This post builds on my previous post on PhD for what?
What can academics really do for/with community?
One of the students offered her thoughts during my teaching demo (I was invited for a campus visit) that academics (students included) use most of their skills to do research, while many organizations outside campus (including where they do internships, volunteering works, and others) do very little research. This is absolutely true.
It is about the split that in the field of philosophy often discussed: “the mind-body split.” In the ideal world, the two would need to be balance. The higher education institution serves more on the mind element of the split.
Knowing that element gives some indication on the role of academics in community-university partnership. In addition to offer our skills to do the “mind” work (research), we help empower community on that same department.
On other hand, the community has mastered the other half of the split, which is the “body” element. It is their role to help establish the connection of the research product by committing to the “body” work (action for implementation). At the same time, they need to help academics to understand how the whole “reality” idea works so academics could design research that meaningfully addresses it.
The discussion on “bringing research to action” or “linking research with action” emerges around this notion of the split. With privilege and power, it is academics who have more responsibility to make that connection.
Unless the split is really understood, however, things will be hard to change. Community-university partnership will continue to be dominated by the power of academics; again, read our research on this.
My previous post does sound negative on the role of academic. But from my partnership, I know I can do something about it, that is both respectable and impactful. I am optimistic, though I know it is challenging.