Tag Archives: community-university partnership

PhD for what? (cont.)


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.

Continue reading PhD for what? (cont.)

PhD for what?


As someone who is preparing his finish line in the pursuit of PhD, I have been thinking about many different things about how to use all these experiences, skills, and networks, for my next career. During this moment of contemplation, I came across the following:

You find yourself better placed to help others do the research than doing the research yourself. – Dr Nathalie Mather-L’Huillier.

I have enjoyed very much facilitating a service learning course, implementing its philosophy, and embracing its opportunities. I was first exposed to the practice service learning back in 2006 when I was a member of a community-based research team, and published a book documenting a total of 67 in-depth interviews with local community organizations; please read this interview about the book.

Continue reading PhD for what?

Being friends in a partnership


A few months ago a potential student was suggested to talk to me. Most of our discussion was about how community-based research (CBR) efforts could fit in a relatively short graduate study program. Her last question was what would be my one suggestion to start/navigate a successful CBR, and I responded by saying “be a good friend, build a genuine friendship with your community partners.”

That was my first occasions suggesting that. Lately, I have reflected on that comment, and connecting with my current partnership.

Community -university partnership is ultimately a way to connect both parties in a meaningful collaborative initiative that would benefit them. Both partners need to come to an understanding about the goals of their initiative. The disconnect of their ideas could lead to partners who would see the partnership as a mere work together (note I don’t use the word collaborative) for the sake of partnership, something they could talk about to their peers but not care enough to deliver a successful project.

Continue reading Being friends in a partnership

On teaching, learning, and service


My current community-based project has brought lots of reflective thinking. On one hand, I am blessed. On the other hand, I could not really avoid them. Here is my latest reflective thinking that I recently shared with my “partners in crime.”

If done right, community-based project is one of the most frustrating projects. Sometimes, one of the most successful is among the most frustrating. People might argue it doesn’t have to (be frustrating). I would argue back, I am not sure if he/she truly understands the complexities of a true community-based project.

One of the possible source of frustrations from this process is that I follow a learning process/theory called popular education (see Paulo Freire and Myles Horton if interested). While the very large majority of instructors follow traditional learning approaches called pedagogy (teaching for children) and/or andragogy (teaching for adult). Popular education is mostly adopted and continued to be developed in a specific area of sociology and community psychology. While pedagogy and andragogy are exclusive in school of education. Most of their strategies are contradictive.

In addition, I am *very* flexible, but I realize it does create confusions and messiness around me sometimes, and maybe they could be counter-productive. But as long as it produces good impacts on community partners and their immediate communities, that is all that matters to me, to be completely very honest. I don’t mind at all with all the messiness, I will have to deal with them.


Why reciprocity is not as simple as it seems?

Reciprocity, just like many other terms such as equality, justice, participation, have become a rhetoric where we are often stuck with the talk rather than the walk. Because, in each of these terms, it involves at least two completely difference universe.

Let’s talk about it in the context of community-academic partnerships, and I would use a very specific case when people have differing opinions  leading to arguments. A phrase I was told says that “an argument is a moment of a productive conversation.” In this case, at least I would try to explain that the idea of reciprocity means almost nothing. This is because academics and community members are in two very different social constructions when committing to argumentative conversations.

Continue reading Why reciprocity is not as simple as it seems?

A new UNESCO report on community-university partnerships


A new report on community-university research partnerships has been published by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  I have the privilege to work with my colleague UW-Madison Morgridge Center’s Beth Tryon and Loyola CURL’s Phyl Nyden on a chapter that features a critical analysis of practices in the United States.

The Strengthening Community University Research Partnerships: GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES report outlines a number of important practices in how research partnerships are conducted from the beginning to the end.  On their website, the UNESCO introduce the report as “a global study of institutional arrangements for the facilitation and support of research partnerships between Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and Higher Education Institutions (HEI).”

This book is available for download.


It’s more than just a job training, it is a civic engagement project

Robert Pierce at Meriter Hospital
Robert Pierce in the Meriter’s site of the South Madison Farmers’ Market

This post is about my partnership in South Madison.  Reading the most recent story at the Capital Times about our project could potentially be misleading as this may be perceived as just another job training trying to help Formerly Incarcerated Individuals (FIIs). FIIs are not the problem.  FIIs are part of our solution in developing a strong and just local food system in South Madison.

First, it is very possible that we have not been able to communicate clearly about what is it that we want to do with the project.  It is very convenient to think that our project is just another job training for FIIs who lack of skills and lack of trust when trying to reenter the society.  This project is thought to bring together a group of saviors who will give the skills and jobs to FIIs.  No, we are not a savior, and this project is not a job training.  We are using the job training as a means, but the ultimate goal is to build a strong connection between the commercial urban agriculture skills and the food desert community where these FIIs are a part of. Continue reading It’s more than just a job training, it is a civic engagement project