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Comments May 4, 2018 2:47 pm

We are George Reese, Michael McKelvey, and Beth Kirchgesner from the Office for Mathematics, Science, & Technology Education (MSTE) in the College of Education. Our office, along with an advisory group of stakeholders from around the Urbana University, built the Public Engagement Portal (PE Portal) in 2008.  It now contains 10 years of data on public engagement activities at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In collaboration with the System Offices, we have expanded the PE Portal system to also support Chicago, Springfield, and the System Offices. This System-wide database has been especially useful in reporting the many engagement activities with Chicago Public Schools, as well as communicating University public engagement efforts to external stakeholders, such as Illinois legislators.

The Public Engagement Taskforce Report mentions that one of the challenges and concerns is “Communication or lack of knowledge of who is doing what on campus”. One objective of the PE Portal is to provide the most comprehensive database of Public Engagement programs, events, and resources.

PE Portal data confirms that every College engages with the public in a variety of ways. Over the last ten years, we have recorded and archived 28,328 programs, events, and resources for the Urbana University. This data can be parsed in many ways that could be useful to the Taskforce.  Additionally, the PE Portal’s list of over 1,800 external stakeholders may be useful for responding to the Structure and Communication Recommendations in the Public Engagement Taskforce report. In the future, this data may help facilitate better communication of engagement activities, in line with Communication Recommendations #4 & #5.

Based on our experience, we would also like to share some relevant lessons learned:

  • While there was an Office of Public Engagement, their advocacy for public engagement and communication with units was very helpful in gathering, presenting, and archiving public engagement information.
  • Interactions with external PE Portal users indicate that there is a need for a community liaison to meet and dialogue with local businesses, schools, and civic organizations to facilitate mutual engagement.
  • University-wide data acquisition and annotation is more complex than it may initially appear. It requires patience, collaboration, commitment to detail, and some financial investment to be able to accurately track and present engagement activities. Two facets are essential: 1) to minimize the “ask” to researchers, instructors, and other outreach providers so as not to burden them with additional responsibilities for reporting and presenting engagement information, and 2) provide a mechanism to allow those outreach providers to maintain control over their information.

Thank you for considering our input. We welcome requests for additional information and hope that the Taskforce will make use of the PE Portal to inform its planning and decision-making.

Reply to at 2:47 pm Apr 9, 2018 11:04 am

This is a general recommendation for the entire strategic planning process: Once all the strategic priorities are determined, I hope there will be deliberate next steps that include the development of corresponding and comprehensive marketing and communications plans and advancement plans. Such support plans would help ensure successful outcomes.

Reply to at 11:04 am Apr 3, 2018 10:02 am

At a recent Budget Town Hall Provost Cangellaris talked about public engagement in the context of UI Extension efforts. While it is true that we all want to move what it means to be a Land Grant University into the current century, I don't think public engagement should fly under such a tired banner as the extension model. Your group does a good job of detailing all the points of contact that make a more modern conceptualization of public engagement, however, I hope that your efforts are not restricted in the popular mindset to old conceptions of siloed branches with delegated responsibility for handling the public. Public engagement should be taken on as part of everyone's "job," from the secretary answering a call to the department head engaging the tenure process. Whatever initiatives result from this recent strategic planning effort, it may be worth pushing for explicit internal messaging (and related delivery efforts) that helps our own people to better understand collective goals as they are intended. As the leaders for the Public Engagement strategic focus area, it may be appropriate to include specific language that acknowledges the communication challenges of delivering an effective call for refocussing, and to set an example for others in the hope that this time our many efforts yield more thorough results. Thank you for your time.

Reply to at 10:02 am