Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement opens at UC Davis

Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement opens at UC Davis

Photo Credits: TREVOR GOODMAN / AGGIE FILE

New office aims to connect university, non-university groups together

About six months ago, UC Davis unveiled the Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement (OPSE). It aims to continue and embody the mission of public service and outreach that UC Davis emphasizes.

The idea of such an office has existed for a long time, but because of the recession during the late 2000’s, the creation of the office was stalled because of severe budget cuts to outreach, according to the OPSE’s website.

Nonetheless, this idea of public engagement continued to gain traction. In the beginning of 2015, UC Davis received a community engagement classification and became the host institution for Imagining America the following year.

Then in 2017, the Office of the Provost appointed Michael Rios as the faculty advisor  and gave him the mission of developing a strategy plan for the envisioned office. OPSE came into being in 2018.

Michael Rios, the OPSE director, gave further reasoning as to why the new office was created.

“There is a need to create a more coordinated approach to sharing this [research] work as well as providing entry points to non-university groups that want to access this information connecting with expertise on campus,” Rios said.

Rios also acknowledged that one of the reasons why the office was created was to bring all communities and their respective talents together to improve research and learning experiences.

Not only is the office working to help various communities, but it is also listening to them. When work began in 2017, it came with a listening phase that included various activities to understand what those in the surrounding communities were interested in.

“We’ve spent the past year and a half listening to faculty, staff, students and community partners,” said Hanna Adamy, a graduate student researcher who has been with the project since it began, via email. “We held focus groups and workshops to better understand where each group was coming from, what they needed and how an office could help.”

As stated on its website, the OPSE fits in with the mission of UC Davis greatly. As a land grant institution, UC Davis has expectations to serve the community, and OPSE is looking to work with university and non-university personnel to facilitate access to university resources by all types of different communities.

There are multiple goals that are in sight for the office. It aims to have a network of communication that promotes public scholarship, share resources and allow new relationships to build. The OPSE is also looking to facilitate a multitude of activities across various institutions. The office wants to encourage scholarship and learning through various methods such as grants, awards, training and acknowledgement of merit and promotion.

Recently the OPSE released an action plan for the office called “Public Scholarship for the Public Good: An Implementation Framework for UC Davis”. The plan lays out the vision and objectives to further support public scholarship of UC Davis.

The action plan’s goals are to: “Cultivate and foster a culture of engagement that rewards and recognizes public scholarship in research, teaching, and service that upholds UC Davis’ land-grant-mission to serve the public good, builds the collective capacity and scholarly excellence of the UC Davis community, and increases the university’s impact and visibility through mutually-beneficial relationships that have local, regional, statewide, and global reach.”

Adamy emphasized what she sees in the document.

“Our primary goals in creating this framework was identifying the amazing work that is already happening at UC Davis and provide an open ended guide for building on that amazing work,” Adamy said.

The OPSE still continues to listen to the Davis community. According to Adamy, they are currently asking for feedback on their new plan through their website.

“We hope to receive all comments by April 22 so we can integrate that feedback into the final iteration of the framework, which will be finished in June,” Adamy said.

With the feedback that OPSE is looking to receive for its plan, OPSE has acknowledged the fact that the flow of ideas is changing and that there is not just one approach to this idea of university and community outreach.

“The document is living. it will be revisited and refined, and it’s meant to be a living document,” Rios said.

In its early stages, OPSE has had no issues of a lack of support. As the office keeps moving toward its goals, there is a positive environment surrounding it that is culminated by the faculty and the community.

“There has been an overwhelming amount of interest and support from the UC Davis administration and the student body; we are honored to be doing this work for and with the UC Davis community” said Adamy via email.

Written by: Alexis Lopez  — campus@theaggie.org