Public Scholarship Graduate Student Network

Sponsored by the Institute for Community and Economic Engagement (ICEE) and the Office of Leadership and Service-Learning (OLSL), the Community Engagement GradSN is an informal, interdisciplinary group of graduate students interested in the practice and scholarship of service-learning and community engagement as it relates to their current work and future goals. The network leverages the vast resources available at UNCG around community-engaged scholarship. To join the UNCG Community Engagement Graduate Student Network, please contact Lori Kniffin,

Funding is available to graduate students interested in community-engaged work.  To find out more information about funding parameters and procedures, please visit the GSA Website.

Community Engagement: Definitions and Principles

(Unabashedly copied, and sometimes adapted, from Community Engagement: Terms and Definitions for Promotion and Tenure Guidelines;

Community engagement (sometimes also referred to as civic engagement) is the “collaboration (among) institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity.

Community – broadly defined to include individuals, groups, and organizations external to campus that use collaborative processes for the purpose of contributing to the public good.

Reciprocity – recognition, respect, and valuing of the knowledge, perspective, and resources that each partner contributes to the collaboration.


When faculty are involved in CE work, it is most often through their teaching and research. The same is true for graduate students, but it may look less formalized. Students may practice community engagement either inside or outside of the classroom, with and without faculty and staff, individually, in groups (e.g., clubs, Greek organizations), through programs (e.g., academic and co-curricular living-learning communities), research, creative activities, and courses – when enacted collaboratively with community partners through processes that exemplify reciprocal partnerships and public purposes.

Purpose of Community Engagement

Through community engagement, community and university knowledge and resources are brought together in and out of the classroom, as well as on and off campus to “enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good.

Principles of Community Engagement


The principles that guide community engaged scholarship are what make it unique from other forms of academic scholarship:
1. It is a collaborative enterprise, attending to the process of the work as much as the ultimate products. Therefore, partnerships and partnership development are central to the work.
2. It validates multiple sources of knowledge and promotes the use of multiple methods of discovery and dissemination of products.

Its goal is social action and social change for the purpose of social justice.


Community-engaged scholarship involves community partners to identify appropriate areas of inquiry, design studies and/or creative activities, implement activities that contribute to shared learning and capacity building, and/or engage in other activities that bridge university/college and community contexts. It uses the information gathered, the actions taken, and the relationships established to bring about positive change within the community and the higher education context.

Because well-developed partnerships are so important to CE work, attending to the process of partnership development is a priority. Key insights and ingredients of effective, authentic community-higher education partnerships include:

  • Strong relationships of trust, honesty, transparency, respect, & equity
  • Mutual benefit of all partners
  • Shared ownership of the project and partnership
  • Clear roles and expectations of all partners
  • Support from a funding agency that understands how equal partnerships are developed and sustained
  • Community partners are valued and compensated for their expertise
  • Community and academic partners gain transferable skills
  • Peer networks established in the community for mentoring, learning and sharing of best practices


Framework for authentic community-higher education partnerships:


  1. Quality processes that are relationship focused; open, honest and respectful; trust-building; acknowledging of history; committed to mutual learning and sharing credit.
  2. Meaningful outcomes which are tangible and relevant to communities. For example: eliminating health disparities, affordable housing, education and economic development.
  3. Transformation at multiple levels, including:
  • Personal transformation, including self reflection and heightened political consciousness
  • Institutional transformation, including changing policies and systems
  • Community transformation, including community capacity building
  • Transformation of science and knowledge, including how knowledge is generated, used and valued and what constitutes “evidence”
  • Political transformation, including social justice

SURVEY: Participate in a short survey regarding communication and community engagement among graduate students at UNCG.  Please take a few minutes to answer this survey, as this information will help inform both the PSGN and the community engagement initiative of the graduate voice.

To take the survey, please visit:

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact either Kathleen Edwards or Kristin Buchner