History & Explanation of UNCSA's Vision for ESP

At the time we were considering rank for Faculty members at UNCSA, those of us on Faculty Council, in the Provost’s Office, and on the team that went to be trained by the educational experts at Western Carolina University[i] in the new model of the professoriate created by Ernest L. Boyer, faced philosophical and linguistic challenges.  In his Scholarship Reconsidered (1990)[ii], a study funded by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Boyer articulated a model of the professoriate that was aimed at shaking up the lone, traditional, publish-or-perish road to promotion that exists in most liberal arts and sciences colleges and universities.  Boyer’s aim was to establish other roadways to professional achievement by something he called “scholarship.”  But this is not the medieval ideal of scholarship by a long shot.  In Scholarship Assessed,[iii] it is all brought home.  Briefly, his original model proposes four areas of endeavor to be viewed as scholarship:  discovery, integration, application, and teaching, but in this later keynote address, Boyer adds the fifth element of scholarship of engagement, and the sixth, scholarship of service.

In particular, the notions of application, engagement and service are seen as interactive dynamics that extend the role of the teacher beyond the classroom to society at large.  In Scholarship Reconsidered, Boyer

[C]ontends that in addition to valuing the generation of knowledge (the traditional definition of scholarship), higher education should also support the application of knowledge through Faculty engagement in community-based research, teaching and service (Boyer, 1990). Boyer and other leaders in higher education have strongly advocated that institutions should encourage Faculty members to use their expertise in new and creative ways to work with communities for long-term community improvement (Boyer, 1990; Harkavy, 1996; Lynton, 1996). [iv]

Key to these concepts is Boyer’s particular understanding of the meaning of the word ‘engagement.’  For Boyer, scholarship of engagement

is the collaborative generation, refinement, conservation, and exchange of mutually beneficial and societally relevant knowledge that is communicated to and validated by peers in academe and the community, in order to develop ethical and practical solutions to social, health, economic, and environmental issues. This scholarship may involve higher education institutions and communities on and off campus in partnerships that hold common goals and share expertise and resources. This scholarship serves to integrate learning, discovery, and engagement.[v]

In fact, the notion of engagement, as understood by Boyer, has been adopted as the mission statements of numerous institutions of higher learning.

The UNCSA team, representing a Faculty body consisting primarily of artists, creative technicians and craftspeople transmitting their knowledge to new generations of artists and audiences, faced several challenges here. First, many of the Faculty and administration consider UNCSA to be a dedicated arts conservatory, not a liberal arts and sciences institution. Many of the artists’ curricula vitae reflect deep experiential, industry-driven arts equivalents to terminal degrees and ivory tower credentials. In the institution, nonetheless, the Division of Liberal Arts and the High School Academic Program focus on traditional science and humanities subjects, albeit contextualized by the performing arts. Those Faculty members often have traditionally recognized credentials and terminal degrees. Many ‘academic’ Faculty members are artists in their own rights, and as a byproduct of becoming integral members of UNCSA’s artistic collaboration, they are always moving and growing into previously non-traditional areas of development. The addition of arts and sciences as a co-determinant of artistic production as part of the mission of the school is important, and also affects the way we have built out the criteria for rank placement and promotion. The entire Faculty understand that art, by application, is public, and does not exist in a vacuum. It is the syntonic product of the individual under influence of and in collaboration with society, and art is often a primary catalyst for changing that society. The language “scholarship of community engagement,” therefore, seemed redundant when viewed from the perspective of arts production. 

Second, the word ‘scholarship,’ connoting a liberal arts and sciences, academic, research-and-publish paradigm, seemed to promise an endless future of corrective explanation, both in-house and to the public and to the private funders and state legislators who underwrite our campus. It became imperative for the original framers of the new culture at UNCSA to remove the word ‘scholarship’ from descriptions of the efforts of the artist professoriate.

Taking into account the very nature of the performing arts as public and intended to articulate, mirror, correct and propose solutions for the individual, the human condition and society at large, we asked how we could introduce that idea into an unfolding culture of value and rank promotion based on the quality of work of the Faculty. At the end of the process of assimilating the Boyer materials, the ways in which the Boyer model was integrated at other institutions, being sensitive to the special use of language, and taking into account the singular character and vision of UNCSA, the Boyer team set out to define engagement in a particular way.

We understood the dynamic commitment that we wanted to foster, so our definition was built with that notion in mind. “Engagement,” for the purpose of rank promotion, means that a Faculty member‘s professional efforts in areas of evaluative criteria are propelled by heightened intent, purpose and focus. “Engagement” creates what Boyer calls “a special climate” in which Faculty efforts in all areas of evaluative criteria are committed, vigorous, dynamic, energetic and sustained over time.

Sustained activity is the persistent, consistent, continual or regularly recurring value-driven involvement in focused creative activities, research, service or teaching path objectives. Sustained activity may take different forms. It is the responsibility of the well-prepared Faculty member applying for rank promotion to make her/his "case" by providing strong context and solid documentation for consideration.

Sustained activity may be publically manifested and subject to peer review or other reflective feedback recognized in the profession, field or domain. Sustained activity may also be pursued through unpublished – but documented – work, research or project interests that demonstrate the abiding interests, professionally-related values, and/or plan of development of the Faculty member. In all cases, whether the sustained activities are failed or successful; singular or collaborative; moving toward one conceived goal or multidirectional (e.g., teaching/learning), or if they are reiterations of  activity dedicated to ever-refining, strengthening, bolstering or sharpening professional skillsets or path objectives, they must clearly be carried forward over time.

It is possible to demonstrate work-related interest, applied values and activities that are kept up or kept going – that is, maintained – on a regular or recurring basis. How much vital interest and dynamic engagement constitute sustained engagement is difficult to assess in general terms, since different Faculty have their own views of what that work means and because a large number of contextual characteristics may influence its longevity or usefulness. It will be up to the Faculty candidate for rank promotion to demonstrate the sustained activity through articulated context and documentation.

One-time events and projects are generally not considered sustained, although they may be evidence of engaged activity on the part of the Faculty member. Such one-time events may, however, be taken together to demonstrate a greater unifying and sustained interest in engagement of a certain type or category or built upon a certain content.

The vision of an Engaged and Sustained Professoriate (ESP) allows for the process of the Faculty member. Student, peer, community, industry and domain acclamation are commendable and may be acknowledged as the marks of a dynamic candidate for rank promotion.  Nonetheless, we recognize that the journey of the individual engaged in sustained activity is sometimes beset by obstacles that turn the path to a new direction or that provide invaluable lessons that inform the individual’s next efforts. For that reason, with Boyer, we endorse and expect the practice of reflection to be used by faculty applying for promotion in exchanges with deans and peer evaluators as well as in the Self-Evaluation section of the promotion application. These are opportunities to detail a large picture of the faculty member’s arc of development and perception of his/her connection to UNCSA, and to explore the value gained from challenges as well as celebrate the successes of the process.

UNCSA does not only value research and publication.  We value creative activity and/or research, teaching and service equally. These touchstones are seated in a belief that the individual’s arc of development and connection to the school is going to take a unique form in every case. These are the building blocks of the evaluative system we call Engaged and Sustained Professoriate (ESP). In this system, the individual architects his or her own pathway. And in every case, these touchstones will be a result of intentional engaged and sustained activities.

Ellen Rosenberg, Chair of Faculty Rank

August 2014

[i] Integrating Boyer into Your Institutional Culture:  An Executive Retreat. Asheville, NC.  June 25-27, 2012.

[ii] Boyer, Ernest L.  Scholarship Reconsidered:  Priorities of the Professoriate. Princeton, N.J. : Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, c1990.

[iii] Boyer, Ernest L. "From scholarship reconsidered to scholarship assessed." Quest 48.2 (1996): 129-139.

[iv] Calleson D, Kauper-Brown J, Seifer SD. Community-Engaged Scholarship Toolkit. Seattle: Community-Campus
Partnerships for Health, 2005. http://www.communityengagedscholarship.info.

[v] Integrating Learning, Discovery, and Engagement through the Scholarship of Engagement: Report of the Scholarship of Engagement Task Force. North Carolina State University. Raleigh, NC. June 2010.