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Senior Leadership Meeting December 15, 1998 -- Remarks
Rebecca Kneedler
Chair
Public Service and Outreach Planning Commission

It is a pleasure to share with you the current status of our long-range planning for public service and outreach at the University of Virginia for the third century. Let me begin by inviting your questions and suggestions now and at every stage of this process. I have already contacted many of you, but as this arena broadens, I want to extend this invitation to everyone in the University community who have experience and interest in this area.

I will address two major aspects of the planning stages at this point:

(1)Formation of Commission and Auxiliary Groups

(2)Major Tasks

 FORMATION OF COMMISSION AND AUXILIARY GROUPS

The formation of a single Commission to study fully Public Service and Outreach is inadequate given the many complex dimensions that must be included. For example, the representation of the many components within Health Sciences or within Continuing Education requires many individuals and would become unwieldy as a single commission. Thus, we will be creating a steering commission that works closely with auxiliary groups that can represent these many directions of public service and outreach. A likely composite of auxiliary groups could be the following:

1.Health and Medicine
2.Business and Economic Development
3.Government
4.Education
5.Technology

Within each of these, there may be subgroups to focus on the three geographical targets of Local Community, State and Regional, and Global. These auxiliary groups will be identified and organized by the Commission and will contribute to both the study and showcasing of current and proposed activities and accomplishments.

MAJOR TASKS

 

Today I will present seven major tasks I see facing this Commission; however, it is inevitable and desirable that others will emerge as this planning proceeds.

1.Define "Public Service" and "Outreach."

All four commissions will have issues of definition, but this one is a bit daunting since the average person uses the terms of service and outreach in very different ways. University faculty are especially bad at applying these terms to actions that other people would not use. We certainly want this process to be both broad and comprehensive, but at the outset, the Commission will need to decide what parameters should be drawn around the definition. I believe a few of the categories that faculty have traditionally included as "service" should be omitted, but it will be the Commission members who determine those limits. There is already much scholarly work on this issue, so the literature will be helpful. For example, Ernest Lynton has made clear distinctions about what public service is NOT and I concur with his assessment. Briefly, he notes it is NOT "institutional citizenship" which includes faculty advising and university committee work; it is NOT "disciplinary citizenship" which includes service to one’s academic or professional special field; and it is NOT civic contributions which are voluntary and include religious and charitable works.

2.Identify and Evaluate Benchmark Institutions.

Depending on what aspects of this topic we are studying, there are institutions moving in directions that will be instructive to us (Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Purdue, Georgia, Berkeley, Penn State, Illinois, etc.).

3.Create an Inventory and Assessment of Current University of Virginia Public Service and Outreach Activities.

We have created versions of this in the past and many individuals have already created publications that describe our activities. Working with Gene Block’s office, it will be possible for us soon to have new opportunities to collect this information electronically from individual annual reports. Software has recently been developed that will make the reporting and retrieval of this information possible across the entire university community in ways that were not available before.

4.Collect "Radical Ideas" for New Public Service and Outreach Directions and Initiatives.

One task of this Commission will be to serve as a RIM -- Radical Ideas Magnet -- for people to offer both small and massive ideas regarding our public service. Examples of these have already begun coming to the Commission even before it is formed, such as the suggestion that the University operate an elementary school on grounds for University employees.

5.Create Strategies for Greater Communication and Publicity Opportunities.

Working with Bob Sweeney, Louise Dudley, Polley McClure and others within a broad communication plan, we will push in this area of public service to get our message out in ways we have not previously pursued. We are already doing much more in public service at the University of Virginia than is generally recognized, so this task of correcting our image into the more accurate one is as important as any facing this Commission. For example, in today’s paper, there was a small article about a wonderful program with our UVA Medical Center pediatricians who are promoting and distributing children’s books to their young patients along with their health care. Again, other universities such as Michigan and Wisconsin have developed effective communication methods we might utilize, such as Web-based geographical retrieval of information for residents in their respective states. For example, a person from a particular county in Virginia might click on the question, "What is UVA doing in _________ County this month?" and receive instant information about service activities in their home region.

6.Change the Reward Structures for Public Service and Outreach.

This is an extremely difficult task for the Commission and its Auxiliary Groups, but, again, there is strong research already conducted that can prevent us from reinventing every wheel. For example, O’Meara from the University of Massachusetts - Boston has reviewed over 400 promotion and tenure documents and faculty handbooks to find examples of colleges and universities of all types that have made changes in rewarding faculty service, particularly in the post-tenure years.

7.Set Priorities for Investments in New Directions of Public Service and Outreach.

At the heart of this Commission’s charge is this task for the comprehensive, long-term planning of our University into its third century. Many new initiatives are occurring as we speak, such as the new adult degree program that is currently going through the review stages by the requisite approval authorities.

This opportunity to have an impact on the direction and magnitude of public service and outreach for the future is exhilarating, but there is much work to be done. This Commission will guide that work, but it will require the continued contributions of hundreds of the University of Virginia faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. Let me again welcome your ideas and thank you in advance for your help.

 

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