from local non-profits and state and local government leaders to meet once a semester.
  • Initiative 1c. –Transition website of Initiative for South Carolina’s Future underneath the Coordinating Office’s website.
    • Collaborate with and support community groups in localities across the state who are addressing issues critical to the future of their communities and the state of South Carolina.
    • Use the campuses of the state colleges and universities as sites for public discussion of the challenges that face the state over the next decade and as hosts for new or established local groups seeking community change.
    •  Identify key faculty who are willing to lead interdisciplinary engagement efforts focusing on critical community needs (e.g., education, health disparities, poverty). 
  • Initiative 1d. - Implement Carolina Nexus – a professional development initiative through which recently recruited faculty, staff, and administrators of the University of South Carolina can become more familiar with significant social, economic, educational, health-related, cultural, and political challenges that are shaping the future of the State.
  • Initiative 1e. – Collaborate with the Office of Student Engagement, Community Service Programs, and the South Carolina Honors College to host the Annual Community Partner Breakfast designed to encourage community engaged partnerships.

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Goal 2
Document the University of South Carolina’s community impact for assessment.

  • Initiative 2a. – Create an Annual Community Engagement Report to document the nature and scope of the University’s community impact.
  • Initiative 2b. – Support the documentation of community engagement through specific institutional reporting structures including but not limited to the State Commission on Higher Education, Carnegie Foundations for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning, and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
  • Initiative 2c. – Create a community impact map to document the university’s community impact footprint throughout South Carolina.
  • Initiative 2d. – Support the implementation of a service hour tracking system designed to document students’ participation in service and service-learning activities in partnership with the Office of Community Service Programs and Office of Student Engagement.

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Goal 3
Support and increase community engaged scholarship by assisting in the development of resources; reward and recognition structures; and standards for faculty, staff, and student participation in community engagement and service.

  • Initiative 3a. - Create an inventory of current research at the University of South Carolina on areas of state concern that might assist efforts in statewide or local groups (adapted from Initiative for SC Futures website).
  • Initiative 3b. – Establish a series of institutional Community Engagement Awards to recognize faculty, staff, students, and community organizations for their outstanding contributions to community engagement.
  • Initiative 3c. – Develop a service-learning faculty fellows program in partnership with the Office of Student Engagement to increase the number of service-learning courses and to provide travel funds for faculty to present on community engagement in professional development settings.
  • Initiative 3d. – Develop an undergraduate service scholars program to both cultivate students’ engagement and recognize student achievement and impact in the community.
  • Initiative 3e. – Create cross-disciplinary teams of faculty, staff, students, and community agencies who can collaborate to address specific community needs through community engaged scholarship, service-learning courses, and volunteer service opportunities.

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Goal 4
Monitor institutional and community issues that influence community engagement at the University.

  • Initiative 4a. – Manage institutional Memorandums of Understanding with local community-based organizations to promote university and community partnerships.
  • Initiative 4b. – Partner with Institutional Risk Management and the General Counsel’s Office to oversee institutional risk related to community engaged scholarship, service-learning, and volunteer service programs.
  • Initiative 4c. – Identify and explore solutions for internal and external barriers to community engagement such as background checks, etc.

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Goal 5
Coordinate opportunities to recognize the University of South Carolina’s community engagement efforts locally, regionally, and nationally.

  • Initiative 5a. – Coordinate the University’s reapplication for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning’s community engagement designation in 2015.
  • Initiative 5b. – Explore opportunities to apply for institutional recognition for our work in community engagement through various professional organizations such as The Research University Civic Engagement Network (TRUCEN), The Washington Center, and the Engagement Scholarship Consortium.
  • Initiative 5c. – Create a program to provide funds to faculty and staff traveling to conferences to present on the University’s community engagement efforts.

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