Weaving civic engagement and service learning even more thoroughly into the fabric of Bucknell's culture is the goal of Professor Coralynn Davis, women's & gender studies, who was recently appointed the University's first faculty director for academic civic engagement.
In her new role, Davis will help academic departments integrate civic engagement more fully into their curricula. She will also work to ensure that faculty who teach service-learning courses or undertake community-based research are recognized and supported.
"I've been involved with civic engagement throughout my career," said Davis, who has taught service-learning and community-based learning courses on campus and abroad, participated in service trips with students and conducted community-based research. "The directorship is a very good fit for my interests and experience."
The position's creation is related to Bucknell's recently renewed and expanded commitments to the Office of Civic Engagement and the Campus Compact, a coalition formed in the 1980s to encourage universities to prioritize public service as part of their educational missions. This fall, Bucknell President John Bravman joined more than 450 university presidents and chancellors who have signed a Campus Compact 30th Anniversary Action Statement, which pledges participating universities to take more steps to promote courses and programming that emphasize the importance of civic engagement to a functioning democracy.
"Ultimately, my goal is to help Bucknell become a place where civic engagement is embedded in all aspects of the University, from curricula and research to Greek life and housing," said Davis, who is helping lead a new University task force charged with creating a civic-engagement action plan. "This planning process will allow us to engage in deep reflection about Bucknell's impact on the local community and the global stage."
Supporting Faculty-Community Partnerships
Davis said she understands the challenges faculty face when developing and implementing community-based learning courses. Her class Women and the Penal System, which brings together Bucknell students and inmates at the State Correctional Institution in Muncy for collaborative learning, required extensive cooperation with prison administrators and inmates.
"It took me years to understand how to connect smoothly with the institution so our presence there was beneficial to everyone," she said. "Doing that type of work takes a lot of effort, and one of my tasks will be to examine how we can best support faculty who undertake projects that involve similar community partners."
Provost Barbara Altmann said creating the directorship was a key step toward fulfilling the University's pledge to combat growing challenges to civil discourse, widening economic divides and worsening environmental issues.
"Universities have an increasing mandate to prepare students for lives of active, informed public service," Altmann said. "Coralynn's appointment allows us to integrate civic engagement more thoroughly into our students' academic experiences. Furthermore, by signing the Campus Compact, establishing our own action plan and placing a greater emphasis on civic engagement across the curriculum, Bucknell is building upon its strong tradition of developing students who are academic and professional leaders, but also forces for change in their communities and the world."
A Global Perspective
Georgina Dodge, associate provost for diversity, equity & inclusion, said Davis is uniquely suited for the new post.
"During her 18 years at Bucknell, Coralynn has earned a reputation for thinking critically about cultural differences and identities," said Dodge, who oversees the Office of Civic Engagement. "She has experience with student civic engagement both locally and internationally, and she approaches that work with professional sensitivity and awareness."
Davis, whose research focuses on marginalized female storytellers in a border region of Nepal and India, said she looks forward to deepening the University's engagement with social, political, economic and environmental issues on the local, national and global levels.
"My energy lies in being engaged in real-world issues and connecting with people outside of the University," Davis said, adding that Bucknell already supports initiatives such as the Bucknell Brigade, the Grand Challenges Scholars Program and the Shepherd Internship Program, all of which promote civic involvement. "We have so many resources. Now we need to ask ourselves how we can best engage responsibly with people who have fewer means."