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The Daily Tar Heel

Scholar program adds new faculty members

Faculty Director Ronald Strauss said the selection process for the program is competitive, with less than half the applicants for a given class typically receiving spots.

“Engaged scholarship is scholarship that is developed in collaboration and in consortium with community members,” Strauss said. “It allows a scholar to address issues of concern within communities and return benefit to communities by involving the participants in research, not just in selection of the topic, but the decision of how the research will be done.”

The sixth class will begin the program in fall 2016. As part of the two-year program, scholars will decide how they will advance their engaged scholarship individually through group dialogue and community excursions.

“The first year is a year of sessions of really going out on the road, learning from community, learning from each other, learning from faculty who are doing the work and then reflecting on that,” Lynn Blanchard, director of the Carolina Center for Public Service, said. “And then the second year is more focused on the individual scholar’s work, where each scholar has a chance to present their work and really use their group as kind of a sounding board to bounce questions off of.”

“One of the things that I like most about the program is that it attempts to bring in scholars from different disciplines,” Community Director Melvin Jackson said. “They come with an idea or a project that they are interested in working on...But something I have seen is there have been instances in which the scholars have engaged within their class and with classes that preceded them and have developed reshaped agendas that complement themselves.”

Members of the sixth class see the program as a way to build upon previous research and extend its benefits beyond the walls of the academy.

“I’ve been interested in and have done engaged scholarship kind of on my own for quite some time,” Thorp Scholar Anna Agbe-Davies said. “I’m pretty deeply embedded in the community of archaeologists who are doing this work, but aside from people in my own department, I didn’t know what people across the University were doing.”

“Having a chance to learn from people who are doing this work full-time, embedded in their communities, is really valuable,” Agbe-Davies said.

“I saw the problem as a way to kind of accelerate the translation of my research and other relevant research to the communities in a way that helps me understand methods and gain tools to do these projects because we’re not all the time trained to engage with communities,” Thorp Scholar Kimon Divaris said.

“It’s a great way to connect very good faculty that we have across the board at UNC with the community, which is, I think, ultimately what we should be thinking all the time, even if we’re doing basic research or other types of development — thinking how they will translate to meaningful improvement in people’s wellness,” Divaris said. “I think that’s the way to serve them better.”

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