ContentsContext of the Institution
Key Findings by Dimension
Alignment with Institutional Mission.
II. Faculty Support for and Involvement in Community Engagement
III. Student Support for and Involvement in Community Engagement
IV. Community Participation and Partnerships
Community Partner Awareness.
Community Partner Voice and Leadership.
Forward with Integrity
Barriers and Recommendations.
Moving Forward: Top Recommendations
Forward with Integrity
Running head: McMASTER UNIVERSITY ASSESSMENT
Community Engagement Assessment: McMaster University, Ontario, Canada
Abdul M. Omari
Kinh T. Vu
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Table of Contents
3 Context of the Institution
6 Key Findings by Dimension
6 I. Philosophy and Mission of Community Engagement
10 II. Faculty Support for and Involvement in Community Engagement
14 III. Student Support for and Involvement in Community Engagement
18 IV. Community Participation and Partnerships
23 V. Institutional Support for Community Engagement
28 Moving Forward: Top Recommendations
29 Assessment Limitations
33 Summary Ratings
34 A. Summary Ratings and The Assessment Rubric
40 B. McMaster University Community Engagement Taskforce
42 C. Selected Resources
46 D. Question/Interview Protocol by Dimension
51 E. Team Members from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
Community Engagement Assessment: McMaster University, Ontario, Canada
In a letter to the McMaster community entitled Forward with Integrity (2011), recently appointed President and Vice Chancellor Dr. Patrick Deane outlined four main priorities for the university that include the student experience, community engagement, research, and internationalization. This report focuses on the community engagement aspect. Deane created a Community Engagement Taskforce to address the community engagement priority. The taskforce was asked to consider how they define community engagement and put forward priorities and recommendations for its advancement.
Four University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development graduate students conducted the external assessment in partnership with the Associate Vice President for Public Engagement, Andrew Furco. The assessment is part of the course Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development 5080: Public Engagement and Higher Education. Members of the assessment team include Heather Mendygral, Abdul M. Omari, Jennifer Trost, and Kinh T. Vu. This report includes key findings to support McMaster’s ongoing efforts to become a more publicly engaged institution through integrated teaching and learning within the community of Hamilton and the region at large.
McMaster University is located in Hamilton, Ontario. The City of Hamilton is on Lake Ontario and is approximately 70 kilometers south of Toronto and north of the United States. Hamilton is the fourth largest city in Ontario, and the ninth largest city in Canada. The Statistics Canada website reports that the 2006 census of the Canadian population found the total population of Hamilton is 504,559 with a median age of 39.6 years. The Hamilton population is mostly made up of English speaking Canadian citizens, although some residents only speak French. According to the census, the employment rate in Hamilton is 60.4 and unemployment is 6.5, which are in line with Ontario. The median income of Hamilton residents in 2005 was 26,353 Canadian Dollars (CAD), which is slightly lower than the province. Additionally, the percent of the population considered low income is 18.1 in Hamilton compared to 14.7 in Ontario. The main industries are manufacturing, business and other services, retail, and health care.
McMaster University, a research university, was founded in 1887. It moved to Hamilton in 1930. The University has 300 acres of property with 30 acres in the central core. There are several other higher education institutions in close proximity to McMaster University. The Ontario Ministry of Education website lists 23 publicly funded and 17 privately funded universities in Ontario. There are also 18 publicly funded colleges in Southern Ontario where McMaster is located. According to the McMaster Office of Public Relations website, during the 2009-2010 academic year there were 21,173 undergraduate students and 3,025 graduate students enrolled full time at the University. There are 894 full-time instructional faculty members at McMaster, and 96.7 percent of faculty holds a Ph.D. The Office of Public Relations website also states that the institution is one of the top 100 universities in the world. McMaster ranks first in the country in research intensity based on a measure of research income per full-time faculty member, and has a total sponsored research income of $345 million.
The Assessment Rubric for Institutionalizing Community Engagement in Higher Education, a five-dimension assessment tool that uses a nine-point scale in 22 categories, was utilized to determine the degree to which each category of community engagement has been institutionalized (Furco, Weerts, Burton, & Kent, 2009). The dimensions are listed below.
Each team member selected one or two dimensions from the rubric and collected data using 15 preliminary and 18 follow-up interviews either in person or via telephone or Skype. Additional materials included attendance at a taskforce meeting (March 12, 2012), online publications and resources, Forward with Integrity (2011) and Refining Directions (2003), and a visit to McMaster University by Dr. Furco. Team members rated the categories based on the collected data. Analyses were divided among assessors and collectively reviewed for consistency and triangulation.
In the following report, ratings (1-9) are noted at the end of each category within dimensions. Each category is scored on a nine-point scale and falls into one of three statuses; critical mass building (1-3), quality building (4-6), and sustained institutionalization (7-9). Refer to Appendix A for rubric language.
I. Philosophy and Mission of Community Engagement
The assessment of McMaster University’s development of a definition, philosophy, and mission of community engagement was completed by reviewing McMaster’s strategic plan and vision documents, ^ (2003) and Forward with Integrity (2011). Several interviews were conducted with McMaster personnel, Community Engagement Taskforce members, and university administrators. The assessment team also participated in a conference call during a taskforce meeting.
Definition of Community Engagement. Over the past several months, the taskforce has developed a definition and mission for community engagement at McMaster. According to interviews with taskforce members and discussions in the taskforce meeting, this is the first proposed definition of community engagement, and there has not been a definition in the past. However, the definition is not yet a formal institution-wide definition. Members of the Community Engagement Taskforce provided our assessment team with the following definition of community engagement that the group recently developed:
McMaster University is a committed member of the greater Hamilton community and broader society and recognizes that true excellence can only be achieved when we are working together with our community partners. We are mindful of the interconnectedness of our globalized world. We value community and public engagement that is mutually beneficial, supports our academic, research, service, and civic outreach missions, and collaboratively leads to meaningful outcomes and sustained actions and relationships. Regardless of the discipline, graduates of McMaster will be citizens engaged in multiple communities (academic, geographic, economic, global) in multiple ways, but we recognize that our relationships within the community we call home are paramount to supporting the vitality and well being of the greater Hamilton area.
Community engagement is not yet a consistent and distinct entity at McMaster. Though the taskforce has developed a definition for community engagement, it is not currently a formal, university wide definition. Therefore, McMaster is at the high end of the critical mass building stage on the rubric. [rating = 3]
Strategic Planning. Similar to the previous category, the taskforce for community engagement has developed a set of principles and goals, however these goals are not yet institutionalized. Members of the taskforce provided the assessment team with recently developed principles and goals for community engagement that include a link with academic, research, and teaching priorities; link to hiring and reward structures; create an inventory of best practices on campus; and offer opportunities that are mutually beneficial to students and the community. See Appendix B for the full list of principles. The taskforce has created goals for community engagement; however, these goals are described by members as “a work in progress,” and are not currently included in an official strategic plan for the university. The university is at the low end of the quality building stage of the rubric. [rating = 4]
^ Community engagement is discussed as an important part of McMaster’s mission in documents such as Refining Directions (2003) and Forward with Integrity (2011). President Patrick Deane states in his letter to the McMaster community titled Forward with Integrity (2011), “In committing ourselves to a heightened level of community engagement, we therefore commit ourselves unequivocally in the future to even greater achievements in research, which will be supported and advanced by adherence to the principles and priorities laid out in this document” (p. 9). Deane also expresses, “… we need to integrate it [community engagement] fully and meaningfully into the work of the academy …” (p. 8).
The McMaster strategic plan published in 2003, ^ , includes several goals and success factors. The strategic plan discusses community; however, it is mostly referred to as the internal university community. The authors of the strategic plan state, “The concept of a McMaster community, or the village atmosphere of campus, is ingrained in the University’s culture … A strong sense of community is essential for achieving excellence in learning and research, and this excellence in turn generates pride in being members of the McMaster family” (p. 5). The plan later presents information about the need for a good relationship with the city of Hamilton. The authors state, “A strong residential and business community in West Hamilton benefits the university. Relationships, communications, and support for community issues that have been established in recent years need to be strengthened and maintained” (p. 7).
Engagement is not a central part of the official institutional mission. There is one sentence in the official mission that includes aspects of service and public outreach, however it is not overtly related to community engagement: “We serve the social, cultural, and economic needs of our community and our society.” Community engagement is an increasingly important priority for McMaster; yet, the official institutional mission does not yet reflect this new emphasis. McMaster has achieved the middle of the quality building stage. [rating = 5]
Alignment with Educational Reform Efforts. President Deane and the community engagement taskforce have written plans to align community engagement activities with research and teaching priorities. Interviews with faculty members and a review of McMaster websites indicate that several individuals are already participating in community research projects and service learning courses. Currently there is no complete set of data that shows the total amount of community engagement work being done or in what ways it supports the research and teaching mission of McMaster. Clearly President Deane and the Community Engagement Taskforce are working on initiatives to align community engagement with the university’s academic mission. With new initiatives on the horizon, McMaster is going in a positive direction toward institutionalization. McMaster is currently in the quality building stage for this category. [rating = 5]
Barriers and Recommendations. The taskforce acknowledged that there are multiple perceptions throughout the university about the purpose of community engagement. Though importance of community engagement is discussed in several McMaster documents, it is not a focus in the institutional mission. According to several interviewees, there is no data about what types of community engagement McMaster is already participating in and how community engagement could be improved and strengthened. The following recommendations would help to strengthen community engagement related to the philosophy and mission of the institution.
For this assessment, interviews were conducted with deans of all the faculties on campus (Business, Engineering, Health Sciences, Humanities, Science and Social Sciences). In addition, interviews with engaged professors were conducted. From these interviews and extensive research of institutional documents, it is clear that faculty support and involvement with community engagement is varied in design, yet concentrated by discipline. Faculty involvement is a definite area for growth with the community engagement initiative.
Faculty Knowledge and Awareness. There is not a clear understanding of the difference between community engagement and outreach activities within the McMaster faculty community that were interviewed. While all interactions with the community are important there is not an awareness of the purpose of community engagement and how it can be used as a strategy to improve scholarly work. Additionally, only two interviewees spoke to a mutually beneficial relationship, which is paramount to the definition of community engagement (Glassick,1999). The remaining interviewees spoke about outreach as community engaged work; for example, working with groups of high school students, providing shows or experiments to the community, sitting on committees as experts or hosting competitions. Community engagement is often perceived by the McMaster faculty as something that is part of specific disciplines or faculties rather than a tool to be used for reaching institutional goals.
Faculty and administrators spoke about how faculty did this type of work outside their positions for their own intrinsic motivation or value – that the work being done was not an intentional and embedded piece of their scholarship. One dean referred only to the benefits McMaster would receive for doing more community engagement, such as showing the University as good financial stewards, increasing visibility and credibility, and using it to support the institution through funding and expansion initiatives. This is a very different understanding of community engagement than some of the other deans who were interviewed. Due to a lack of uniformity in understanding community engagement versus simply conducting outreach, McMaster University is at the high end of critical mass building. [rating = 3].
Faculty Involvement and Support. An undetermined amount of McMaster faculty members are involved with the larger community (locally, nationally, and globally). According to the interviews conducted and review of McMaster and Hamilton websites faculty are involved in the following ways: membership on committees or advisory boards, providing opportunities for students to learn real world applications (i.e., field placements, internships, practicums) or using the “community as a lab.” However, what was repeatedly indicated is that there is no widespread understanding of who is doing this kind of work, how people are doing it, why they are doing it and what benefits it is having in the University community. One faculty member indicated that, “Involvement with the community is one of McMaster’s best kept secrets.” This sentiment, though not explicitly stated, was implied by each interviewee. However, what was communicated is community involvement was more widespread than originally thought; though no one wanted to venture a guess as to what percentage of the faculty were involved.
According the interviews with deans, faculty, and staff, there is currently no coordinated effort to infuse community engagement into the academic programs and scholarly work. There are few advocates for the advancement of community engagement as most faculty have been driven to this work by their own intrinsic motivation and therefore have not intentionally thought of raising the profile of this work as a tool to reach other institutional goals. McMaster is moving through the quality building stage. [rating = 4]
Faculty Leadership. In the interviews, faculty was asked about which faculty were involved with community engaged work and if any of them were considered star faculty, those who are well regarded locally, nationally, and internationally. Each time this question was asked the answer was the same, “I don’t know.” Either they are not able to identify highly influential faculty or those who are perceived as highly influential are not doing community engaged work or which is much more likely, are not broadcasting their involvement with community engaged work. Faculty involvement and leadership is paramount to creating a sustainable and institutionalized environment (Plater, 1999). As one faculty member reflected, “Junior faculty are more interested in this. The more senior guys don’t see it as part of the package.” Yet, it is the more senior faculty members who are more likely to be influential and well known within McMaster, and their discipline-based communities worldwide. Currently, McMaster does not have the necessary professors involved and advocating for community engaged work to make it a sustainable initiative. They are at the middle of the critical mass building stage. [rating = 2].
Faculty Incentives and Rewards. After interviews with faculty members and deans it is clear there are little to no incentives for the majority of faculty to begin, pursue, or continue community engaged work. Currently, the support of this work depends on whether or not the department administrator (chair or dean or perhaps both) is a champion of this type of work. If administrators support the work, then it will be included in the promotion process. Otherwise, engagement activities are overlooked. This type of reward system is not institutionalized and the faculty does not feel supported by McMaster to do this work.
Financial assistance for the projects and professional development opportunities is not taking place at McMaster. Interviews with faculty members who have created substantial projects or centers acknowledged that it is very difficult to maintain and is a “labor of love,” because the fight for financial support and personnel is so arduous. These faculty members tend to be responsible for all aspects of the work: fundraising, evaluation and logistics, without reward. McMaster is at the middle of the critical mass building stage. [rating = 2].
Barriers and Recommendations. Interviewees referenced numerous barriers with regard to implementing community engagement from the faculty perspective. The main barriers identified were a lack of knowledge on how to begin community engagement, unsure of who is implementing best practices, no incentive to consider the work, and a lack of funding to support the efforts. These recommendations should be considered to create a more engaged faculty.
The student dimension focuses on four categories including student awareness of community engagement, opportunities to participate in service-learning, leadership options, and incentives or rewards. Interviewees included students, program leaders, faculty, and community members.
^ There are many community engagement initiatives at McMaster University, and students are aware of service-learning opportunities. Whether they learn about service-learning through numerous engaged course offerings or volunteerism through the Student Success Centre, students can begin to serve through McMaster-hosted programs. For example, MacWheelers volunteers begin as one-year experiences; oftentimes, students stay for the remainder of their college programs. In the Student Success Centre, an non-academic office, MacServe does not have full saturation, because not all students are aware of the program that provides students with experiences to engage with the communities either locally or globally. A student who participates in MacServe programs noted that she believes students in their first year become acquainted with the Student Success Centre; no indication, however, is given whether or not students learn about service-learning opportunities. McMaster appears to be in the middle of quality building in the student awareness category. [rating = 5]
^ Academic opportunities to participate in service-learning are strongest in the humanities and social sciences according to one student who believes that the farther away from those faculties one gets, the less likely one is to be involved in a service-learning course (such as in a science-based faculty). However, that is not always the case given the extensive work by the Department of Kinesiology to involve students in the lives of spinal cord patients.
Other opportunities to participate in service-learning are offered under the auspices of Student Affairs and the Student Success Centre; however, not all opportunities are considered “academic” since participating students may not receive course credit or recognition on their transcripts for engagement work. Adam Kuhn, program manager for Community Service-Learning, works to promote students’ awareness of community through the MacServe programs: Day of Service, Reading Week, Global, and Course-based Learning. Each program provides McMaster students with opportunities to work and learn in communities outside the university’s borders. During this year’s MacServe Day of Service in September, 200-300 students participated in half-day community-based projects in Hamilton, towns where alumni live, and in a satellite location near Toronto. Over 100 students participated in MacServe Reading Week service-learning trips to one of four locations: Hamilton, Ontario; Vancouver, British Colombia; New Orleans, United States; and Cuernavaca, Mexico. The largest group consisting of approximately 53 people traveled to New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) to continue construction efforts following Hurricane Katrina. A smaller group of 14 students worked with two families to build homes in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Two students, Shelly and Mark (aliases), participated in interviews regarding their excursions to New Orleans and Cuernavaca respectively. Shelly has participated in two Mac Serve Reading Week trips; New Orleans gave her a way to serve as an Assistant Team Leader (ATL) with a large group of students participating in an international trip to a new community served by McMaster. Mark was interested in Cuernavaca, since he had traveled there last year. Mexico, as it turns out, was his first experience leaving Canada in 2010. During this year’s trip, he served as an ATL with a group of 12 or 13 others. He chose Mexico a second time having felt that he did not get enough out of his first experience. Student opportunities are becoming more visible, but might need to be promoted to the broader undergraduate and graduate populations. [rating = 5]
^ McMaster students appear to have leadership positions for which they can apply. The data indicate that MacWheeler volunteers and MacServe participants both have leadership opportunities. One program volunteer worked her way up the student-level ranks from Wheelers program volunteer to staff member. Mentioned earlier, Shelly and Mark both served as ATLs during this years MacServe Reading Week trips. Based on interview and website data, leadership opportunities are high in the quality building category. [rating = 6]
Student Incentives and Rewards. With the exception of an award for Student Success Leader of Distinction, other rewards are not explicated anywhere in the data collected for this project. However, academic and social benefits to students are evident. On the whole, faculty believe that the community engagement aspect sticks with students long after they leave. Though rewards are primarily intrinsic, a very good thing, indeed, some form of extrinsic rewards should be provided to incentivize service-learning among students. [rating = 4]
Barriers and Recommendations. Participants note that community engagement needs to be integrated into the mission of the university. One interviewee posed two questions: What does community engagement mean and should students enroll in a mandatory course that teaches about engagement? Though community engagement occurs locally and globally, engagement is perceived as an add-on. Engagement activities might be part of one’s research; however, according to one participant, it can’t be carried there forever. The larger issue, hence, centers on integration techniques whereby research is tied to community programs.
In order to assess McMaster’s community participation and partnerships a number of interviews were conducted with program representatives, program participants, and faculty that are involved in community engagement projects. The projects and programs have been underway for a number of years and would be considered long-time partnerships with the university. In addition to interviews, research was conducted using the McMaster main website as well as program literature.
^ A key component of community engagement is community awareness of an institution’s engagement mission (McDowell, 2002). In order to accomplish the Community Partner and Voice component of engagement (see below) it is imperative that awareness is built. McMaster University has clearly made a statement that engagement and service to the community should be a core principle by acknowledging, “… an obligation to serve the greater good of our community—locally, nationally, and globally (Deane, 2011, p. 5). However, the community is not aware of these efforts.
An overarching theme that was brought up during interviews is the inaccessibility to McMaster. It is apparent that this barrier is both physical and intangible. The geography of McMaster as it relates to the city of Hamilton creates a clear distinction between affiliates of the university and the community. Because of the physical barrier, according to one neighborhood participant, community members are often deterred from using facilities or entering the campus grounds unless they are visiting the hospital. Another physical barrier is accessing and using McMaster room and office space. There are also intangible difficulties that need to be overcome.
The intangible difficulties experienced by community members interviewed include things like using university email domains, technological resources, and accessibility of personnel. For example, one community partner explained the process to obtain a McMaster email domain and its longevity, even though physical space had been granted to the organization and McMaster students made up the majority of its volunteers. One interviewee noted that another organization that has a long relationship with McMaster and was founded by a McMaster faculty member in the early 2000s does not have a website due to a lack of funding. These physical and intangible limitations highlight some shortcomings at McMaster and place the institution at the high end of the critical mass building status. [rating = 3]
Mutual Understanding. The mutual understanding component of the assessment rubric refers to the dual knowledge of institutional and community goals. More specifically, mutual understanding is at its best when McMaster is precisely aware of community needs, timelines, resources, and capacities for engaged activities. On the other hand, community representatives are aware of McMaster’s needs, timelines, resources, and capacities for engagement activities. Of course, this component is significantly tied to the first component in that awareness will help facilitate mutual understanding. While there is a lot that must be done to reach full potential, there are signs of increasing mutual understanding.
As previously mentioned, geographical barriers are apparent that separate McMaster from the rest of Hamilton. Community attendance increases when meetings are held off of campus, noted one community participant, but there are few incentives and resources for community agencies to attend such meetings if they do not directly impact or benefit the agency. In addition, two of the program representatives that were interviewed use space on McMaster’s campus. The size of programs and length of time that programs have been in McMaster space varies greatly. Community programs that have space on campus have the opportunity to market to the university and recruit students, staff, and faculty, while also spreading positive outcomes and the importance of engagement work to the rest of the campus. It is worth noting that one of the programs was granted space on campus because the dean of one of the colleges found the project to be important, thus showing that this program and engagement are not institution-wide initiatives. Even with this shortcoming there are other initiatives that provide positive insight for the future.
McMaster University has a Community Poverty initiative that spans the institution and brings many community representatives and university affiliates together. The initiative started at the university level in response to poverty differences in communities within Hamilton. One member of the steering committee noted that there are positives and negatives when it comes to engagement, because “[t]he initiative spreads across Mac.” The interviewee also mentioned that, “It has been hard to bridge the community.” This shows the complex dynamics of working with community rather than for or using the community.
In addition to interviewing program administrators and community representatives, program participants were interviewed. It is clear from these interviews that there is little to no understanding of the university goals and initiatives. Moreover, the participants displayed significant loyalty and love for their program but did not refer to it as a part of the university. Participants give most of the credit to the McMaster professor that started and has spear headed the program since its inception as noted by two program administrators.
In summary, mutual understanding is increasing, particularly for the two programs that have been discussed at length. Positive factors include providing physical space for programs and increasing visibility in the community by holding meetings off campus. McMaster’s mutual understanding is in the early stages of quality building. [rating =4]
^ This component of the assessment is primarily concerned with opportunities for community representatives to take on leadership roles in advancing engagement at the university. In addition, agenda setting is implied in this component. McMaster’s recent Community Engagement Taskforce includes community members, which is a step in the right direction for including community members and allowing a space for them to be involved with university initiatives and agenda mapping. Historically, however, university affiliates or community members and representatives have not led agenda setting initiatives in conjunction with one another.
Interviews quickly illustrate the history of community engagement initiatives and it is evident that there are engagement champions from the university that influence programs. For example, the MacWheelers program is a wonderful example of a program that has mutual benefits to the university and the community. When the program began it was spear headed by a McMaster professor that conducted a study and then led to the successful implementation of a spinal cord facility that has grown over the last decade. Since then, MacWheelers has done well adapting to needs of the community and involving the community in its agenda setting. Moreover, in response to a media publication about poverty, university officials started the Community Poverty initiative. As noted, this program continues to struggle to include the greater community. Another program, Student Open Circles, began off campus as a charity organization but has heavy involvement from McMaster student volunteers. Until recently, most McMaster staff and faculty were unaware of the program and the benefits it provides. Student Open Circles now has space on campus and is beginning to become more intertwined with the university.
This component also shows promise for the future. The important thing to consider when doing engagement is to have community involvement at the inception of programs. The programs above are attempting to adapt to the community needs, but adaptation came after the programs were underway. Ideally, the community will be involved in the entire process to ensure that initiatives are truly meeting the needs and are mutually beneficial for both McMaster and the community. As programs continue to move forward and new programs are developed, MacWheelers and Student Open Circles are great reference points. MacWheelers is the quintessential program that exhibits and provides mutual benefits to the community and the university, particularly its students. Student Open Circles has gone to great length to involve McMaster and breach the geographical barrier that often causes discrepancies between the community and McMaster.
McMaster lies in the critical mass building stage of community partner voice and leadership. The primary reason is that McMaster has not exhibited significant partnering with community when programs are being formed but has adapted during the tenure of programs. [rating = 3]
Barriers and Recommendations. While there are many barriers to community engagement the assessment team found that the three primary barriers for Community Participation and Partnerships are mutual agenda setting, lack of resources, and community awareness. The following recommendations are provided to overcome these barriers.