Key Concepts About Community-Engaged Scholarship at MSU

For Faculty, Academic Staff, and Graduate Students


At Michigan State University, community-engaged scholarship is defined as "a form of scholarship that cuts across teaching, research [and creative activities], and service. It involves generating, transmitting, and applying knowledge for the direct benefit of external audiences in ways that are consistent with university and unit missions."

This means that community-engaged scholarship is not

  • Serving on a departmental committee
  • Serving on a university-wide committee
  • Serving on a disciplinary committee
  • Volunteering not related to your discipline or not associated with community partnerships in your academic field
  • Conducting outside work for pay, with no connection or benefit to your departmental/unit missions

All scholarship, including community-engaged scholarship:1,7

  • Requires high level of disciplinary (or interdisciplinary) expertise
  • Uses an appropriate methodology
  • Is appropriately and effectively documented and disseminated to (academic and community) audiences, with reflective critique about significance, processes, and lessons learned
  • Has significance beyond the individual context (breaks new ground, innovative, can be replicated or elaborated)
  • Is judged to be significant and meritorious (product, process, and/or results) by panel of peers
  • Demonstrates consistently ethical practice, adhering to codes of conduct in research, teaching, and the discipline

By community, we mean groups of people who share commonalities, including:5,6,8,9

  • Geography
  • Identity
  • Affiliation or interest
  • Circumstance
  • Profession or practice
  • Faith
  • Family/kin

By engaged, we mean the work can be described as:4

  • Scholarly
  • Systemic
  • Collaborative
  • Transformative
  • Asset based
  • Mutually beneficial
  • Capacity building
  • For the public good

By scholarly, we mean it is based on existing scholarship, best practices and understandings AND generative of new understandings and scholarly products for academic and public audiences3.

Community-Engaged Scholarship Conducted in Response to Communities or in the Context of Community Partnerships2

Community-Engaged Research and Creative Activities

Engaged research and creative activities are associated with the discovery of new knowledge, the development of new insights, and the creation of new artistic or literary performances and expressions—in collaboration with community partners.

Community-Engaged Research

  • Community-based, participatory research
  • Applied research
  • Contractual research (funded by government, non-governmental organizations, or businesses)
  • Demonstration projects
  • Needs and assets assessments
  • Program evaluations

Community-Engaged Creative Activity

  • Collaboratively created, produced, or performed
    • Film
    • Theater
    • Music
    • Performance
    • Sculpture
    • Writing
    • Spoken words
    • Multi-media
    • Exhibitions

Community-Engaged Teaching and Learning

Engaged teaching/learning is organized around sharing knowledge with various audiences through either formal or informal arrangements. Types of engaged teaching vary by relationship among the teacher, the learner, and the learning context. Engaged teaching may be for-credit or not-for-credit, guided by a teacher, or self-directed.

Formal (For-Credit)

  • Service-learning
  • Community-engaged research as part of university classes
  • Study abroad programs with community engagement components
  • Online and off-campus education

Non-formal (Not-for-Credit)

  • Pre-college programs for youth in K-12
  • Occupational short course, certificate, and licensure programs
  • Conferences, seminars, not-for-credit classes, and workshops
  • Educational enrichment programs for the public and alumni

Informal (Not-for-Credit)

  • Media interviews or "translational" writing for general public audiences
  • Materials to enhance public understanding
  • Self-directed, managed learning environments, such as museums, libraries, or gardens

Community-Engaged Service and Practice

Engaged service is associated with the use of university expertise to address specific issues (ad hoc or long-term) identified by individuals, organizations, or communities. This type of engagement is not primarily driven by a research question, though a research question may be of secondary interest in the activity.

  • Technical assistance
  • Consulting
  • Policy analysis
  • Expert testimony
  • Legal advice
  • Clinical practice
  • Diagnostic services
  • Human and animal patient care
  • Advisory boards and other disciplinary-related service to community organizations

Community-Engaged Commercialized Activities

Commercialized activities are associated with a variety of projects in which university-generated knowledge is translated into practical or commercial applications for the benefit of individuals, organizations, or communities.

  • Copyrights
  • Patents
  • Licenses for commercial use
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship activities
  • University-managed or supported business ventures, such as business parks or incubators
  • New business ventures and start-ups
  • Inventions
  • Social entrepreneurship


  1. Diamond, R.(2002, Summer). Defining scholarship for the twenty-first century. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 90., pp. 73-79. New York: Wiley Periodicals.Back to article
  2. Doberneck, D. M., Glass, C.R., & Schweitzer, J. H. (2010). From rhetoric to reality: A typology of publicly engaged scholarship. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement 14(5), 5-35.Back to article
  3. Ellison, J., & Eatman, T. E. (2008). Scholarship in public: Knowledge creation and tenure policy in the engaged university: A resource on promotion and tenure in the arts, humanities, and design. Syracuse, NY: Imagining America.Back to article
  4. Fitzgerald, H.E., Smith, P., Book, P., & Rodin,K. (2005). Draft CIC report: Engaged scholarship: A resource guide. Campaign, IL: Committee on Institutional Cooperation. Retrieved from here.Back to article
  5. Fraser, F. (2005). Four different approaches to community participation. Community Development Journal 40, 286-300.Back to article
  6. Ife, J. W. (1995). Community development: Creating community alternatives. Melbourne, Australia: Longman.Back to article
  7. Jordan, C. (Ed.) (2007). Community-engaged scholarship review, promotion, and tenure package. Peer Review Workgroup, Community-Engaged Scholarship for Health Collaborative, Community-Campus Partnerships for Health.Back to article
  8. Marsh, G. (1999). The community of circumstance—a tale of three cities: Community participation. In D. A. Chekki (Ed.), Research in community sociology (Vol. 9, pp. 65-86). Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.Back to article
  9. Mattessich, P., & Monsey, B. (1997). Community building: What makes it work. St. Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation.Back to article
  10. Provost's Committee on University Outreach. (1993). University outreach at Michigan State University: Extending knowledge to serve society. East Lansing: Michigan State University.Back to article