Desktop version

Home arrow Religion

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font


<<   CONTENTS   >>

Discussion

Universities continue to explore ways to increase the value of service-learning and community engagement initiatives (Chupp & Joseph, 2010). However, universities are complex organizations, and, without coordination, these activities often develop in disconnected, divergent directions that can fail to maintain missional coherence and even undermine educational outcomes (Eby, 1998; Mayfield, 2001 ). The CYTI initiative developed as an outreach to adolescent youth, which highlights and synthesizes established academiccommunity partnerships across a variety of academic disciplines. CYTI’s curricular centering of theological reflection on vocation creates a particularly compelling context for conceptualizing and operationalizing distinct community engagement activities as expressions of both personal calling and corporate mission.

Often, when universities leverage assets for the benefit of the community, the evaluation of effectiveness tends to focus on the impact on students (e.g., learning outcomes or enriched student experience). Yet, some of the most significant assets contributed to such efforts are often the human resource investments of time by faculty and staff (Johnson et al., 2009). Additionally, if universities are to engage communities without weakening missional coherence, service-oriented initiatives should be evaluated for their impact on the institution itself (Hart & Northmore, 2011). Campuswide commitments to community engagement require intentional coordination of efforts and enactment of shared vision.

Analysis of the impact of CYTI on faculty/staff participants and on institutional indicators suggests that the program benefits the university in important ways. Faculty and staff involved in the program perceive the program to strengthen their personal sense of purpose, to reinforce professional objectives, and to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration. Alignment of community engagement initiatives and personal goals is important for sustaining involvement of faculty and staff (O’Meara, Sandmann, Saltmarsh, & Giles, 2011). For the institution, each year of CYTI implementation resulted in expanded capacity not only for sustaining the CYTI program itself but also for expanding coordinated community engagement projects. Previous research highlights the importance of coordinated approaches in “institutionalizing” long-term commitments for the university as well as facilitating effective communication and collaboration with community partners (Yamamura & Koth, 2018, p. 94). The establishment of the Center for Church & Community represents significant organizational commitment that developed directly out of foundational work of the CYTI initiative.

As alignment of initiatives occur within the university, the coordination should alleviate some of the complications for town-gown relationships as well. In rural communities such as the area surrounding

Campbell University, community organizations have “the most to gain from quality service-learning and the fewest resources to waste on ineffective service-learning” (Martin, Scblonka, & Tryon, 2009, p. 58). With the strategic alignment of assets represented in CYTI, the university is better positioned to be a responsive, accessible, and reliable partner to the community.

Even more, for many community organizations the effectiveness of the partnership with universities hinges on the quality of the relationship with faculty (Tryon et al., 2009). The findings of this case study evaluation related to faculty and staff experiences in the CYTI project suggest that interdepartmental initiatives framed explicitly as expressions of personal and corporate mission can be impactful professional development opportunities that may improve self-perceptions of the dispositional commitments that are most critical for building trust with community members. This study suggests that initiatives such as CYTI might cultivate a virtuous cycle of faculty development and community engagement that could enrich partnerships and enhance sustainability.

 
<<   CONTENTS   >>