emphasizes primary role and breadth of public service in the University's
By Ida Lee Wootten
Kneedler, chair of the Virginia 2020 Commission on Public
Service and Outreach, and Gene Block, vice president for research
and public service
service is as central to a public university's mission as libraries
and students, says Rebecca Kneedler, chair of the Virginia
2020 Public Service and Outreach Planning Commission.
conviction mirrors the definition of public service that the commission
has embraced: Public service is the application of scholarly knowledge
and professional expertise to the economic, health, civic and
educational needs of the public.
members have been surprised by the variety, magnitude, history
and expertise in public service at U.Va., Kneedler said. They
have found examples of distinguished scholars and teachers in
every school who make outstanding contributions to public service.
our expertise is part of our responsibility as a public institution
of higher education and a good neighbor," said Gene D. Block,
vice president for research and public service.
central thrust of the commission is seeking ways to foster and
coordinate public service and outreach across departments and
schools to find strategies that support what people are doing.
"We want to create opportunities for synergy," said
Kneedler, who is associate dean for academic affairs in the Curry
School of Education.
advance that objective, the commission has identified three central
goals and needs. First, it wants to broaden awareness
U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley visited U.Va. in
April, he took a field trip to Johnson Elementary School to
meet with students, staff and volunteers who participate in
the U.Va. Curry School of Education Book Buddies Program.
U.Va.'s outreach programs, in an effort to encourage increased
use of services and stronger partnerships across schools and disciplines.
the commission is seeking to remove internal University barriers
to service. Those barriers include administrative structures as
well as reporting and budgetary lines. They also include changing
attitudes to view service as an academic tool that can be used
to enhance research and teaching.
third need the commission sees is building recognition and support
for public service, especially those efforts performed within
the commonwealth and in partnership with other Virginia institutions.
want public service not to be a secondary, 'Ćalso-ran' at the
University. We want it seen as part of the primary mission and
responsibility of the University," Kneedler said.
make these goals reality, the commission has several efforts under
way. It has studied benchmark institutions, such as Duke, Michigan
and Penn; and through surveys, interviews, literature reviews
and conference visits, it has identified key characteristics of
public service at U.Va.
"The No. 1 finding has been that U.Va. compares well to institutions
far better known for meeting public needs. However, the volume,
variety and impact of these projects are not well known to us
or the public,≤ said Kneedler, who noted that U.Va. lacks a University-wide
communication structure to convey such efforts to the community.
help know and recognize the breadth of public service conducted
through U.Va., Laura Hawthorne, the University's first coordinator
of public service, is compiling an inventory. To date, it includes
more than 300 projects, services and resources. "Areas of
particular strength have emerged, such as health care, service
to local governments, civic involvement and education, particularly
to K-12 students and teachers," said Hawthorne, one of Block's
Although Hawthorne is still collecting information on outreach
efforts, preliminary figures show that U.Va. provides service
to more than a million people annually. Direct service is being
provided to people in every county of Virginia.
To help promote awareness of these services, Hawthorne is developing
a web site describing programs and resources available to the
public. Slated to be launched in the spring, the web site is being
organized under the slogan, "Knowledge and service for the
explore a range of public service issues, the commission has five
working groups: University-wide strategic planning, public relations
and communication, administrative organizations and structure,
volunteer services and faculty rewards and recognition. Although
each group addresses specific issues, all are united in answering
such common questions as "What is U.Va.'s responsibility
to the public?" and "What are the needs of the various
groups' reports will contribute to the commission's efforts to
establish University-wide themes and priorities as a framework
for funding initiatives and implementation strategies for outreach.
In the spring, the commission plans to meet with citizens, alumni,
students, legislators, Board of Visitors members and other groups
to modify and refine the recommendations.