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|Reflections on outreach scholarship at Penn State|
| Since the Penn State Award for Faculty Outreach was established in 1997, each spring we have had the opportunity to review the exemplary outreach portfolios of faculty nominees from throughout the University. This year, it gives me great pleasure to recognize Dr. Keith Verner as the 2001 winner of the award.|
Through a variety of science and technology education programs administered by the Division of Developmental Pediatrics and Learning in the College of Medicine at The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Professor Verner has produced extraordinary work and shared his expertise with communities around the state and beyond. For example, his Center for Science and Health Educations Elementary School Science Centers involve more than 23,000 K6 students and more than 1,300 K6 teachers from 31 school districts. Dr. Verner is very deserving of our recognition, and his work serves as an excellent example of what can be accomplished through the integration of teaching, research and service.
It is important to remember that Dr. Verner is not alone in his commitment to the spirit of engagement. There are many other examples of faculty excellence in outreach. The Outreach Awards committee, made up of members of the Coordinating Council for Outreach and Cooperative Extension and the University Faculty Senate Committee on Outreach Activities, receives many nominations for the Outreach Award each year, and all are deserving of recognition. Their outreach scholarship ranges from service-learning programs and community-centered research to conferences and outreach teaching that gather people together and unite the University with communities in order to address shared interests. Their work extends University resources through intimate local engagements and comprehensive global responses, reflecting the broad range of the Universitys many communities.
As impressive as the nomination portfolios are, I know that they represent just a small sample of the outreach efforts Penn State faculty members undertake statewide. More than a third of our 4,500 faculty do great work making life better for individuals, families, organizations and communities. Not only our faculty but our staff, as well, reach out into communities every day and make a real difference in the quality of life in the Commonwealth.
Their actions and engagement are critical during this time of rapid and radical change in our society. Virtually every one of our institutions corporate, educational and civic is adapting to the realities of life in a new global society shaped by the Information Revolution. The changing needs of our democratic society make an effective outreach system essential for land-grant universities to fulfill their mission.
This collection of circumstances provides Penn State with extraordinary opportunities to enhance the engagement of the University and its resources in service to society. Already Penn State Outreach and Cooperative Extension constitutes the largest unified outreach effort in American higher education, reaching one in every two households in Pennsylvania. A number of major outreach projects will further extend the Universitys reach. Consider just two of our recent partnerships:
While other institutions are trying to enhance their outreach agendas, under President Graham Spaniers direction, Penn State has assumed a national leadership role. This spring, 13 members of the faculty and staff, including President Spanier, were speakers and presenters at the University of South Floridas Engaging Universities and Communities: International Conference on the University as Citizen. Their presentations shared Penn State experience in structuring, developing and assessing outreach programs and organizations; encouraging collaboration and awareness of University outreach; and producing programs that meet important health and educational needs of children, youth and families and enhance economic and community development.
With much expertise to share, it is not a coincidence that we have achieved national visibility as a leader in university engagement. It is part of the Penn State culture to reach out, to understand and respect the scholarship of involvement and to be active participants in addressing the issues and challenges our communities face.
A number of other examples also illustrate Penn States prominence in outreach:
We certainly have a strong track record, but there is still more to be done to make Penn State even more engaged. Here the work of the University Scholarship and Criteria for Outreach and Performance Evaluation (UniSCOPE) learning community, the Coordinating Council for Outreach and Cooperative Extension and the Faculty Senate Committee on Outreach Activities represent a broad-based, University-wide effort to enhance the culture for faculty members who are active in outreach initiatives. Their accomplishments include the following examples:
The committee recently completed a report on outreach that was endorsed by the full Senate.
Despite such progress, there are still many challenges before us. Yet, when we turn to the examples set by faculty like Dr. Verner, its much easier to see where this road will lead.