“Communities are not places to make mistakes.”
Randy Stoeker challenges higher education leaders to rethink service learning and stewardship in his new book, Liberating Service Learning and the Rest of Higher Education Civic Engagement (Temple University Press). Community engagement is a responsibility we have as good stewards, but Stoeker believes that we may be misguided in our efforts to serve our communities with traditional service learning programs. This article summarizes his main points.
As Dee Anne wrote on Monday, higher education has a unique opportunity to address critical issues that our communities face. Economic inequity, disparities in educational and occupational opportunities, racial injustice, violence, homelessness, mental illness, an aging population – the list goes on and our students can make a difference if we focus on outcomes.
Stoeker proposes a radical idea: that when we ask students to participate in service learning we focus less on our students and more on the community! What does the community want? What will make a difference for the people in the community? These questions can be more important than asking what our students will learn. This definition of stewardship highlights our overall opportunity and accountability for making a real difference in the world – not just in the classroom.
Take a moment to read the summary of Stoeker’s book and share your thoughts on stewardship and service learning.
I learned a new term when researching topics for this month – Stewardship of Place. As explained by the Association of American State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), it’s the idea that we have a responsibility to collaborate with community stakeholders in the places we are located to maximize shared opportunities and jointly address critical issues.
State colleges and universities are closely linked to their communities. Issues such as economic development, education reform, and environmental protection are often addressed through local and regional partnerships. AASCU says that this type of public engagement:
- Has meaning and value for an institution’s neighbors
- Is interactive, with institutions serving as both learners and teachers
- Is mutually beneficial
- Is integrated into all levels of the institution
The AASCU report describes a range of methods for implementing this kind of community engagement. The key point is that it needs to be an integral part of the organization – and recognized as part of its core values.
As campus leaders, many of us have the opportunity to participate in strategy conversations at the institutional, departmental, and unit level. What kinds of community engagement are important in those conversations? How can we support our colleges and universities in being stewards of place?
Dee Anne Bonebright
AASCU (Assn. of American State Colleges and Universities) – Stepping Forward as Stewards of Place
Public Purpose – Stewardship in an Era of Constraint
As we consider our Minnesota State leadership competencies and focus on stewardship, I find myself wondering how it applies to me as a leader. While I try to be responsible with the resources assigned to me, I don’t meet with donors or make financial decisions. So how can I demonstrate stewardship in my day-to-day leadership?
Rose Pascarell is the VP for Student Life at George Mason University. She wrote an article challenging her readers to consider how student affairs might look if stewardship was the guiding principal. How might that change the services we provide to students and the outcomes they experience?
Pascarell said that stewardship means examining how we use our financial resources to support our core goals. To do this, we need to seek new perspectives and multiple viewpoints.
“I challenge us all to consider whether we truly serve our students to the best of our ability when we build organizations that are complex, internally competitive, and focus on our own professional growth and professional curiosity without honest reflection on resources necessary to build our ideal student affairs environment.”
I can take “student affairs” out of the challenge above and insert my own area of human resources.Thinking about the goals of my work unit, I can ask whether my actions support Minnesota State in attracting, retaining, and developing employees to meet current and future educational needs. If I can’t make a direct connection, then being a good steward means taking a look at that activity and thinking of ways to stop doing it, or to do it more effectively.
How might your work be different if stewardship was the guiding principle?
Dee Anne Bonebright
Hard to believe that it is September and even harder to believe that the craziness of the new school year is upon us. We hope that you all weathered the work required to get classes started and were able to soak up the excitement of your students returning to campus, each one with their own unique background and goals.
September also marks our return to blogging. This month we will be exploring the leadership competency of stewardship. We’ll look at what it means to be a good steward and how that can determine if your students reach their goals and if your staff and faculty can serve your students. Demonstrating good stewardship starts with:
- understanding the general principles of budgeting, finance and human resource management
- making informed decisions regarding resource allocation
- communicating decisions regarding resources in an effective manner to stakeholders
At a deeper level stewardship can also mean serving your community, protecting and enhancing the physical and environmental space you work in, embedding service into learning, and taking accountability for improving the world around us.
Welcome back and we look forward to reconnecting taking time to reflect and focus on the start of the new school year.