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Public Service and The University of Virginia (continued)

Previous Section Chapters 1-4

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

Chapter 5

The State Agenda for Virginia

What are the economic, social and cultural needs of the Commonwealth of Virginia? More specifically, how do demographic and manpower projections and employment trends (especially skill shortages), in combination with state priorities for industrial and other economic development (such as high tech and tourism) as well as cultural values translate into public service priorities for the state’s public universities?

The State Today

Virginia is a growth state. Its population grew by a million persons between l980 and l990 and has continued to expand to nearly 7 million during this decade. Economic activity in developing industries has become increasingly important to the state even as its established industries continue.

The state remains an important seaport and naval center. From the Pentagon south to the Carolinas, Virginia remains a vital link in the defense of the nation. Increasingly, both commercial shipping and national defense activities (including contracted work) are employing sophisticated electronic and scientific technology and look to the regional workforce for current skills in these areas. As a result, for example, shipbuilders, state leaders, and the higher education community have been working together to invest funding and university talent to increase technological competitiveness of Virginia’s shipping industry.

Agriculture continues to be an important mainstay of the state economy. However, improved agricultural technology has reduced the proportion of the workforce in agriculture, changing the nature of this economic activity even as it continues to grow in output. Virginia’s natural advantages, those that supported Jefferson’s interests in areas such as grape cultivation and landscaping for public and private buildings, will continue to be an important part of the economy and of the state’s investment priorities.

Probably the most critical aspect of the state’s economic development is in the expansion of electronics and related technologies. This is particularly important in areas related to research medicine and public health as well as manufacturing and information technology.

Business and Technology

In Virginia, some of the strongest demands for increased university contribution to the state have come from the business sector in recent years. In particular, the industrial/technology business communities have expressed urgent need for university outreach and cooperation.

On a basic level, employer expectations for improved literacy and mathematics skills of the workforce in general have placed new demands on the schools and in particular on teacher education. The new Virginia state standards require teachers and other school personnel to develop new methods to motivate students, especially in developing habits of lifelong learning and continuous education. It also means that educational technology, in which students learn to access and process information using both intellectual and technological skills in a rigorous and critical fashion be provided throughout the early years of elementary and secondary education. This increases as students enter secondary schools in which both advanced placement studies and technical/vocational training are increasingly important. These needs put increased demands on university faculties, not just in education but also in the arts and sciences.

Skills development at the postsecondary level is a particularly important area for the evolving Virginia economy. Virginia currently is ninth in the nation in high technology employment. Virginia’s technology employers hire new workers at three times the rate of other sectors and predict that the number of technology enterprises will grow from 2500 to 4000 by the year 2002, adding demand for another 330,000 workers. A recent report outlines the need for an increasingly well-trained workforce in the expanding technology sector and for university cooperation in meeting this need. (CIT, 1998) Indeed, technology leaders have accused the state of excess caution in developing a technology transfer network. They note there are only four technology enterprise sectors associated with Virginia universities and only three business "incubators" capable of assisting start-up and entrepreneurial enterprises in meeting their needs for staff development and technical and management support. They also note that universities in Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania have shown initiative in supporting growth industries in those states, calling for ten new technologies centers and two more university-connected business incubators.

The Virginia Business Higher Education Council, which represents a broad coalition of business and other professionals, recently released a report entitled VIRGINIA FIRST 2000: Business and Higher Education, Partners in the Economy (1998). In it, they advocate a number of ties between the business community and higher education in Virginia. These include:

  • Partnerships between the state and federal R&D facilities;
  • Improved K-12 teacher preparation, especially by universities and in technology;
  • Expansion of coursework offerings through Net.Work.Virginia and the Commonwealth Electronic Campus;
  • Creation of a state-wide integrated technology transfer network, moving university-based research and applications into manufacturing and other markets;
  • Partnerships with state and local economic development agencies.

The University has begun to lay the groundwork for many of these efforts through

  • the purchase of property for two research parks;
  • the founding of a Gateway Project with the Piedmont Community College in conjunction with several city and county agencies committed to local economic development;
  • active membership in the Virginia Microelectronics Consortium;
  • research on technology transfer and intellectual capital management strategies.

It should be noted that interested business leaders recognize the financial constraints on universities. Accordingly, they have supported increased appropriations for the Center for Innovative Technologies to work with the state’s universities, improved faculty salaries, and expansion and rehabilitation of university physical facilities and infrastructure. Corporations have made gifts of funds and equipment as well as offered contracts for work on research and development efforts to which faculty members and teams can bring expertise.

Other Virginia Priorities

The University also faces expectations from other interests as well as the responsibilities articulated in the University mission statement. These include service and cultural endeavors. For example, the University medical facilities both create and lend themselves to community and other medical public services. Indeed, the medical and nursing faculties at the University understand the special needs of undeserved populations, the elderly, the rural poor, the at risk urban families, and have established clinical centers to help meet their needs while training practitioners responsive to those needs. The University spent approximately $12m. of its own budget on salaries for medical professionals in these endeavors.

Cultural development is another aspect of public service to which the University can and does respond. The University of Virginia Library is one of the rare research university libraries that allow all citizens and other libraries to borrow books without charging a fee. It lends 50,000 books a year directly to citizens and another 50,000 volumes to other Virginia libraries on exchange. In addition, the Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) now includes not only other doctoral degree-granting universities but also the community colleges and private colleges, thereby creating a virtual state wide library resource for the people of Virginia.. The University Library also makes available to schools special collections and bibliographies, exhibits, and displays that enrich teaching at every level. Andrew Carnegie, who did so much to build local library facilities and foster accessibility to books, in his great vision did not anticipate the glorious extension of his work by service and outreach of the University of Virginia Library

The University has historically provided a range of cultural events and access to cultural resources, such as museums, programming for public TV and radio, physical facilities, and numerous others. It continues to do so today.

Public service also takes the form of centers and institutes that focus on public affairs.

At the University, several such groups are currently in operation and receive some of their support directly from the University. Of these, the Miller Center of Public Affairs and the Cooper Center for Public Service are the most prominent. Of particular note, the Cooper Center for Public Service responds to the needs of state and local officials, elected and appointed, for statistics and facts about the economy and body politic, business and social conditions, and demographic trends as well as analyses of policy options for state decision-makers. Among other activities, it operates the Virginia Institute of Government. The work of the Cooper Center advances the cause of problem solving and the adjudication of competing claims for resources, which is the function of government at every level. Their reports merit careful reading by those who would try to understand the needs, trends and priorities of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, including their thirst for service.

Creating a State-Wide Agenda

The Association of Governing Boards put the matter in clear perspective when it suggested that each state prepare, with the help of higher education, a public agenda which would then set the tone for the state-wide coordinating board and for the Boards of Visitors for each university, and assist the Governor and legislators and agency

directors. (AGB, 1988) The public agenda would reflect the service needs and allocate to each university and college the tasks which it might properly assume, given the special talents of the faculty and the mission and capacities. Such an agenda would have to incorporate changing needs and changing technology. For example, technology will make possible a dramatic expansion of courses and seminars over satellites, cable, phone lines and other modes of transmission just now being developed. Voice, video and data will be integrated and available both in the workplace and the home. Although the University and the state currently provide some subsidy for the development of new endeavors, more startup resources than will be needed in the next century.

From an institutional perspective, such a plan obviously precludes a single institution’s ability to undertake an autonomous and individual effort. At the same time, it may result in inappropriate competition among institutions rather than encouraging their existing comparative advantages.

Public service efforts, however they are directed, will necessarily require other kinds of institutional flexibility as well. Consumers of higher education increasingly expect education according to their own timetables, on their turf, and in time modules compatible with their lives and family responsibilities. These needs may ultimately require a significant shift in the Charlottesville culture which suggests "If they want a superb education, let them come to Charlottesville." The University might also go to the citizens.

The planning is never complete. The assessment of service needs never ends. Conditions and issues change. The review of state and local needs begins anew each year, each planning cycle, and often with each new governor. The challenges to states and to state universities are such as to require fresh efforts to identify and prioritize and strategize, and to allocate scarce resources to those tasks related to the mission and likely to make a difference. Each state, as it invests in higher education, has the right to expect that institutions and scholars will engage themselves in the great issues of our time, within the academic values that prize truth, allow for honest criticism, and preserve the old wisdom while seeking new knowledge even as they engage in public service.


Chapter 6

The Service Balance

The University of Virginia seeks both to serve the Commonwealth of Virginia and to improve its well-established reputation as a national university of the first rank. What are the tensions and tradeoffs between the national, even international, responsibilities of the faculty and several schools, and state responsibilities? What balance should exist and will it vary among the various professional schools of the University and among types of activities? Underlying these concerns is the question of how much public service can or should the University provide.

Tensions and Tradeoffs

One of the tensions is financial. The state pays for a very large share of academic instruction and support service, mostly for undergraduates. Tuition charges are approximately $10,000 higher for out-of-state students than in-state in an effort to preclude use of state appropriations by out-of-state students. However, despite raising both in- and out-of-state tuition, the University, like many other state universities in the U.S., experienced cutbacks indirectly caused by the severe economic recession early in the 1990’s. At the University, the state share of revenues shrank to less than twenty percent of the total budget when the Hospital and medical services are included. Many universities responded by aggressive fundraising from alumni, corporations, federal agencies, and other sources. As of l998, more money comes to the University for federal research than state appropriations for academic services, which creates concerns in the minds of state leaders; for whom is the University working? Yet at the same time, federal dollars go mainly for research, much of it for science and medical advances that will benefit the citizens of Virginia first, then the nation. New cures, medicines, procedures will be available first in Virginia; new software and other technologies will be available to Virginia-based companies.

At the same time, the University faculty have become so eminent, "world-class" in many fields, that their expertise is sought by federal officials, national foundations, other states and countries, and by global corporations. Potentially, this might undermine or even reduce their commitment to the interests of the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, the federal presence spills over to many parts of Virginia. Many federal agencies look to the University for help in training scientists and law enforcement leaders, for example.

Virginia business leaders urge a closer partnership between federal and state research and development agencies because these partnerships will stimulate economic growth and improve the quality of life in Virginia. They see virtue in collaboration and do not want federal research dollars migrating to other states, whose universities gladly compete with Virginia for these resources.

Finally, there is the issue of the extent to which the state retains its investment in the University’s students. In part, perhaps, because of the University’s world-class stature, graduates of the University become so proficient and attractive that half of them leave the state after graduation. (Half will love and live in Virginia for a lifetime while others may return to the state.) Yet, graduates of every university move around, travel the world, and often support their alma maters in ways other than paying state taxes. Alumni gifts and contributions have become important alternative sources of revenues when new state dollars are in short supply. The quality of University graduates reflects well on Virginia, whether it be Woodrow Wilson moving to Princeton, then Trenton as New Jersey Governor, then President, or the seven US Senators with Virginia degrees, five more than Virginia would have if everyone stayed. Virginia trains bankers and doctors, lawyers and engineers who remember where they were prepared and show their gratitude in annual and special gifts.

In 1991, the University of Virginia Faculty Senate Committee on (Public) Service reviewed these same issues of national recognition and state service. The committee concluded "the quality and quantity of its public service achievements already are at an extraordinarily high level. Instead, this committee recommended that we faculty redirect a larger portion of our public service energies toward the Commonwealth and the needs of its citizens." The report called for greater visibility, administrative leadership and guidance, and clearer incentives than seen in the past. Learning about the great range of service, the committee members realized that few faculty members were aware of the many service activities or centers, such as the Cooper Center for Public Service or the use of regional centers for delivering credit courses.

The committee warned colleagues that "other state- supported institutions have experienced tremendous growth over that decade (the l980’s), and as they have grown, they have focused a larger portion of their public service activities within the Commonwealth. While University faculties have been directing many worthwhile and highly visible activities to a national and international audience, other Virginia universities have developed large, loyal, and powerful state constituencies, especially in the heavily populated areas of Tidewater and Northern Virginia."

The evidence seven years later only affirms the validity of these observations. Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth, George Mason are everywhere visible with economic development and service activities which complement what Tech and the University of Virginia once exclusively provided.

It has been noted, in the 1991 report and otherwise, that "the University of Virginia is not a land-grant university. We are not required to be in every county the way Tech agreed to do many decades ago." Many corporate leaders and as well as citizens have forgotten the nineteenth century distinctions between classical and land-grant universities. The land-grant model was highly successful in transforming this nation into one of the most powerful agricultural providers and mechanical producers the world has ever seen. That mission has adapted to the times. Most land grant universities, Tech included, now aspire to become first-class institutions for applied research and certainly major forces in the application of technology research to the needs of corporations. Those corporations will provide grants of money and equipment and other gifts to those universities who anticipate or assist corporate partners in developing and applying the technology that they need.

Today most universities, land grant and other, have engineering schools and science faculties that compete, and the only advantages of being a land grant institution are the additional appropriations for county offices that extend their services along with a point of view that says service is important.

Indeed, it is very difficult to say that a land grant, other than the special tradition or earmarked funds for county outreach, is permanently different. The University of Virginia Medical School, Hospital and Medical Center behave in the classic service model, providing primary care to nearby counties, secondary or referral care to more than a dozen more, then tertiary and quaternary care to the rest of the state for complicated cases, such as organ transplants, certainly serving 2,500,000 people or almost half of the state. The Curry School of Education prepares teachers and administrators for the entire state. The Division of Continuing Education offers courses statewide, some now via distance learning which promises to become much more prevalent as a statewide course delivery system. Meanwhile, the leaders of Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State University each semester invite the University of Virginia to increase the number of joint ventures and collaborative efforts because of the mutual respect and synergy between two state universities.

Will differences remain relevant? Of course. Tech will not have a medical school. The University of Virginia does not need to offer agriculture, although landscape design will remain an important academic concern in the School of Architecture. But in microelectronics and other technologies all of the major Virginia universities will face the uniformly high expectations to excel and provide service from Virginia corporate leaders for at least the decade to come.

The Level of Service

Must universities and their faculties respond to every invitation to serve or consult, to take on every problem or pursue every grant? What are the limits on any university? What are useful criteria to discuss the issue of how much is enough?

Derek Bok (1982) who favors more university engagement with real problems nevertheless reminds us that universities differ from other organization in the private sector by holding these core values of:

academic freedom- the right to seek new truths and speak out against error or suppression of data and corruption of any kind, and for faculty the right to design the curriculum free of political or administrative interference.

institutional autonomy- including the right to recruit faculty and students according to their merit and potential, not their financial wealth or political standing or social status.

At the same time, universities must respect their ethical obligations to report findings to all colleagues, rather than withhold some discovery or breakthrough and to treat research subjects with humane care rather than exploit their vulnerability (as has happened with prisoners or elderly persons on occasion).

These values separate universities from consulting firms or for-profit corporations who have little obligation to store or share knowledge with other professionals.

Bok agrees with certain criticisms of universities, especially with regard to:

Faculty members who spend too much time consulting with corporations or government officials (Harvard had a few of those), perhaps neglecting their teaching or student advising or other faculty duties. Most universities limit faculty consulting to one day a week, or suggest a leave of absence for a major project or service to government.

The creation of too many institutes and centers, some of them he dubbed "ventures of doubtful intellectual merit" which clutter the campus and compete unnecessarily with consulting firms.

He proposed criteria for determining whether or not a research or service project is appropriate:

1. Is the university with its libraries and laboratories the best place for this project?

2. Will the project enhance teaching and research, or generate new teaching materials

3. Is there enthusiastic faculty support for the activity?

4. Are we just doing it to fill space and pay some bills? (Bok, 1982)

He reminds university leaders that universities are fishbowls where controversies are normal, and that donors and sponsors can be easily offended by criticism.

The Limits of Corporatization

Corporate grants, contracts and contributions bring wonderful benefits and temptations to the university and to those faculty members, few in number, who invent commercially profitable ideas and products. Corporate-sponsored research began before World War II but flourished from the l950’s on, largely because of scientific and medical discoveries. Subsequently, business encouraged government agencies and the Congress to finance some of the most difficult and expensive research that no one company could afford. So both corporations and federal agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, support university research and scientific development with strong bipartisan support, and the encouragement of industry.

Some of the byproducts become commercially successful. At what point does commercialism and the pursuit of financial gains overtake the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake? Should not universities share in the rewards of research in the form of patents and royalties and license revenue?

Both Bok (1982) and Donald Kennedy (1997) have raised serious questions about how much stock equity a faculty member (or other university employees) should command for his or her intellectual contributions to a corporate entity. This is an issue in medical and biotech products and in electronics where the professor in the university lab may have invented a valve or shunt or procedure that is worth tens of millions of dollars.

Universities as institutions face comparable issues. In some instances, great universities have resolved such conflicts by such as when MIT and Stanford have encouraged affiliated laboratories to spin away as for-profit companies. Universities ought not to be majority owners of for-profit companies; state attorneys-general have cracked down on those that do.

In his Duke University lecture, Bok (1990) deplored questionable arrangements with companies who prohibited collaboration or data-sharing with other researchers or otherwise limited the exchange of information. What is standard in corporations who profit from proprietary information is anathema, totally unacceptable to great academic centers. The total corporatization of universities would ruin the temples of learning that have contributed so much to economic growth by spreading knowledge and discovery rather than hoarding it.

Finally, it should be noted that there is likely to be some risk in corporate partnerships. The sustainablity of corporate contributions is likely to be affected by changes in a corporation’s management or fiscal condition.

Different Schools and Different Contributions

The conventional is wisdom is that certain academic disciplines and certain professional schools have more responsibility and obligation to provide public service than others do.

The AAHE project (1998) describes for each discipline ways in which students and faculty can link community service-learning to the curriculum and syllabus, to course projects and papers. For example, philosophers contribute to business, medical and government ethics training and service projects; professors of art and history develop and implement ideas for museum and public exhibits, a service of the university.

Cross-disciplinary efforts, though not part of the conventional wisdom, often play particularly valuable role in university public service. For example, at the University, the Center for Liberal Arts plays an impressive role in providing elementary and secondary teachers with fresh perspectives on the subjects they teach, a project which has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Graduate and professional schools bear a more profound responsibility to influence professional practice and for the renewal of professional competence. To preserve the status quo in the light of new knowledge and strategies may in fact be unprofessional. Edward H. Levi of the University of Chicago once said "the professional school which sets its course by the current practice of the profession is, in an important sense, a failure." The university role is to help reform, even revolutionize, what professionals do, as in the case of medicine this last century. David Riesman who has studied higher education found "an obvious characteristic...that most of the professional schools of the university are charged with direct responsibility for training professionals in social change." In other words, their role is to stimulate and suggest improvements in the way problems are solved rather than perpetuate the status quo. (Pelikan, 1992)

At this time, the University serves this function in a number of ways. Each of the professional schools plays a leadership role in the state, some more dramatically than others. The University of Virginia Medical and Nursing Schools combine research, instruction, and service in the numerous clinics and centers not only in Albemarle but other counties in the state with fewer medical care resources. Through its reading center, the Curry School of Education offers diagnoses of reading deficiencies, diagnoses learning needs, enriches the lives of the gifted and talented learners, assists minorities (as do all of the schools and several volunteer organizations), and assists the state with critical program evaluations.

The School of Architecture offers a service in negotiating environmental conflicts among developers of land and agencies and abutters concerned about runoff and pollution. The School also recommends sustainable materials for new buildings. Faculty members contribute their time to city and county planning commissions and to the State architectural review board that examines each new public building design. The School of Engineering, in concert with Virginia Tech and others, works to attract microelectronics industries to Virginia and participates in the Virginia MicroElectronics Consortium which contributes to economic growth and development.

Law students, with faculty encouragement, provide legal assistance to the elderly, migrant workers, refugees and those who need help with income tax forms. The business schools provide opportunities for small businesses and minority business enterprises to learn modern practices. Business ethics professors participate in seminars sponsored by the Cooper Center for elected officials.

Does the 1991 faculty senate report pertain today, especially its recommendation for more information and visibility? Evidence is abundant that there is substantial public service provided in and through the University. But University service tends to be a private professional commitment, little noticed by colleagues and rarely recognized or rewarded by the University at large or, indeed, outside the University. The University mission statement is clear, the expertise available, but the celebration deferred.


Chapter 7

University Reporting on Public Service Activity

How do state universities report public service activity or accomplishments to trustees, alumni, elected officials, civic and business leaders or to citizens of their state? How effective are universities in reporting public service within the university family, the academic community itself? What does the University of Virginia report well, or not?

Those who have reviewed the fifty states conclude that very few universities make an impressive effort to tell their various constituencies, external or internal, what services are offered and with what results. "Virtue is its own reward." some would say. "Too low a priority is placed on public service, and this carries over to reporting," others say.

Reporting at the University

The University of Virginia currently prepares and distributes a number of reports about University activities. Many of these note or describe University endeavors which are directly related to public service. However, only a few focus clearly and directly on what the University does for public service. Indeed, there is no report or publication that aggregates the University’s many public service-related activities into one report.

The central publication is the annual report of the President. This is a detailed, vivid report of major accomplishments in every corner of the University from academics to athletics and alumni fundraising, to research and public service leadership. It also contains summaries of the annual audited financial reports of the University.

The report contains examples of activities in which the University has engaged, including public service activities. For example, the current report states clearly that more than one third of the billion dollar university budget is raised for and invested in health science, medical education and hospital services for more than 400,000 patients a year. The University has created a telemedicine capacity to serve low-income patients in underserved regions of the state. The University supports a fifty bed rehabilitation hospital, a cardiac catherization laboratory, a dialysis center, twelve primary care practices, and patient care programs in health care worker safety, transplant surgery, and prostate cancer - among many other research and service programs in medicine and community nursing. This story is told well. It also briefly describes two university business parks, one at North Fork and one at Fontaine Research Park, which are being developed to work collaboratively with Virginia industries. A new Virginia Institute for Microelectronics assists high technology companies with a seed grant from IBM.

The University of Virginia website and home page is a particularly important publication because of its widespread accessibility. Currently, it does not have a specific area for describing public service. A number of public service-related activities and resources are included but are embedded in other listings. For example, there is a list all of the major research and public policy centers including these illustrative programs:

The Institute for Substance Abuse
The Virginia Coastal Reserve Long Term Ecological Research Project
The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service
The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities
The Virginia Museum of Natural History

Each of these centers and many others, with a mixture of state, federal and foundation funding, files annual reports with the University. How best to tally the results, clients successfully served, future activities, etc., and to summarize this information? This is a major economic and social accounting challenge! However, it is one that must be met. The Commonwealth of Virginia appropriates more than $100 million a year and its citizens and elected officials would benefit from a public service accountability report, at least of the highlights. And the University owes it to itself.

Examples of Reporting by Other Universities

The University of Georgia

The University of Georgia (Athens) secured $31 million in grants and contracts for public secured service which, considering its land grant status, is not dramatically higher that that at the University. It is worth noting that the University of Georgia compiles and publishes a document entitled The Public Service and Extension Annual Report each year.

Also, the University of Georgia has built an administrative structure to support public service of which the annual report is simply a scorecard. Each college and professional school within the university has an "outreach director" or "associate dean for outreach" whose tasks include linking the public service mission to academic units including the departments. At the university level, a Vice President for Service aggregates their reports into a comprehensive annual survey.

The New Jersey State System

The State of New Jersey restructured the governance of higher education with a fascinating mixture of decentralization and accountability. The public university and state colleges developed formats by which they would explain to the Governor and legislature exactly what they were doing with state funds and tuition and grants. They tally and describe the students enrolled and the graduates placed each year as major accomplishments. They summarize faculty characteristics including degrees and public service. They describe the economic development and professional services offered within the state or the proximate region of the state in which they were located.

State legislation required new accountability reports by l999 but several of the state colleges created and published clear assessment-oriented documents as early as l995. For example at Stockton State College, two projects were acting on a special mandate for lowlands environmental protection and geothermal energy development and outreach to schools and social service agencies to reduce dependency of illegal substances by improving self-esteem. College officials then prepared an annual report which includes information such as the numbers of individuals served in each locale or county. In return for these vivid reports, the state universities and public colleges asked for a steady and reliable funding base from officials making decisions in Trenton. The street was to be two-way, with public institutions providing much more explicit information about what citizen and professional outputs were produced, in exchange for a steady stream of state appropriations. What is remarkable is how public and private colleges and universities and their presidents and trustees came together to fashion this new covenant between higher education and the State of New Jersey.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Virginia Tech assembles and makes public a very full report on public service and outreach activities. The Virginia Tech Division of Outreach publishes its annual report to the President and places it on the Tech website where it achieves immediate visibility. Tech’s state objective is to be the "leading provider of outreach services" with off-campus graduate and continuing education programs and technical assistance.

The Tech report summarizes the l997-98 activities:

- Six new certificate programs, mainly in Northern Virginia and for technology.
- A ReachOut program offering $7500 grants to forty faculty willing to extend their services (130 applied).
- Revision of the faculty promotion and tenure guidelines "to reflect the scholarlynature of outreach in which activities are planned and evaluated systematically."
- Continuing education programs serving 30,000 individuals.
- A Center for Organizational and Technical Assistance with 12 COTA Fellows (graduate students on fellowship).
- State public service for state agencies that are named.
- Forty-three distance learning courses.
- Publications of brochures and research guides.

The Tech report displays a revealing and constructive agenda for public service that is based on market surveys and assessments of needs. Tech also reports on an effort to benchmark best practices in public service, including a trip to the University of Georgia.

University of Virginia leaders acknowledge that Tech is a willing partner and collaborator with the University of Virginia on a variety of services and outreach activities including continuing education courses. At the same time, Tech competes with the University for students and corporate contracts, and for certain start-up programs to identify start-up funds and venture capital more readily. Both their heightened visibility and their ability to make up-front investments in new projects, facilities and off campus programs are worthy topics for consultation and discussion.

Land grant universities no longer have a monopoly on outreach, if indeed they ever had other than in agricultural extension. Indeed, the University of Virginia record of providing public service and continuing education courses is in many ways comparable to Tech and to any other university.

However, the University’s record in achieving recognition of its public service activities is its weak link. "PR" can very appropriately stand for Performance Recognition, an authentic and detailed description of good works and applied expertise in the service of the state and citizenry. It behooves the University to make its services known and to receive recognition for them.

Moving Forward on Public Service Reporting

In 1991, the University took a formal step to review its service activities. The l99l University of Virginia Faculty Senate report discovered enormous service activity but found "communication to both the University community and the general public" to be lacking. The shortage of publicity "greatly harms the University by perpetuating an untrue picture of an isolated research institution removed from real world problems and solutions." The faculty committee recommended substantially increasing media coverage of service activities in alumni publications, radio and television, and in communications to legislators.

The University Faculty Senate Committee on Service made ten recommendations. Seven focused on increasing visibility of University public service activities:

  • The President and Board of Visitors should issue a formal statement on the value of public service.
  • Deans and department heads should recognize and reward public service by tenured faculty.
  • The University should sponsor a Public Service Awards banquet with media coverage and recognition comparable to outstanding teachers.
  • Establish a clearinghouse for Public Service activities.
  • Engage in communications to area legislators.
  • Announce a decade of Public Service for the University.
  • Create a faculty speakers bureau.

The others recommended the establishment of a three course credit service requirement for undergraduates, increased faculty member service on state boards and studies, and a more vigorous identification with state and local needs.

Each of these strategies or steps remains worthy of consideration or action. What else could be done to acknowledge, report and recognize public service? What has been done well and what could be highlighted more effectively?

Current University Reporting

At this time, the University takes a number of positive steps toward reporting its public service. These include:

  • The President’s Annual Report includes mention of more than dozen major service activities, projects, or special grants. The Medical School and Center pages recite full details about the numbers of patients served and on new capacities to serve the state. On several occasions this report dedicates several pages for reporting public service performed by the University.
  • The creation of a new position Vice President for Research and Public Service with provision for a coordinator of public service for the University.
  • An excellent document entitled University of Virginia Community Guide including information about public access to the many cultural activities and exhibits, medical services, minority programs, services to business, and others.
  • A new pamphlet entitled Public Service and the University of Virginia which provides examples of professional expertise given to governments, services to school systems, cultural offerings to the community, and economic development services
  • Excellent brochures on continuing education, The University and Economic Development, the Gateway projects (greater Charlottesville area), and on the University Research Parks and Foundation.

However, a number of areas could be substantially improved. They include:

The University of Virginia Catalogue is more than a listing of courses. Catalogues remain one of the most important documents distributed by universities. Not only are they scrutinized by students and families prior to decisions to apply or accept admission, they are used as a general source of information about the University by a wide range of interested parties. (The use of university websites has increased enormously but has not replaced hard copy catalogues; viewbooks and campus videos are losing ground.) The current University catalog is devoid of references to public service, while eloquent on the outstanding teaching faculty and research activities. For example, opportunities for students to work as volunteers through Madison House are not mentioned. Service is not a category in the index in the l998-99 catalogue.

The University of Virginia Website includes listings of hospital and medical services as well as all the research centers, but it is not immediately clear which ones (other than the Weldon Cooper Center) engage in public service. The national and state centers are lumped together in a long list with research and public service not clearly identified. (Some offer both but this involves further search.) What is lacking is an early display of public service and outreach activities. Materials by school, such as the School of Nursing, are quite useful but the introduction to service at the University is understated.

Legislators know about selected services and they certainly are invited to seminars and can read newsletters and reports by the several centers for public service and political leadership. Elected officials listen to constituents, among their multiple sources of information. However, there are no substitutes for visits to the University or for face-to-face conversations. Legislators and their staffs are deluged by long reports but need (and read) synopses. Most of all, most officials might appreciate being asked to comment about which services their constituents find useful, or about those services for which faculty members deserve approbation or awards for service.


Chapter 8

The Work of the Commission

The University of Virginia, while protecting its excellent national reputation and preserving the academic village in Charlottesville, must define a response and a strategy for each of the following issues:

1. What is the current mission of the University of Virginia, and how has it changed or expanded in recent years? What is the role of public service now, and what might it be in 2010?

2. Does the university place a proper emphasis on public service? Are structures, rewards or incentives in place to support public service? Are faculty, deans, and others recognized for public service and outreach activities, or might this be done more effectively?

3. What does Virginia expect of the other state universities and of the University of Virginia? What tasks should be shared in a collaborative mode with other state universities and colleges?

4. Which new and emerging trends in science, health, technology and other fields will challenge the University of Virginia to extend its outreach and allocate resources?

5. How will technology transform the delivery of instruction and information to Virginians in the next century, the next decade? The integration of computers and cablevision already prompts other state universities to compete for markets for courses and programs. How much "distance learning" will the University offer?

6. The Continuing Education of adults is a major growth enterprise in Virginia as elsewhere. New programs require start-up funds and entrepreneurial support. What commitments will the University make to compete with other universities? Should the Extension Division be allowed to grant degrees, as was the practice prior to l976?

7. How should the university transfer technology and otherwise support economic development, through research parks and elsewhere? What organizational structure is needed for the review of patents, licenses, copyrights and royalty agreements? What mix of educational and financial benefits might be expected?

8. Can services to legislators and the Governor’s office be improved, along with assistance to local and county governments?

9. Can public service become a larger part of corporate, alumni and foundation fund-raising?

10. What services might be financed by federal and state grants and contracts beyond the current projects?

11. What policies, structures and mechanisms should the University adopt to fulfill properly a state leadership role in providing services and outreach?

12. What types of reporting and visibility would be appropriate to the local community (both academic and county), to the region and to state officials and councils?

A university created to prepare citizens for public responsibilities has been given a new chance to define the role of service for the next century.

Possible Steps for the Commission

The Commission will have broad latitude to conduct its work, as it deems appropriate.

However, certain decisions made early in the process will tend to increase the likelihood of a productive and useful final report. How might the Commission organize its time effectively and use the resources both of the University and Commonwealth to address the issues of public service?

1. The University of Virginia is a very large and complex entity. Many public service projects are carried out each month by faculty, staff and students. Digests and lists of the major activities by each school as well as all-university projects and services would be very helpful. Much of this material may be in annual reports submitted by each dean.

2. The University faculty play a major role in identifying and responding to new needs for service, and may be among the first to point out possibilities for a different recognition and reporting structure.

3. University students themselves, both undergraduate and graduate, who have engaged in internships or community service or other clinical experiences, could offer valuable insights about the contribution of service to their own education as future leaders of the Commonwealth.

4. Commission members together or in small groups might visit the university research parks, the health and medical centers, and perhaps the coastal project, to evaluate the relationship of research to public service.

5. The Commission might meet two days in Richmond to listen to elected state officials, heads of agencies, the State Council on Higher Education, and the state associations most committed to improving the state economic climate or advancing the several professions. The Cooper Center for Public Service could assist with these meetings.

6. The University belongs to national associations that will issue further reports and advice, specifically the American Council on Education, the American Association of Higher Education, the Association of Governing Boards and the several associations of state universities. Their leaders could respond to questions put forth by the Commission.

7. Alumni, donors, foundation and federal officials all have important perceptions of the public service role and about what mix of national and state service makes sense.

8. The Commission will need enough time to discuss the issues, the challenges, the opportunities, as well as the limits on university engagement in public service and outreach. Although additional needs for service will be identified, the commission must discuss the most important priorities and seek a working consensus as to what is (or is not) feasible and what sources of funds might be appropriately pursued.

9. Finally, the Commission must discuss the policies it would recommend to the faculty, the president and Board of Visitors, and possibly the Commonwealth, including ways to communicate with important audiences.

Resource persons for the commission should include the chief financial officer and senior development staff along with others who know the possibilities for continued or new funding of public service activities.

The issues of public service and outreach promise to be even more important in the twenty-first century than in the decades past and command the most serious attention.




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