Enabling Public Scholars through Faculty Development

Christopher Adamson 

Christopher Adamson is an Education Technology Integrationist at the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of South Dakota. He recently completed his doctorate at Emory University and has published articles in the Academy of Management Review and Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies.

University of South Dakota Center for Teaching and Learning


November 09, 2021 


The academy needs to engage in public scholarship. Noting that misinformation is a “threat to the democratic state,” which relies on informed citizens, Alyssa Arbuckle (2020) highlights the importance of open access to humanities research. Others offer public scholarship as a response to the strained relationship between higher education and society at large. Kern and Mudt (2020), for instance, argue that “steps must be taken to restore the public’s faith in the academy and to demonstrate the value of research and education for the public good.” As Lorelle Espinosa (2018, ix) summarizes the situation, “the dangers of anti-intellectualism demand scholarship that is accessible and welcoming of engagement.” Engaging in public scholarship can promote the future survival of higher education by strengthening communal relations between the academy and other sectors of society. Still others present public scholarship as an ethical necessity. Genevieve Shaker (2015) emphasizes the importance of scholarly philanthropy, while Adrianna Kezar (2018, 36) pushes even further arguing that everyone is obligated to promote the public good. Taken together, the study of public scholarship identifies three outcomes of community engagement: democratic flourishing through knowledge mobilization, improved relationships with other sectors of society, and the ethical promotion of the common good.

Many academics may value public engagement for these reasons, but what does it mean to be a public scholar? To answer this question, I may imagine a charismatic professor working with the BBC or that very important letter to the editor that shares insights from the profession. Perhaps I more specifically imagine that famous Howard Zinn book sitting on my shelf or the Tolkien Professor podcast I listened to as a young state worker processing forms. These examples are all important inspirations that fit the concept well in the sense of “scholarship done in public,” but without an expansive view of public scholarship we run the risk of losing voices and perspectives that can collaboratively promote the common good.

Public scholarship can be a form of outreach, but it also involves engaging in mutual dialogue and collaboration with the community and facilitating student-driven experiences where they become public scholars as well. An academic may already be engaged in these activities but not have the framework to identify as a public scholar or integrate that identity into the tenure and promotion process, and university staff have the opportunity to provide such a framework through training programming.1 As an initiative of the National Humanities Alliance that documents public scholarship programs across the United States, Humanities for All describes the development of institutional structures to train university personnel as its own kind of public scholarship: the infrastructure of engagement (Fisher n.d.). Where faculty tend to be siloed by disciplines, and perhaps even subfields, university centres serve units across their respective institutions. In their manifesto on intermediary and coordinating administrative positions, Bartha et al. (2014) note that “the perspectives and capacities [intermediary staff labor] gives rise to are essential to deepening higher education’s capacity for democratic engagement and generative collaboration.” Since program development relies on relationships with other faculty and staff members, the faculty developer can be especially poised to support the formation of networks between faculty and staff, academics across institutions, and with the local community.

During the pandemic, the need for creating a network of public scholarship has become even more pressing. The heightened sense of isolation has underscored the need that we solidify bonds with colleagues within and across institutions, within our larger professional networks, and with the public we serve. To support ways to remain civically engaged as academics during the pandemic, the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of South Dakota (CTL) launched a training series partnering with facilitators from Emory, Baylor, and Harvard. Core outcomes of the series were for faculty to both find a home for themselves in public engagement and to support students in their own public-facing work.

In this article I will explain the development of this series with the theoretical underpinnings that guided it and conclude by proposing a definition of public scholarship that includes student voices and repositions universities within the communities they inhabit.

Workshop Series Description

During the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021, the CTL offered two workshop series on public scholarship, inviting facilitators and participants from other institutions. Participants who attended at least five sessions were awarded a statement of achievement by the CTL. The series began with an introduction to public scholarship that provided a space to discuss future potential courses and projects, continued with workshops on practical ways to engage in public scholarship, and concluded each term with a panel featuring two public scholars as examples.

Pedagogical Series

Since the mission of the CTL is to promote excellence in teaching, the workshop series emphasized the place of public scholarship in the classroom. Following the introductory workshop, the CTL offered a micro-series of workshops focused on enabling students to be public scholars through public-facing multimodal projects such as blogging, digital storytelling, and podcasting. To orient the pedagogical training more toward the communal model proposed by Kezar, Kitchen, and Drivalas (2018), the CTL also partnered with the Gallagher Center for Experiential Learning and Education Abroad at the University of South Dakota to offer a workshop on community engaged learning in the classroom.

Workshops in the pedagogical micro-series introduced participants to strategies that enable student writing in public spaces. Inspired by Alexandria Lockett and Sara RudeWalker’s composition pedagogy, the series emphasized strategies that “encourage . . . students to expand their understanding of their own linguistic diversity as an asset” (Lockett and RudeWalker 2016, 174). Through adopting user or hacker names, student scholars can experience greater freedom when writing online. A bio-mythography assignment, in which students explain their chosen name and examine how it affects their public writing rhetorically adds a metacognitive element to the process.2

A major theme throughout this micro-series was striking a balance between the liberatory power of anonymity and promoting authentic assessment. Each instructor was directed to consider whether to have public scholarship be simulated or actual. For instance, should a podcast assignment be syndicated or should students submit a file through the learning management system to the instructor alone? The answer largely depended on the ability and experience of the students in knowledge production and crafting a digital identity. In the podcasting workshop, which was one of the most popular offerings, David Morgen of Writing Across Emory offered class exercises that prepared students to effectively act as public scholars through a podcasting sequence.3 As a class community, Morgen’s students design, record, and produce a podcast sequence with a unified theme rather than standalone episodes because this more accurately reflects how professional podcasts are developed and it distributes labor across the class. Consequently, course activities focus on students thoughtfully crafting the digital footprint of their scholarship as a group, which promotes student ownership and confidence. Overall, the workshops presented public scholarship as a way to both cultivate transferrable skills and promote authentic assessment that the instructor balances with protecting students and preserving their freedom to carefully develop their own digital identity.

The series also promoted the call for graduate training in public scholarship with additional workshops on blogging and podcasting developed specifically for the graduate programs of different disciplines. Michael Lanford and William G. Tierney (2018, 174) note that graduate education “should incorporate the necessity of writing for public audiences” and further propose that “by placing writing at the forefront of the curriculum, communication and public engagement is prioritized.” Offering specialized training for graduate students who are potentially future faculty and/or alternative academics enriches their portfolios and prepares them for various careers. Although more work needs to be done to open the tenure process to public scholarship, training graduate students as public scholars contributes to the overall process of valuing community engagement.

The Public Potential of Virtual Conferencing

The pedagogical workshops were followed by one on organizing virtual conferences. This workshop targeted University of South Dakota faculty who were either preparing to organize or had expressed interest in organizing virtual conferences. Joshua King of Baylor University, who had organized multiple flightless conferences, was invited to co-facilitate the workshop.4 Multiple conferencing models were presented with a focus on the hub model used by King, which maintains the benefits of virtual and in-person conferencing while also dispersing the responsibility of organization across partner institutions. It was also noted in the workshop that virtual conferencing has rich pedagogical potential where student researchers can be involved in organizing, managing social media, and presenting at the conference regardless of funding available in their respective programs. In the end, participants who were preparing virtual conferences had a chance to discuss the topic with King as an experienced organizer.

Since many academics found themselves organizing or participating in virtual conferences during the pandemic, this addition to the program schedule seemed necessary even though its connection to public scholarship may not be readily apparent. Before the pandemic, flightless and nearly carbon neutral conferences were already an emerging genre of research sharing focused on sustainability and the inclusion of researchers regardless of ability to travel. The driving argument informing this workshop, however, was that virtual conferencing has more public scholarship potential than our more closed conferences. Writing about the same conference he presented on at the workshop, King (2019) notes that “streaming conference sessions open-access . . . opened them to a diverse and global audience well beyond the academy” and further proposes that “making immediate and practical adjustments to how we conference can empower agency, enliven the imagination to new possibilities for academic exchange, and inspire adaptation in the scholarly associations and institutions that support the academy.” Not only are these conferences greener and more equitable, but they could be open to the public or posted online.

As a new genre, virtual conferencing can learn from the practices of community engagement as presenters consider moving beyond traditional recitation strategies and craft presentations designed for a broad audience. The recent International Hopkins Conference, which focuses on the life and poetry of the Victorian Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins, offered an example of the public potential of this developing genre.5 In response to the pandemic, the conference was completely online and open to all with free registration. Although filled with traditional panels and recited papers, the conference was a site of community engagement. Francis Fennell organized cultural programming interludes that showcased artistic adaptations of the poet’s work, including, for example, explorations of Hopkins’s regional influences by the Monasterevin (Ireland) Hopkins Society.6 Even as more conferences return to previous modalities, there is potential for partnering at the local level and mutual enrichment between researchers, artists, and other interested community members.

Closing Panel and Outcomes

Each semester, the series concluded with a panel that paired scholars from different institutions. The reasoning behind the panel was to offer two very different versions of public scholarship so that participants could have diverse models of promoting the public good. The first panel paired Kayla Shipp, a digital humanist who actively engages in public scholarship, with Peter Kindle, a professor of social work who promotes the public good without identifying as a public scholar.7 Presenting on her own public-facing work, Shipp proposed a compelling revisioning of public scholarship not as translation or outreach, but as an artistic expression best understood as a form of interpretation. During spring term, the second panel paired Rachel Kolb, a disability studies scholar who often engages in outreach, with Joseph Kantenbacher, a social scientist who innovatively researches public perception of climate change.8 Together, their presentations organically led to an understanding of futurity and hope in public scholarship. We engage in public scholarship out of a shared hope for a communal future.

The remote workshop format provided an “open online space” that promoted connections and relationships beyond institutional and geographic barriers (Cronin 2014, 410). As a result of the first panel, faculty at the University of South Dakota in social work and sociology crossed disciplinary boundaries and began sharing ideas about pedagogy. Digital humanists from different institutions are now in contact with one another. I have even had opportunities to further support networking between a graduate student of one facilitator and a facilitator at another institution. Facilitating connections like this can be a key offering of faculty developers since we work at the “interspaces of the university” (Bartha et al. 2014).

While iteratively improving the workshop series for its second implementation, I found that abstract workshops about either public scholarship as a concept or strategies for enabling students to be public scholars were less well attended than more concrete workshops on specific platforms, such as podcasting. To respond to this, I dropped the opening definition of public scholarship and the standalone workshop on strategies to enable public scholars and integrated those theoretical elements into the more concrete offerings. Along with Morgen’s timely podcasting workshop, the concluding panels were the most popular offerings, partially because participants from any institution involved in the series were welcome to attend. Future iterations will continue to balance the need for practical strategies and a theoretical understanding of public scholarship as they move towards more authentic representations of public scholarship by further emphasizing experiential learning and dialogical research with local community members.

Preparing a Public Scholarship Series

This workshop series arose from the particular needs of my institution and the network developed with partner facilitators. In my context, I focused on my background in digital humanities and virtual conferencing, as well as my expertise in multimodal composition assignments. For preparing your own series, consider choosing a main aspect of public scholarship to promote that will benefit potential faculty. For our series, I deemphasized content on how to translate scholarship to a public audience as an academic so I could emphasize enabling student voices. Other programs, such as Duquesne’s (2020) recent workshop series, “Scholarship as Public Service,” emphasize audience awareness instead and offer excellent examples to consider further.

In their discussion of the continuum of public scholarship, Kezar et al. (2018, 224–225) propose that we focus on capitalizing on our strengths. In the context of faculty development, that not only means the strengths of the faculty developer, but also of the faculty and staff members who partner with the centre. Similar to digital humanities collectives, no one researcher or institution needs to be able to practice public scholarship in the same way. Regardless of what aspect of public scholarship is emphasized, the following offers three considerations for organizing a workshop series.

First, find colleagues who already engage in public scholarship or digital humanities. Not only will they be excellent facilitators, but they will also champion your events in their respective departments and units. Staff in intermediary positions are well-equipped for this kind of project because we interact with colleagues across units and departments. If you are new to your institution, reach out to subject librarians, centres for community engagement, and centres for digital scholarship. For this series, I worked with the Gallagher Center for Experiential Learning and Education Abroad at the University of South Dakota and the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship, and my colleagues at each were incredibly generous with their time and expertise. Even if your institution does not have a formalized centre for community engagement or digital humanities work, there will be faculty and staff committed to promoting the common good through their research and scholarly activities. I have often found great support from writing program faculty and staff who are dedicated to the kind of authentic assessment that public scholarship in the classroom provides and sustainability scientists who care deeply about public perception. Fantastic collaborators are probably obscured by traditional roles and institutional structures.

Second, find colleagues who promote civic engagement with their work, but may not see themselves as public scholars. One roadblock to this kind of series is convincing faculty that they need this content when they may have a narrow view of public scholarship or understandable concerns about tenure. A common response from potential facilitators was that they did not identify as public scholars. By being embedded in community engagement structures, these colleagues will provide excellent explanations of public scholarship. As a social work professor who combats food insecurity in the county, Kindle explained public scholarship in his talk following the model of Kezar, Kitchen, and Drivalas (2018), mapping his own work on the continuum of engagement and calling on participants to share their work to their respective institution’s digital commons, and that was more effective than direct training from CTL staff. Even if a prospective facilitator declines, that person now has an expansive view of public scholarship that may inform their future work, and these colleagues will also be excellent contacts as you reach out to the local community.

Finally, I suggest reaching out to specialists at different institutions to partner with you. Where in the past that would have meant having a colleague teleconference into a room full of people, it now means jointly streaming to both institutions. That puts everyone in the same virtual room and might enable networking and partnerships beyond your workshop series. While developing this series I contacted facilitators from my network, including past colleagues, fellow members of professional organizations, and even acquaintances from digital scholarship consultations. Rather than request the colleague as a speaker, I offered to partner on offering workshops where participants from both institutions would attend remotely and then be invited to the series as a whole. This way not only are you organizing lines of networking for participants at multiple institutions, but you are also sharing the programming load among centres and units. Even though only some of those interactions led to completed workshops, each one led to a sharing of ideas and solidarity in caring about community engagement.

Extending the Definition of Public Scholarship Now and in the Future

Not only does faculty development rely on a strong theoretical basis, but it also provides a practical space for theory building. Through implementing current theories of public scholarship, a training program can uncover gaps in our knowledge and opportunity for future research. Generally, public scholarship presupposes a dedication to democratic flourishing. Definitions, ranging from the public intellectual as celebrity on one end to the mutually enriching encounter of community engaged research on the other, rely on a sense of promoting the common good. While developing the series and recruiting facilitators, I adopted a broad understanding of public scholarship from Ellison and Eatman (2008) that is inclusive of all academic work and partnerships oriented towards promoting the common good. Along with Kezar, Kitchen, and Drivalas (2018), I presented public scholarship as a continuum of different degrees of community engagement and directed faculty to the model developed by Carleton College’s Center for Community and Civic engagement, which visualizes public scholarship as overlapping modes of engagement ranging from creating public knowledge to community partnerships and conferences (Zabin 2021).

Through focusing on the pedagogical potential of integrating community engagement in the classroom, the program extends the current definition of public scholarship by prioritizing student voices and highlighting their role as public scholars. Though James Lester and David Horton Jr. (2018, 196) are right that in many ways “faculty are at the center of the social charter … between the public and higher education,” emphasizing faculty voices to the exclusion of others in higher education risks countering the democratizing spirit of public scholarship. Even when we expand from a sense of the public intellectual to public scholarship as mutually enriching dialogue, we often leave out the community of practice already present in the classroom. Students hold an important liminal role as undergraduate or graduate researchers who may be closely connected to their local communities.

The exclusion of students from our conception of public scholarship may follow from another way that we still adhere to a narrow understanding. The move from an emphasis on outreach and the public intellectual to engagement with the community at large was motivated by a desire to promote inclusivity and mutual enrichment in public scholarship practices. As Carol Zou (2019) notes, however, our practices of community engagement reveal a problematic assumption that institutions of higher education are separate from their communities: “For the university to work with ‘community,’ the ‘community’ must be defined as outside, or other” (emphasis in original). As persons in liminal roles characterized by relationships with colleges and universities and relationships with their disparate communities, students embody this paradox. I propose that future work on public scholarship should examine how to understand the university as within rather than with the “community.”

For the purpose of running the next series on public scholarship, I will work from the following definition: Public scholarship is the collaborative creation and dissemination of knowledge undertaken by multiple community members with the twofold objective of 1) strengthening bonds between centres of higher education and the communities they inhabit and 2) reaching a richer understanding of reality in ways inaccessible to any group alone. Through the process of offering the next series, planned for spring of 2022, I will continue to refine this understanding as I partner with facilitators within the shared community.

I propose that the drive for public scholarship to promote justice and equity lends itself to repositioning the academy not as a gatekeeper but as an institution already in relationship with the community it inhabits. We know that public scholarship is more than a form of marketing or outreach, but it also needs to move beyond the university/community distinction and be understood as a relational orientation adopted by different members of a community, regardless of credentialing. In a similar vein, the educational theorist, Ivan Illich, argued that we need “new networks, readily available to the public and designed to spread equal opportunity for learning and teaching,” which he imagined would “transform each moment . . . into one of learning, sharing, and caring” (Illich 1971, 110, viii). Rather than the narrow understanding of a pedagogue schooling the outside world, or the bourgeois service of the credentialed to the non-credentialed, a community-driven view of public scholarship can offer a space for the “nonprofessional ministration of a neighbor” (Illich 1971, 106).


The author would like to thank all the partner facilitators who offered their expertise and led sessions: David Morgen, Joonna Trapp, Joshua King, Kayla Shipp, Peter Kindle, Danielle Loftus, Kim Albracht, Meghann Jarchow, Lindsey Jorgensen, Rachel Kolb, and Joe Kantenbacher.


Arbuckle, Alyssa. 2020. “How Can We Broaden and Diversify Humanities Knowledge Translation?” Pop! Public. Open. Participatory 2. https://popjournal.ca/issue02/arbuckle

Bartha, Miriam, Megan Carney, Sylvia Gale, Elizabeth Goodhue, and Amy Howard. 2014. “This Bridge Called My Job: Translating, Re-Valuing, and Leveraging Intermediary Administrative Work.” Public: A Journal of Imagining America. https://public.imaginingamerica.org/blog/article/this-bridge-called-my-job-translating-re-valuing-and-leveraging-intermediary-administrative-work/

Cronin, Catherine. 2014. “Networked Learning and Identity Development in Open Online Spaces.” Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Networked Learning, Edinburgh.

Duquesne University. 2020. “Scholarship as Public Service.” Catholicism and the Common Good. Center for Catholic Faith and Culture. Accessed April 19, 2021. https://duq.edu/about/centers-and-institutes/center-for-catholic-faith-and-culture/catholicism-and-the-common-good/scholarship-as-public-service-

Ellison, Julie, and Timothy K. Eatman. 2008. Scholarship in Public: Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University. Syracuse, NY: Imagining America.

Espinosa, Lorelle L. 2018. “Forward.” In Envisioning Public Scholarship for Our Time: Models for Higher Education Researchers, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, Joseph Kitchen and Yianna Drivalas, ix–xi. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Fisher, Daniel. n.d. “A Typology of the Publicly Engaged Humanities.” Humanities for All. Accessed September 5, 2020. https://humanitiesforall.org/essays/five-types-of-publicly-engaged-humanities-work-in-u-s-higher-education

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Kern, Verletta, and Madeline Mudt. 2020. “The Open Scholarship Commons: Advancing Research for the Public Good.” Pop! Public. Open. Participatory (2).

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Kezar, Adrianna J., Zoë Corwin, Joseph Kitchen, and Yianna Drivalas. 2018. “Public Scholarship: An Invitation, a Final Example, and a Summary of Key Themes.” In Envisioning Public Scholarship for Our Time: Models for Higher Education Researchers, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, Joseph Kitchen and Yianna Drivalas, 219–232. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Kezar, Adrianna J., Joseph Kitchen, and Yianna Drivalas, eds. 2018. Envisioning Public Scholarship for Our Time: Models for Higher Education Researchers. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

King, Joshua. 2019. “Multiplying Connections, Cutting Carbon: An Experiment in Multi-site, Digitally Linked, Flightless Conferencing.” Conference Inference (blog). December 17, 2019. https://conferenceinference.wordpress.com/2019/12/17/multiplying-connections-cutting-carbon-an-experiment-in-multi-site-digitally-linked-flightless-conferencing-joshua-king/

Lanford, Michael, and William G. Tierney. 2018. “Reenvisioning Graduate and Early Career Socialization to Encourage Public Scholarship.” In Envisioning Public Scholarship for Our Time: Models for Higher Education Researchers, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, Joseph Kitchen and Yianna Drivalas, 163–178. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Lester, James, and David Horton Jr. 2018. “Public Scholarship Across Faculty Career States.” In Envisioning Public Scholarship for Our Time: Models for Higher Education Researchers, edited by Adrianna J. Kezar, Joseph Kitchen and Yianna Drivalas, 196–207. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Lockett, Alexandria, and Sarah RudeWalker. 2016. “Creative Disruption and the Potential of Writing at HBCUs.” Composition Studies 44 (2): 172–178.

Miniard, Deidra, Joseph Kantenbacher, and Shahzeen Z Attari. 2020. “Shared Vision for a Decarbonized Future Energy System in the United States.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (13): 7108–7114.

Shaker, Genevieve G, ed. 2015. Faculty Work and the Public Good: Philanthropy, Engagement, and Academic Professionalism. New York: Teacher College Press.

Zabin, Serena. 2021. “What is Public Scholarship?”. Center for Community and Civic Engagement. Last Modified 10 May 2021. Accessed May 10, 2021. https://www.carleton.edu/ccce/faculty/engaged-research-scholarship/what-is-public-scholarship/

Zou, Carol. 2019. “Against the Carceral Logic of the University.” Public: A Journal of Imagining America 5 (2). https://public.imaginingamerica.org/blog/article/against-the-carceral-logic-of-the-university/

  1. For a wider discussion of ways to value public scholarship for tenure and promotion see the publication of Imagining America’s Tenure Team Initiative, Ellison and Eatman (2008). Currently hosted at the University of California, Davis, Imagining America is a consortium of centres of higher education that value public scholarship. The Tenure Team suggests an expansion of our promotion practices in which community engagement is included in promotional documentation and decisions, community members are included in the peer review process, and public scholars are promoted to full professor. 

  2. To learn more about Alexandria Lockett’s pedagogy and see course materials, visit her portfolio at https://www.alexandrialockett.com/ 

  3. An example of David Morgen’s podcasting courses can be found at https://eng101f20.davidmorgen.org/ 

  4. Joshua King’s most recent virtual conference, Ecology and Religion in Nineteenth-Century Studies can be accessed at https://sites.baylor.edu/ecologyreligion/

  5. To learn more about the conference, visit the International Hopkins Association site: https://hopkinspoetry.com/. The organizers have noted that the conference involved presenters and participants from four continents and multiple time zones. 

  6. Francis Fennell’s work on the importance of popular readings of poetry can be found at Hopkins Quarterly and Renascence

  7. Kayla Shipp’s public humanities projects like the Atlanta Cyclorama and innovative work on Moby-Dick and the poetry of Emily Dickinson can be found at http://kaylashipp.com/work/. To see how Peter Kindle engages in public service and studies student perception of poverty, visit http://sites.usd.edu/peter-a-kindle-p/

  8. Rachel Kolb’s public work can be found at The New York Times, The Atlantic, and TEDx Stanford. To learn more about her community engagement and disability studies research visit https://www.rachelrkolb.com/. To read about Joseph Kantenbacher’s innovative research on climate perception, see Miniard, Kantenbacher, and Attari (2020).