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Public Service and Outreach Planning Commission Notes (Expanded)

February 10, 1999

The first meeting of the Public Service and Outreach Planning Commission was held February 10, 1999, from 8:30 – 10:00 a.m. in Newcomb Hall Room 389.


Rebecca Kneedler (chair), Richard DeMong, John Echeverri-Gent, Caroline Englehard, Doris Glick, Robert Hull, David Kalergis, Edmund Kitch, Mark Reisler, Kenneth Schwartz, Sondra Stallard, John Thomas, Karin Wittenborg, Ben Boggs, Virginia Collins, Laura Hawthorne, Denise Karaoli, Dolly Prenzel, and Nancy Nicoletto Rivers.


Rebecca Kneedler opened the meeting with brief comments, explaining that her challenge as the chair is to use talents of the commission members in ways that are strategic and smart to accomplish the work that needs to be done, especially given the huge task of defining public service and outreach at the University of Virginia. Ms. Kneedler introduced three ad hoc members of the commission: Dolly Prenzel, newly named director of community relations; Laura Hawthorne, newly named coordinator of public service programs; and Nancy Nicoletto Rivers, director of state governmental relations/assistant to the vice president for management and budget. Additional ad hoc members will be named as the work of the Commission progresses. Gene Block, vice president for research and public service, will also be a key player in this commission’s work.

Following introductions of each member, Ms. Kneedler reviewed the commission’s charges and tasks as part of Virginia 2020: Agenda for the Third Century, the far-reaching effort launched last year by President Casteen to envision and plan for the University’s future. Building excellence in four areas – the fine and performing arts; international activities; public service and outreach; and science and technology – is the goal of Virginia 2020. The commissions’ work, to be completed in the next 18 to 24 months, will provide a blueprint for developing the programs and future fund raising in support of these areas at the University.

 Ms. Kneedler outlined three charges for the PS&O Commission:

    1. Inventory – Determine what the University already is doing in the area of PS&O, and seek further avenues for publicity and visibility.
    2. Benchmarks and Aspiration Groups – Assess what other institutions are doing in the area of PS&O, and identify relevant models for the University of Virginia.
    3. Recommendations – Forward to President Casteen and the cabinet recommendations to guide the University’s future directions in public service. The report will include new, perhaps even radical, ideas for advancing the University and will suggest priorities and timelines for implementation, including strategies for making investments in current and new programs.

Ms. Kneedler asked the commission members to read two documents found in a packet of materials distributed to each member and available on the Commission’s web page. The first document, summarizing comments she made at a meeting of the University’s senior leadership on December 15, 1998, outlines the formation of the commission and auxiliary groups and lists major tasks. The second document, "Public Service and the University of Virginia," is a report prepared by Joseph M. Cronin and Jane Sjogren as a result of Mr. Cronin’s interviews with faculty and staff last fall. Members are to read the report before the commission’s next meeting on February 24, at which Mr. Cronin and Ms. Sjogren will be present to lead the discussion.

Ms. Kneedler also referred to a third document, "Report of the Faculty Senate Task Force Committee on the Faculty’s Role in Performing Service," a November 1991 report that provides historical context for the commission as it begins its work. With the exception of technology issues, many of the issues covered in the report remain viable today. This report also was provided in the distributed materials and is available on the web page.

With these three documents as a starting point, Ms. Kneedler and commission members joined in lively and substantive discussion that resulted in a number of questions and points being raised. Among them were:

  • How much support is there among deans, schools, etc. for public service? We talk about teaching and research, but when we recruit new faculty, what value is placed on public service? Junior faculty generally feel that public service is avocational. Post-tenure charges may be important for U.Va.
  • Need to distinguish between public service and public relations.
  • Role of technology in PS&O. Technology affects all the commissions and will be a critical element in planning for the future.
  • Biggest challenge for U.Va. = creating strategies for greater communication and publicity opportunities. Our reputation is shaped sometimes by unfair, incomplete, or inaccurate information.
  • Question whether communications is truly the central priority for PS&O. Perhaps new directions should be more of a centerpiece, along with figuring out what is the mission of the University for the next few decades.
  • Example of outreach program that UVA might consider: Duke University’s Learning in Retirement program for seniors. Strong interest and demands from community for continuing education programs of all kinds. Questions become: What can we accomplish? What is part of our central mission? How can we do it?
  • Should certain aspects of PS&O be subsidized?
  • Funding will be the key to not having this become another shelved document.
  • Discussions already have proposed that commissions’ recommendations will form basis for next capital campaign. Unrestricted funds in current campaign may provide some limited funding on more immediate basis.
  • Defining public service by what it is not: not volunteer work, advising, serving in professional organizations. If one agrees, then that leaves definition to be bringing professional experience/expertise to an arena that currently does not have access to such experience and expertise.
  • Perhaps the definition also needs to have the name of U.Va. attached to what is being provided.
  • In School of Nursing, service is lens that is put on the teaching and research. In process of doing that, service is provided.
  • Voluntary efforts by definition should not be excluded.
  • When conducing an inventory of public service activities in the School of Medicine, debate ensued of whether to include volunteer efforts. Decided that public service had to be defined as providing expertise in an arena that is outside your normal job.
  • Perhaps key question in arriving at definition: is the activity University sanctioned and deliberately planned to enhance the intellectual, social, or economic health and well being of a community or a group or subset of a community? Such a definition would draw a distinction between institutional and individual efforts.
  • What about paid consulting jobs that are part of faculty research but also have public service dimension? Excluding anything compensated does not make sense.
  • Is our standing as No. 1 public university due to our PS&O efforts? One answer: not likely. When we tied with Berkeley this past year, it had nothing to do with PS&O but instead was due to strength of sponsored programs, endowment, selectivity of admissions, etc.
  • Are we trying to improve education? Or are we trying to improve economic well being?
  • Suggestion to create categories of PS&O, including activities that are compensated and driven by the individual, not the institution.
  • Need to consider mutual benefits. For example, service learning centers are public service but also offer faculty the appeal and benefit of acquiring practical experience.
  • To some extent, businesses choose to locate in the Commonwealth because they see the benefit that exists here. Decision-makers know the intellectual reputation of U.Va.
  • Another possible definition of PS&O: "Maximizing relevance or benefit of research and education programs to the community."

 At the end of discussion, Ms. Kneedler asked commission members to continue thinking about a definition of public service and outreach, with the goal of determining parameters for a definition at the next meeting. Also, she reminded everyone to read the report, "Public Service and the University of Virginia," by Joseph M. Cronin and Jane Sjogren. Mr. Cronin and Ms. Sjogren will make a presentation at the commission’s next meeting scheduled for Wednesday, February 24, 1999, at 8:30 a.m. in Newcomb Hall Room 389.


Prepared by:
Virginia C. Collins

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