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Public Service and the University of Virginia

Joseph M. Cronin
Jane Sjogren

October 1998


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Public Service Role Defined
Chapter 2. Public Service: Ideas and Expectations
Chapter 3. Service Models: Faculty, Staff, Students
Chapter 4. The State Universities of Virginia
Chapter 5. The Virginia Agenda
Chapter 6. The Service Balance
Chapter 7. University Reporting on Public Service Activity
Chapter 8. The Work of the Commission



"The light of the university watch towers should flash from State to State until American democracy itself is illuminated with higher and broader ideals of what constitutes service to the State and to mankind."
                    -Frederick Jackson Turner, historian

 "Others (of the faculty) should employ their genius with necessary information to the useful arts, to inventions for saving labor and increasing our comforts, to nourishing our health (and) to civil government" (1820)

"I hope the University of Virginia will provide a blessing to my own State and not unuseful perhaps to some others." (l825)
                    -Thomas Jefferson

  "There is still an enormous reservoir of trust and hope (among the public) regarding universities and colleges, a reservoir that can be tapped if we but show that we care about and are willing to engage in the resolution of pressing need."
                  -William Greiner, President, SUNY Buffalo (l994)



What is the role of the University of Virginia in providing service and outreach within the Commonwealth of Virginia? What might it be? What should be done to structure, recognize, and report the University commitment to public service?

This background paper was prepared to assist a University commission on public service to define the issues, review relevant publications and surveys, identify model practices elsewhere in the nation, examine the needs of Virginia (with its other state universities), and review the adequacy of current efforts to acknowledge public service as a University priority.

Universities generally undertake three missions: teaching, research, and public service. Broadly defined, public service includes outreach and external activities, such as continuing education, distance learning, citizen access to libraries, museums and other cultural activities, as well as economic development and community service. From a faculty perspective, public service is the application of professional expertise to real problems in the state (or world), service that can be evaluated and linked to teaching and research.

The demand for public service today comes from business and industry, elected officials and state agencies, citizen groups, and patients in need of modern health services. In the Commonwealth, several state universities now compete aggressively for corporate contracts, technology grants, off-campus program opportunities, and government-sponsored service activities. What is the level of commitment of the University of Virginia to pursue these opportunities?

The first author is an educator who has taught at Harvard and Boston University, served as the senior state education officer in Massachusetts and Illinois, worked as a school principal in Maryland and as a college president. A daughter and two granddaughters live in Arlington, Virginia. The second author, an economist specializing in education and health issues, has taught at Wellesley, Simmons, and Johnson & Wales University. Her parents live in Petersburg, Virginia.

This paper includes an introductory bibliography and suggestions for how the commission might pursue the key questions raised in this paper. The purpose is to stimulate discussion on a broad range of issues related to public service.

Joseph M. Cronin
Jane Sjogren
October 1998


Chapter 1

The Public Service Role Defined

What is the role of public service in a state university? How does the mission ofa public university accommodate service and outreach to the people? What are the political, geographic, economic, and ideological parameters of the state university’s responsibility for public service? These questions have been debated for more than a century. Changing social, economic, demographic, and political conditions mean that each of these questions must be considered and reconsidered, especially as we approach a new century.

The three primary functions of most universities are:

Teaching-the instruction of undergraduate students first in general education (arts and sciences) and then in advanced academic disciplines or professional studies related to careers in which a degree, credential or certificate is required by the state or by other practitioners (law, medicine, teaching, accounting, architecture, etc.);

Research-the discovery or synthesis of new knowledge derived from experimentation or the systematic analysis of phenomena, trends or questions. Fewer than 200 of the 1000 American universities are classified as research universities although faculty members at many institutions conduct their own research. Research in a wide variety of forms is central to the invention, development and dissemination of better ways to address problems in both the commercial and non-profit sectors.

Service-the contribution to the well being and improvement of the campus, community, state, nation, and even the world. University service takes many forms. On campus, faculty service begins with advising students, helping to recruit and evaluate colleagues, work on departmental and university committees and promotion of the institution’s internal objectives. Externally, faculty and institutional services involve leading academic and professional organizations, extending to advisement to hospitals, communities, companies, local, state and federal agencies, and others in need of expertise. Universities have established research and service centers to work on economic and social issues as complex as heart disease, HIV, industrial development, coastal shore erosion, and the preservation of art treasures, as well as technological and entrepreneurial development. Universities also provide service by sponsoring athletic events and cultural offerings that promote social amenities and economic development.

Most state universities, legislators, and parents feel strongly that the first institutional priority must be the education of students, along with provision for their safety, development as citizens, and general welfare. Clearly, the first purpose of a state university is to produce an educated workforce and civic leaders. State universities and their constituents also promote research, both pure and applied, which will ultimately be of value to society. At the same time, the university must consider the views of taxpayers, elected officials, and corporate and civic leaders as it contemplates its public service endeavors. The university serves not only its internal constituents but external ones as well. And finally, the service mission faces the daunting challenge of definition and recognition as a priority relative to the other fundamental functions of a great university.

The three components of a university mission should not compete but often do. Yet, with care and deliberation, they can complement one other in many ways, an objective that is often easier to proclaim than to accomplish. Each activity (teaching, research, service) places a major claim on precious resources - faculty time, university dollars, and administrative energy. They also form the core of a university’s complex mission. A productive, functioning university produces more ideas and initiatives than it can afford to support each year. The challenge is to define and achieve balance among these three missions.

Defining Outreach and Public Service

What is the definition of university outreach and how is it connected to public service and to scholarship? Historically, university outreach activities include adult and continuing education (including for professionals), the availability of hospital and health clinics, volunteerism and community-based learning opportunities (including internships), public access to facilities and events, access to faculty expertise, and provision of resources and services for civic and other organizations. One state university calls outreach "a form of scholarship that cuts across teaching, research, and service. It involves generating, transmitting, applying and preserving knowledge for the direct benefit of external audiences in ways that are consistent with university and unit missions.

For purposes of this report, we define university public service by articulating the forms of economic, civic, and cultural services it may take. These include:

  • Business advisory services, business incubation, support for entrepreneurial endeavors, research dissemination, clusters of technology and business development;
  • Continuing education, employee development and training;
  • Electronic and information service, including library exchange;
  • Public affairs and policy research at local, state, and federal levels;
  • Health care, medical service alliances, clinics and libraries;
  • Specialized facilities and equipment;
  • Internships and volunteer services by students, staff and faculty;
  • Partnerships with higher education for business, scientific research, social services, government, community development, cultural efforts, and economic development; and
  • Other community services and resources such as cultural amenities, recreation, etc.


Defining university public service in this way does raise the issue of competition between public service endeavors and the central university functions of teaching and research for scarce resources. Indeed, when are these functions appropriately assumed by the university rather than by other enterprises, public or private? Universities are the major sources for degrees in higher education but not the only source of advice. How much externally oriented service can universities provide and remain academic and excellent in their other core functions?

Jacques Barzun, in a thoughtful consideration of the role of the university in society, noted that "The university must make up its kind and choose between two attitudes incessantly heard. One is ‘Behold our eminence - it deserves your support and affectionate regard after you have attended and shared our greatness.’ The other is:’ We are a public utility like any other - drop in any time....Let it be clear: the choice is not between being high hat and being just folks. It is not a question of hospitableness - a university should be hospitable; it is a question of style, reflecting the fundamental choice as to what the university thinks it is. It can, from generous but misguided motives, yield to the assimilating effects of cooperating with the world." (Barzun 1968)

What is the philosophical basis for this conflict? What are the pitfalls of university cooperation with the state, nation, or world? The traditional academic view is that a university must remain independent, even aloof, so as to be able to critique, even criticize, the inadequacies of humankind especially malpractice and corruption. A university has a higher obligation to truth and justice and "to use reason to combat error" as Jefferson urged. At the same time, it has an obligation to participate in society, particularly through service. So the balancing act is not an easy one for universities.


Chapter 2

Public Service - Ideas and Issues

The idea of a university committing resources to public service is not without controversy in higher education circles. Leading educators at various points in the last century have disagreed with the status quo and with each other. What ideas have educators advanced about public responsibilities since the founding of the University of Virginia? What have American education leaders said in recent years about the obligation of universities to address economic and social issues? What do the major higher education associations recommend to their major university members?

In this section we present a review of current thinking about the role of public service by universities. The discussion is not designed to simplify the issues but rather to review past andcurrent thinking about forms and style of public service. We note that this discussion serves to underline the complexity, the importance, and the need for highly rational and careful resolution of the questions about how one Commonwealth and one particular University approach public service endeavors.

Historical Perspective

The colleges of colonial times, such as Harvard and William and Mary, were founded to preserve and promote the word of God. Their graduates were teachers, preachers, landed gentlemen, and merchants.

After the establishment of the new nation, the Founding Fathers added new goals and content to the higher education agenda. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, both signers of the Declaration of Independence and Revolutionary War-time ambassadors in Europe, felt strongly that education should be more utilitarian, that science and medicine, mathematics and law should be taught. Higher education would prepare leaders for all walks of life, architects and inventors, farmers and lawmakers. Their vision (Franklin for the University of Pennsylvania, Jefferson for the University of Virginia) was at that time fresh, even radical, and met opposition from those who felt that a classical and Christian education should remain the center of the curriculum.

Later in the nineteenth century John Henry Newman delivered brilliant lectures on "The Idea of a University" with a lofty view of the university protecting "all knowledge and science, fact and principle, inquiry and discovery, experiment and speculation." He argued against the ideas of Francis Bacon who favored useful knowledge (which Newman referred to as "a deal of trash"). He felt a university could prepare a man "to fill any post with credit and to master any subject with facility." His views were revived a generation later by Robert Maynard Hutchins who tried to "purify" the University of Chicago of applied knowledge, restoring the Great Books and abandoning football.

Meanwhile, the German universities forged ahead with scientific education and influenced the founding of Johns Hopkins University and other major universities in which the rigors of specialized training in scientific research and graduate studies were valued. Research became a major part of the mission of great American universities after the Civil War.

However, American leaders also saw in universities the potential for supporting both the Industrial Revolution and the improvement of agricultural technologies. First in the Western territories and then in l862, Congress approved the Morrill Act which asked states to create or designate universities that would assume special responsibility for Agricultural and Mechanical (manufacturing) innovation. Each state was asked to appropriate its own funds to carry out these practical purposes. Eventually, after further federal encouragement, states built the capacity for applying research to practical purposes such as teaching farmers how to use the latest production techniques and engineers to improve heavy manufacturing. For example, the University of Illinois showed farmers how hybrid corns could increase yield per acre enormously. The University of Wisconsin, declaring the entire state to be the campus boundary, took instruction to every community and willing citizens of all ages, a major redefinition of university roles.

Other state universities added professional schools to upgrade the preparation of specialized professional. Colleges of medicine were established to train surgeons and other doctors; law schools added classroom training to replace the old apprenticeship model. These were followed by schools of education, architecture, and business. Many faculty conducted research and wrote books about building designs, trade or labor relations, urban and rural education problems, and about epidemics and their prevention.

Most universities accepted the argument that they should be useful and a source of expertise for society at large. During World War II, university scientists played a major role in refining technology, such as radar and other scientific developments, which resulted in victories against well-armed industrial regimes and ultimately provided the basis for the post-war technological and economic expansion.


Recent Commentary About University Responsibilities

Since l980, educators themselves have criticized the tendency of universities to turn inward. Ernest Boyer, who served as US Commissioner of Education, Chancellor of the State University of New York, and then President of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, wrote eloquent reports on the state of education.

In 1996, he reported being disturbed by "a growing feeling in this country that higher education is, in fact, part of the problem rather than the solution," arguing that "it has become a private benefit, not a public good. Increasingly the campus is being viewed as a place where students become credentialled and faculty get tenure, while the overall work for the academy does not seem particularly relevant to the nation’s most pressing civic, social, economic and moral problems." (Boyer, l996)

Boyer advocated a broader definition of scholarship and professorial publication, not just

the scholarship of discovery (research) but the "scholarship of engagement" with fundamental problems. He expressed need for "a special climate in which the academic and civic culture communicate more continuously and more creatively with each other..." (Boyer, l996) Boyer’s theme has been echoed in more recent reports and projects, and was anticipated by several other major spokesmen.

Educator Derek Bok also considered these issues. How can American higher education view itself as successful when American society suffers from serious housing and health problems, violence and racial conflict, inferior public schools, drug abuse, illiteracy, illegitimacy, poverty and other concerns more so than in other mature nations with less excellent universities. These questions troubled Bok increasingly during his two decades as President of Harvard University.

Bok agreed with other observers that national advancement requires three elements:

  • new discoveries, highly trained personnel, and expert knowledge. American universities supply two of the three and much of the third. He asked "whether our universities are doing all that they can and should to help America surmount the obstacles that threaten to
  • sap our enormous strength and blight the lives of millions of our people? Are we building in our society...and into leaders... a stronger sense of civic responsibility, ethical
  • awareness, and concern for the interest of others?" (Bok, l990)
  • Bok also raised questions about the work of university professional schools and suggested:
  • that business schools work on issues of productivity, technology and design,
  • employee motivation and international competitiveness including language courses;
  • that engineering schools work on product engineering and design issues (where other nations were beating us) and the management of technology;
  • that law schools should look more at new techniques of dispute resolution reducing the costs of regulation and litigation as well as addressing the unmet legal needs of poor communities;
  • that public administration schools expand mid career programs and research on policy-making; and
  • that education schools work on issues of teaching and learning, pupil motivation and assessment strategies. (Bok, 1990)

He looked for root causes and concluded that academic values and priorities favored the status quo. "At least in leading universities, research is valued over teaching and pure research grants gain more respect than applied research aimed at solving problems in the real world." (Bok, 1982) He felt these values flowed from tradition, history and prestige but that the research priorities did reflect national needs. He raised questions about where the leadership for change would come from, criticizing foundation and government agencies for financing more popular research problems such as cancer research rather than poverty research. He challenged corporate leaders and trustees to ask more questions of the presidents and deans who also should lead.

Economic Development and Academic/Corporate Cooperation

University relations with private sector enterprises present service opportunities. As Bok and others have noted, there can be mutually advantageous relationships between private enterprise and academia, relationships that may take the forms of contracts, grants, training, and even outright partnerships. Many of these also have positive aspects for economic development, which, it can be argued, ultimately benefit society. These include:

  • Subsidies and research projects for graduate students that allow them to finish their advanced degrees in science, engineering and other technologically advanced fields;
  • Corporate funds or grants for research that can be used to offset the costs to universities of elaborate and expensive equipment;
  • Increased engagement of faculty with application of research to practical problems such as those in industrial or medical endeavors;

Bok (1990) proposes these constructive options for increasing the benefits of cooperation between universities and private enterprises:

  • Employment of industrial researchers as part-time adjunct professors at the university;
  • Postdoctoral research opportunities at the university for industrial researchers;
  • "Industry-Associates Programs" which allow employers to send senior staff for periodic research briefings, open to private enterprises for a fee;
  • Individual faculty consulting, within agreed-upon time limitations each week or semester;
  • University and faculty pursuit of patents (noting that 1000 discoveries produce 100 patents which produce ten licenses of which only one may yield more than $25,000 a year);
  • Special contracts such as Harvard had with Monsanto, MIT with Exxon, or Stanford with Yamaha - usually led by one or two medical, science or engineering faculty;
  • Selected investments in technology ventures, with policy set by trustee investment committees.

It should be noted that the use of these options by public institutions must necessarily be more circumscribed than for private universities. However, the use of foundations has allowed greater institutional flexibility in a number of cases.

 Service to Communities and the State

Bok (1982) posits that universities have a clear obligation to respond to society’s needs. He suggests these questions for the university to consider:

  • How important is the social need and how likely is it that the university will succeed in constructive action?
  • Will the action requested interfere with the freedom of individual professors and students?
  • What effect will the initiative have on the university (time commitment, money, and administrative burden)?

Bok’s message includes a series of warnings for universities considering service either to communities or corporations, the most important of which is that a university is great because of its freedom from the constraints that are implicit in private enterprises such as a consulting firm or a corporation. If neither faculty nor students can express their reservations or criticism, then the deal is flawed. That is, academic freedom must be maintained as an absolute priority by the university.

Nor, he indicates, should universities dabble in politics, in hopeless causes, in burdensome projects that would interfere with other vital institutional obligations, such as instruction. In other words, the university and its faculty must anticipate conflicts of interest and of mission and establish appropriate safeguards before the endeavor in undertaken.

Advice from University Associations

The several hundred universities typically belong to one or more national university associations,, most of which operate in Washington DC. These associations periodically review policy guidelines for members or publish studies or papers, some of which have been helpful in preparing this background statement.

One of the most prominent of these is the American Council on Education (ACE), an umbrella organization serving public and private member institutions. Last year, the ACE organized a forum on "The Civic Responsibility of the University" and appointed as co-chairs Thomas Ehrlich, who had been President of Indiana University after service as a law school dean, and Zelda Gamson, who directs the New England Research Center on Higher Education. Their first action was to commission several papers on this topic. One of these, by Nancy Thomas (1998) surveyed what major universities in a number of states were doing to provide public service. While the forum is still in the early stages of discussion and work, this undertaking indicates ACE’s interest in the issue of university public service.

The Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) is the national organization of university trustees. It represents the interests of college and university boards. Boards are traditionally composed of interested lay citizens, one of whose responsibilities is to define institutional direction while insulating the institution from partisan changes and protecting the continuity and autonomy that is vital to great universities.

A few years ago AGB was alarmed by actions in several states where governors chose trustees who went after either faculty policies or senior administrators in a way that created friction and distraction on campus. In its report, entitled Bridging the Gap Between State Government and Public Higher Education (AGB, 1998), the AGB summarizes a series of interviews with university boards in seven states. It concludes that demographic forces and a technology-driven revolution threaten to overrun traditional governance structures for state Universities; that whatever "common goals" were agreed on decades ago have been forgotten or set aside today. In this report, the AGB delivers both an indictment and a prescription:

"Many political and higher education leaders have not clearly articulated the link between the long-term needs of the state and the performance of higher education. (Some states have done so: California historically, North Carolina, and most recently Kentucky.) Annual budget requests, state higher education master plans, and institutional strategic plans invariably attempt to tie the welfare of the state to that of the state’s higher education system. But in many states attempts to link higher education to a state strategic agenda fails to engage state elected leaders, let alone average citizens, and is heavily dominated by institutional viewpoints." (AGB, l998)

The AGB acknowledges a strong role for both governing boards and coordinating boards that produce plans and commentary for all of the public colleges and universities in a state. What is needed is "a state strategic agenda jointly developed by key elected and higher education leaders that transcends the political terms and party affiliations of state elected leaders...(producing) a public higher education agenda." "Board, system, master, and institutional strategic plans and missions then can be aligned with the public agenda so that all parties are working toward common goals." (AGB, l998) This is the alternative to "short-term" views, crisis management and public controversy that can damage the reputation and public confidence in the universities of a state.

The AGB calls for a national collaboration of associations and organizations to help those states that have struggled with issues of governance and stability. Some states will need help in developing the public agenda and redesigning the governance system if needed along the line of the "best practices" of states thought to be successful.

Another prominent association, the American Association of Higher Education (AAHE) is a leader in defining service and showing how universities can expand their reach and redefine their mission. It has focused its work on redefining faculty roles and responsibilities, reviewing outcome assessment proposals for higher education, and discussing ways to increase customer or client satisfaction with higher education. Their leadership has worked closely with Carnegie and other foundations on these issues.

One of their leaders who wrote extensively on the role of the university in public service was Ernest Lynton, a former administrator at Rutgers University in New Jersey and later with the University of Massachusetts. Two of his books offer guidance on the role of public service in universities: Making the Case for Professional Service (1995) and New Priorities for the University (Lynton, 1987).

Lynton’s views reflect a fundamental concern that universities by nature are slow, even sluggish, in their response to corporate America but that the kinds of professional service rendered to either corporations and states should be at a very high level and thoroughly documented in order to count as faculty scholarship in the broad sense, as recommended by Boyer and others. He understands that corporations need the new knowledge created by research at universities, arguing that universities should bring the results of the research efforts to the workplace, much as landgrant universities did for agricultural innovation. ( Lynton, 1987)

"Technology transfer" has become a new motto or slogan, but Lynton criticizes the narrow concept of university-corporate cooperation as relegated to a site on the edge of campus. He advocates a total university strategy. As an example of best practice, he notes the the Pennsylvania State University Technology Assistance Program (PENNTAP) in which the university sponsors transfer agents, periodic industry newsletters, continuing education programs, and library information systems to assist a large number of small and medium sized business enterprises. He also praises the University of Maryland at College Park and Georgia Institute of Technology for their effective field outreach to businesses. (Lynton, 1987)

At the same time, Lynton argues against a university agreeing to provide corporate skill training or technical instruction that could just as easily be provided by the company, community colleges or specialty firms. He quotes Ernest Boyer and Fred Hechinger who believe that campuses should not "turn themselves into educational supermarkets with a view towards mere fiscal survival." Indeed, he emphasizes that liberal education courses and multi-disciplinary seminars and majors can be used to strengthen the capacity of universities to provide service and to help students understand the complex social and philosophical issues raised by technology. He reminds his colleagues in education that reflection and analysis continue to be key components of professional competence.

Lynton (1987) is concerned about the terminology used to define the public service aspects of university life, noting that one definition of "service" implies volunteerism or acts of charity. He prefers the phrase "professional activity" to emphasize the use of the best faculty expertise, donated or compensated. He urges that universities explicitly build professional service, local, state or federal, into the faculty workload as does, for example, the University of Louisville. He proposes these categories of professional (service) activity:

  • Directed or contracted research (every discipline) including surveys and evaluations;
  • Consultation and technical assistance;
  • Targeted briefings, including seminars for elected officials; and
  • Public information for general audiences including radio and cablevision.

He recommends that these activities be thoroughly documented and evaluated for consideration by those committees which evaluate salaries, promotion and tenure.

Lynton wrote Making the Case for Professional Service (1995) eight years later for AAHE with support from the Carnegie Foundation. He conceded that "service" was an agreeable term but continued to argue for strict criteria and assessment of faculty service.

Lynton’s monograph (Lynton, 1995) includes five case studies which provide examples of how different academic disciplines (history, geology, ethics, engineering, and education) can link to real world problems at a high professional level. As examples, he examines model practices of public service by faculty at several state universities (the University of Illinois, University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and Michigan State University). He notes the importance of explicit institutional policies that acknowledge and recognize professional service in formal policy statements agreed up by faculty, administrators and trustees. For example, University of Illinois draws clear distinctions among:

- institutional citizenship which includes faculty advising students or internal committee work (expected of virtually all faculty);

- disciplinary citizenship which includes service to one’s academic or professional special field;

- civic contributions which are voluntary (and include religious service); and

- public service, paid or pro bono, which applies scholarly knowledge and expertise to the world of practice and practitioners.

AAHE has also, with Pew Foundation assistance, authorized a series of volumes showing how faculty members in virtually every academic discipline or professional specialty can relate student community service and service-learning to academic course work and credit in a thorough and scholarly fashion. Edward Zlotkowski of Bentley College coordinates this work (1998) for AAHE; the volumes by specialty have begun to be published, in fields as diverse as accounting, English composition, psychology, nursing and teacher education, with more to follow.

In sum, the debate, the controversies, the discussion of priorities for universities comes up for review and resolution in each decade. Public universities in particular must reexamine what they are about, whom they serve, and how to protect the unique attributes of academic excellence that make them valuable as resources for those who look to them for expertise. Public service is one of those priorities; it can both contribute to the university and address social problems faced by the state and the nation.

Chapter 3

Service Models: Faculty, Staff, and Students

What types of public service do public universities in other states or the best of the independent universities offer? Can the University of Virginia record be compared with those of other comparable institutions?

The state of Virginia achieved educational eminence with the establishment of the University of Virginia and the College of William and Mary two centuries ago. Since then, the public system of higher education in Virginia has expanded considerably and now offers a range of institutions serving a variety of students and purposes. Each of the major parts of the public system plays different roles in the Commonwealth’s expectations of its institutions. These differing expectations are, in part, reflected in resource allocation as well as in the varying characters of the institutions. Because of its long history in public higher education, Virginia’s system has developed somewhat differently from those in other states.

Within the system itself, there are also differences among the institutions. For example, neither the College of William and Mary nor the University of Virginia was expected to assume the duties associated with a land grant university; rather, that role has been filled by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and Virginia State University. Similarly, given the different institutional identities and historical priorities, both William and Mary and the University have student bodies and academic offerings that differ from the other state universities. This is reflected in their approaches to and modes of public service. However, other state universities do offer informative examples and contrasts for purposes of this study.

The notion of public service by state universities is both widespread and takes widely varying forms. For example, among the states, Wisconsin is widely recognized for the Wisconsin Idea, the notion that the university boundaries are synonymous with those of the state. Many decades ago President Van Hise made it a university priority to serve the industrial and agricultural needs of the state. Wisconsin, like Illinois and Iowa, created experimental farms to test new breeds of corn and cattle and sent county extension agents to every community to spread the word about productivity improvements of all kinds. Wisconsin provided a model for this role to many other state institutions.

But the notion of public service by state universities has expanded beyond that early and influential Wisconsin model. A number of state universities have begun to publish guidelines for planning and evaluating faculty public service and outreach. For example, Michigan State University (MSU) is recognized for its approach to public service. With 2000 faculty, it is similar in size to the University faculty. MSU has taken a strong stance on the importance participation in public service activities. And at this time, 65% of the faculty reported involvement in outreach activity (40% reported "considerable" involvement) and as many as 90% intended to become involved over the next three years. For example, the MSU Points of Distinction document provides a framework for differentiating among types of service:

  • private service - jury duty or PTA offices, or coaching of a community athletic team.
  • public service - which draws on academic disciplines or a body of research which can be used to address a problem. The latter can lead to the preparation of articles, ideas for research and publication which universities then consider in faculty promotion and tenure decisions.

Michigan State University also offers management support and training for faculty department chairs. MSU calls the training program the Model Unit Leadership Training Institute or MULTI and provides small grants for collaborative outreach scholarship. Specific projects include linking liberal arts and education, a travelling science theater sponsored by the Physics faculty, a summer institute for high school language teachers, providing workspace for artists and an Urban Planning group serving the needs of Detroit and other cities. (Thomas, 1998).

Public Service and Faculty Recognition

The issue of public service as a part of faculty responsibilities has gained attention recently. The New England Resource Center for Higher Education pursued the question of whether universities committed to public service actually take it seriously in recognizing, promoting and rewarding faculty. A NERCHE team read 400 faculty promotion and tenure manuals and identified only 26 that could be considered excellent for including "best practices." Among these were the University of Georgia, Michigan State University, and Indiana University at Indianapolis. (O’Meara, 1997)

Another NERCHE paper focused on New England universities and colleges, surveying institutional commitment to public service. (Singleton et al., 1997a) At public four-year institutions, it found that:

  • 96% identified faculty professional service as part of the mission
  • 93% reported that public service efforts were publicized on campus
  • 85% felt service activities helped faculty careers
  • 70% had centers or institutes carrying out the service mission
  • 33% could identify an office or individual in charge of campus outreach
  • 7% had a committee or task force (faculty and administration) determining the institutional outreach priorities.

The same study also asked about the ways universities recognize and reward faculty public service. Specifically, did they involve faculty in policy decisions about service, offer grants or workload allocations, and give credit for service in promotion and tenure decisions? The survey found that:

  • 74% felt faculty were involved in key institutional decisions relating to outreach - and that it is part of faculty work
  • 56% report institutional rewards or grants or time available for public service.
  • 33% report that explicit criteria were used to evaluate service in promotion and tenure decisions.
  • 8% felt professional service was weighed seriously (two institutions).

One respondent noted that the criteria are very general. Another said "There is a great deal of variation between departments and schools regarding this issue and its contributions or lack thereof to tenure and promotion."

In higher education, tenure (service on the faculty without limit of time) and promotion (from instructor to assistant then associate, then to professor or to a named chair) is extremely important as an indicator of status and value to the university. Many universities request evidence of public service as a criterion for faculty tenure and promotion. However, it is rated nowhere nearly as important as research and publication (articles, books and other publications) or the quality of teaching (as reviewed by other faculty colleagues or very often by student evaluations). Overall, the role of public service in tenure and promotion decisions tends to be unclear at best. The underlying issues are, of course, how much value should be placed on professional or public service throughout a faculty member’s career and how can such activities be objectively evaluated.

Several major research universities have made explicit their criteria so that a value can be placed on public service (O’Meara, 1997). Several universities ask faculty for:

- reports of benefits to recipients

- new ideas that have had an impact on their research

- evidence of a change in public policy

- reports and evaluations of service (by external observers or recipients).

The University of Georgia states that "the evidence should emphasize the impact, results, and outcome of the work rather than the quantity of products, the number of participants. or the number of booklets distributed. Where problem complexity was an issue, it should be identified, as should the importance of the work to society in general or to the client group in particular."

Michigan State University asks very fundamental questions such as: did the outreach generate new knowledge...or a new interpretation? Was there innovation in the application of interdisciplinary knowledge and methodology...to the project? Is the outreach generating new research questions? What effect did the initiative have on scholarship? or community knowledge? MSU wants to know:

- the degree to which the project met its goals (documented impact)

- the effect on the improvement of practice

- how the community perceived the impact.

MSU also asks whether sustainability and capacity building were part of the project design as a result of faculty involvement.

Indiana University (Indianapolis) asks about positive impacts on identified recipients, the mission and goals of the various levels of the campus, and the professional development of the faculty member. It suggest that participating faculty submit videos, speeches, charts, financial impact reports, journal articles to document the results of faculty service.

Universities that believe public or professional service should be taken seriously (counted toward promotion, tenure, and salary increases) usually stipulate that the effects of such service be demonstrable and verifiable. They require evidence about the impact of public service activities on recipients of the service and/or the faculty member. They seek to establish standards of review that are rigorous, not unlike those used to evaluate pure research or other faculty work such as literary or musical composition.

These are very serious and sweeping probes and indicate how seriously public service is taken when an institution has high commitment to applying knowledge to real problems. At the same time, developing and responding to these kinds of questions and using them to implement a close connectivity to faculty status appears to be quite rare. If a university chooses to upgrade the importance of service, then it must involve the faculty in reviewing the reward system, the recognition and acclaim accorded to faculty service.

Service by Other University Staff

At the University of Virginia and elsewhere, a large proportion of administrators and staff who do not carry a faculty title engage in public service. These include:

  • Professionals and others in organizational entities such as the Center for Public Service; those who produce studies, reports, newsletters, conferences, and other resources for national, state, county and other public officials;
  • Medical personnel such as residents, RNs and other health professionals who work in health-services positions at the University;
  • Library staff who assist non-university individuals and groups, such as K-12 students and other citizens;
  • Museum staff, athletic coaches and staff, and those who work in University theatrical and other cultural endeavors;
  • Continuing education and adjunct instructors providing services all around the state;
  • Other program staff members who manage centers, parks, and other University facilities used by the public.

The extent to which individuals and non-departmental organizational entities are recognized for contribution to public service varies considerably among universities. In addition to faculty service recognition, each institution must decide how to recognize public service by administrators and staff. Alumni magazines, other campus media, state governmental publications, local, state, and national media are all avenues for recognition. Such vehicles can be used to recognize the ten most significant public services to the institution’s credit and benefit.

Student Service-Learning, Experiential Education, and Public Service

Increasingly, the leading universities have decided that higher education should not only help students build a career or make a living but prepare for a life which includes service to humanity, to those in need, and to communities and agencies that need volunteer as well as professional help. We note that although many of the collegiate formats are new, these values are a clear reflection of Jefferson’s vision of preparing leaders for public responsibilities.

In the l990’s, universities throughout the nation have expanded opportunities for students to work in community settings related to their general and professional studies and course work. The American Association of Higher Education series of monographs explains how students and faculty in each academic discipline can weave public service opportunities into course work, projects and papers in a respectable scholarly fashion. (Zlotkowski, 1998)

Of these efforts, the Campus Compact is the most prominent centralized effort. It is a national organization of 600 colleges and universities that defines and extends opportunities for public services to students, on whose national board the President of the University has served.

Many universities, both public and private, blend service with academic coursework. For example, Georgetown University currently offers an additional unit of course credits for documented student service learning experiences evaluated by the professor teaching the relevant course. Like many other colleges and universities, Bentley College, a business school, has adopted similar incentives and recognition of the vitality of course learning integrated with community issues as basic as providing food, shelter, early childhood care and education, and access to tax and legal assistance services in neighborhoods with limited resources. Berea College in Kentucky was organized around the ideal of community service and requires such activity of all its students.

Critics of such requirements hold that mandatory volunteerism is an oxymoron. But recent thinking leans toward considering community service by undergraduates as another aspect of undergraduate education among others such as writing, social issues, and cultural exposure. This is necessarily a faculty and institutional judgement.

What is the value of university public service? How does a university account for public service activities? How can the real "cost" be estimated?

Universities prepare and publish audited financial statements of their activities for their boards, administrators, alumni, bondholders, state and federal contributors, and others. Revenues and expenditures are reported in formats conforming to federal and general accounting standards.

In the area of public service, however, individual institutional practices for reporting expenditures on public services vary widely, especially because the definition of expenditures for public services tends to be idiosyncratic to the institution.

Major expenditure* categories for the University include:

1990 1997
Instruction $141 $180
Research 74 117
Public Service 12 225

  *(in $ thousands)

Source: President’s Annual Reports, 1990-91 and 1997-98.

The University’s expenditures for public service have nearly doubled in the past eight years.

Universities periodically conduct economic impact studies of their overall contribution to the local regional and state economy. A conservative estimate of the University’s current annual financial effort in this regard would, at the least, include:

  • more than $400m. in hospital services provided by the University;
  • as much as $200m more in HMO, medical services, nursing clinics, and other services audited elsewhere;
  • more than $40m outreach, continuing education courses, economic development initiatives, cultural services which are currently financed to some extent by adult tuition, corporate grants, ticket fees, and other revenues so that they do not appear as expenses to the state;
  • the value of contributed student services (as many as 8000 students at five hours per week for thirty weeks per year).

Note that this does not include the value of in-kind goods and services provided by the University in the course of operation of activities which directly and indirectly support the various public services, large and small. Such contributions might include offices and supporting utilities, library services, and use of general physical facilities, administrative services, etc.

The financial value of public service, estimated in this generally conservative and limited fashion, is enormous. Indeed, the public service "real budget" becomes a much larger portion of University expenditures. Making a more complete estimation of the dollar value of institutional contribution to public service in the form of an economic and social impact statement might be reassuring to those concerned about the "usefulness" of universities and their level of commitment to public service.


Consideration of the "real" cost to the University of public service raises a number of significant issues. For example, the financial reporting breakdown properly highlights academic instruction. This function is clearly the primary purpose of the annual state appropriation to the University. Legislators may be substantially less interested in supporting public service unless it has been specifically authorized (such as for hospital services) or closely tied to instruction. Indeed, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) in the 1993 Virginia Plan warned that "more faculty time should be devoted to instruction and less to service (a very broad category) and unsponsored research that is not competitively evaluated." (SCHEV, 1993) While this view was expressed during a period of economic downturn and reflects those tightened circumstances, this cautionary comment persists as a restraint for those who think that the service mandate has few boundaries. Each category of public service requires justification of its authorization and support.

The concerns expressed by SCHEV also underscore the need for precise definition and reporting of public service as well as rigorous impact assessments than most institutions currently offer. Very few states have called for public service accountability from their universities. It is not too late for Virginia to set a public agenda and require an annual report of public service endeavors, a record of university service accomplishments, which would be part of the SCHEV purpose.

This summary of practices has revealed that a very small number of state universities have defined public service with precision. Although there has been considerable discussion, relatively few allow service to be recognized for purposes of promotion and tenure. (In these cases, thorough documentation is required for evaluation.) Service activities by administrators and staff are rarely acknowledged and rewarded in a consistent manner. Student service, while often an important educational and civic contribution, is often overlooked. Conventional university financial reporting practices do not adequately reflect the value of public service by the institution. A statement of economic impact which uses a different reporting approach and analysis may be a very useful means of presenting a better record of university public service, whether it be unique to the institution or a state-wide effort. Such a statement can then be used for articulating university priorities, providing a mode for recognition, and providing the basis for review of public service efforts over time.


Chapter 4

The State Universities of Virginia

What uniquely should the University provide to the Commonwealth of Virginia in the form of public service, continuing education and other outreach? That question cannot be answered without respectful consideration of the capacities of other universities in Virginia and of the community colleges with their local capacities and advantage of proximity to the citizens. But first, what does the University of Virginia offer as its mission, purpose and goals?

The University of Virginia declares its central purpose "is to enrich the mind by stimulating and sustaining a spirit of free inquiry directed to understand the nature of the universe and the role of mankind in it." The focus is on the "intellectual and creative capacities in aesthetic and ethical awareness..." and on disseminating "the results of intellectual discovery and creative endeavors."

In its Mission Statement, the University lists fourteen specific goals of which seven describe what students might expect and three that pledge leadership in conducting research of the highest quality. Very clearly the offer of an excellent education to Virginia students, both liberal education and professional studies, is a service to the Commonwealth. So also is the commitment to research in medical science, health care and other areas.

Three of the fourteen goals commit the University explicitly to public service:

11. To offer to the local community, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the nation the various kinds of public service and intellectual and cultural activities which are consonant with the purpose of the university.

12. To provide continuing education programs of the highest quality to the Commonwealth and the nation.

13. To cooperate with and assist other colleges and educational institutions, and agencies, especially in the Commonwealth of Virginia, by making available to them the facilities of the University and the experience and counsel of its members so as to contribute to education in the Commonwealth and beyond.

Finally, the University offers "to establish new programs, schools and degrees" and to conduct "research that the Commonwealth of Virginia and the nation may require."

These are the service commitments of the University, broadly outlined to the people and agencies of Virginia. Those of other Virginia state universities are summarized below:

The largest Commonwealth university, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, has for more than a century served as the major (one of two) agricultural and mechanical university under the Land Grant Acts. The Commonwealth expects from Tech leadership in the promotion of improved methods of agriculture and horticulture including the dissemination of modern techniques to increase farm productivity and marketing. Tech has a traditional role in helping industry in Virginia, although this is not their exclusive responsibility.

The Tech outreach plan is presented on their Web page and includes these highlights:

  • a commitment to extend information technology, especially in Northern Virginia (where Tech and UVa share a classroom facility in Falls Church).
  • economic development, exemplified by twenty corporate visits last year.
  • close cooperation and service to state agencies, especially the Virginia Departments of Transportation, Education, Tourism Corporation, Port Authority, and Film Office.

Virginia Commonwealth University reports these priorities:

  • The Biotechnology Research Park will attract $200 million in investments, create 3000 jobs, and serve several state agencies in science and forensics.
  • The School of Engineering will partner with Motorola and the Virginia Microelectronics Center.
  • The largest Hospital and Medical Center in the state, 700 beds, is ranked one of the top l00 in the US.
  • Special schools for the Arts, Social Work, Allied Health (therapies. counseling and health administration).

Old Dominion University , in addition to TELETECHNET, has established:

  • Centers for Global Business and Executive Education, and an Entrepreneurial Center.
  • Technology Application Center.
  • Centers and Institute for Advanced Ship Repair, Port Management, Simulations, Wind Tunnel and Space Flight.

The College of William and Mary cites these service and outreach activities:

  1. School of Marine Science and the Institute of Marine Business.
  2. Applied Research Center, with Jefferson Lab at Oyster Point.
  3. High Performance Center.
  4. Cooperation with the NASA Langley Research and Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator.

Similar listings and reviews will be useful for George Mason University, James Madison University, Norfolk State University, Virginia State University (also a land grant) and the other state colleges and community colleges.

Two patterns emerge from this preliminary review:

1. Universities do not need to pursue every specialty but can concentrate on a limited number of fields where they can build high competence, especially for work with industries and agencies in the region. One university can pursue marine research, another shipbuilding and repair, for example.

2. All colleges and universities will be expected to contribute to economic development, especially to applications of new technologies, and to work with small businesses and entrepreneurs. No one will criticize public universities for duplication of efforts until some saturation point is reached in the distant future. There has been a dramatic expansion of university partnerships in technology centers and business incubators, partly motivated by the intent to to compete with other states for new and expanded contracts and profits.

Virginia now has particular strength in medical services and medical research. There are two teaching and research hospitals, and therefore two centers able to pursue new developments in medical technology and biotechnological applications. Unlike certain space research projects, biotechnology firms will prosper in multiple locations over the next decade, including California and New England; but Virginia can also strive to become one of the more productive states for this life-enhancing work.

What the University of Virginia must do on a regular long term basis is consult state-wide with leaders and government officials to see where needs emerge, where duplication is a problem, and where one or more new university initiatives are required. Again, no university must be eminent in every specialty and to try to do so spreads resources too thin. One of the great architects of excellence for Stanford University, Frederick Terman, engineering dean and later Provost, talked about and recommended to other universities building "steeples of excellence" only in fields where a critical mass of expert faculty could be assembled. Not every university needs to raise the same steeples, despite the considerable satisfaction of earning high ratings in many academic and professional specialties. Nor is there a need for 200 research and service centers at each university, when others identify and build specialties needed only in their city or region.

Each university must decide how best to concentrate and focus the resources of talent, time and space on those worthy problems that it can best address. Of course the identification of those problems will require a thorough analysis of state demographic and economic needs, of health and cultural priorities, and the preparation of a state agenda for the several universities.

Next Section: Chapters 5-8, Bibliography

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