UNC School of Dentistry participating in scholarship collaborative

Feb. 2, 2005
Cooperative efforts between the School of Dentistry and the Carolina Center for Public Service will promote the prominence and recognition of academic service and engagement

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Dentistry is one of 10 health professional schools nationwide participating in a collaborative to increase community-engaged scholarship.

Funded by a three-year, $563,842 grant to Community-Campus Partnerships for Health from the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, the collaborative aims to organize universities to further reward researchers and scholars who work on community engagement as part of their academic careers.

"The focus is on influencing university culture to raise the prominence and recognition of engagement activities by faculty members," said Dr. Ronald Strauss, Dental Friends distinguished professor and chairman of the Schoolof Dentistry's department of dental ecology.

The school, which works closely with the Carolina Center for Public Service, recently was selected to participate in the Community-Engaged Scholarship for Health Collaborative.

Other schools participating in the collaborative are Auburn University's Harrison School of Pharmacy, Case Western Reserve University's School of Nursing, Indiana University's School of Dentistry, Loma Linda University's School of Public Health, the University of Cincinnati's College of Allied Health Sciences, the University of Colorado's School of Pharmacy, the University of Massachusetts at Worcester's School of Nursing, the University of Minnesota's Academic Health Center and Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine.

The national collaborative is a response to recommendations of groups such as the Institute of Medicine and the Pew Health Professions Commission, which have called upon universities and health professional schools to become more engaged in their communities.

UNC's School of Dentistry mandates community engagement as a requirement for its students and holds more than 160 contracts with local, national and international community health centers and clinics, where students participate in service.

Cooperative efforts between the School of Dentistry and the Carolina Center for Public Service will promote the prominence and recognition of academic service and engagement, Strauss said.

"We're trying to build a higher profile for the scholarship of community service," said Strauss, chairman of the advisory board for the center. "This is about people meeting the needs of North Carolina. It is about engagement and the university being a leader in identifying and responding to needs as expressed by North Carolina communities."

The collaborative will explore promotion and tenure for faculty members who participate in the scholarship of service, a focus that could increase faculty retention and aid in recruitment.

Collaborative members will hold their first meeting this month (February) to discuss plans to initiate changes in their universities' policies on the role of community-based scholarship in tenure and promotion decisions. They also will share experiences about partnering with communities, Strauss said.

"This is a question of the evolution of university culture toward a greater prominence and awareness of engagement," he said. "For UNC, it is about building deeper and more meaningful relationships with the people of North Carolina."

The Carolina Center for Public Service, created in 1997, leads UNC's engagement efforts and service to North Carolina and beyond by linking the expertise and energy of faculty, staff and students to the needs of the people.