Engage Memorial: Was the Public Engagement Framework a Success?
It’s been a decade since Memorial adopted a Public Engagement Framework to help the university fulfil its “special obligation to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.” Has the Framework had its desired effect?
As a publicly-funded institution—and the only university in Newfoundland and Labrador—Memorial recognizes itself as “a public university serving the public good.” This involves fostering meaningful university-community relationships and championing innovative collaborations. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians feel a strong sense of ownership over the University, and the University feels a strong sense of service to the people and communities who make this place unique. Memorial is the only university in Canada to have senate-approved framework like this one; this fact reinforces that our commitment to connecting the internal and the external is one of a kind.
“Public engagement and post-secondary institutions have a role in helping students find careers, sure, but also to address the global challenges out there, learn to be citizens, learn to be critical thinkers.” Dr. Janna Rosales
Memorial’s Office of Public Engagement recently released the results of a comprehensive evaluation designed to show us where the PEF’s successes are, and where we can do better. The results of the evaluation demonstrate that Memorial’s reputation as a public engagement leader is strong; they are also giving OPE direction to guide our next steps.
The evaluation collected and compiled responses from Memorial faculty and staff, as well as from community partners and from institutions across Canada. In many areas, the responses were encouragingly positive: for example, 85% of faculty and staff agreed that there is a need for public engagement at Memorial, and 59% of faculty and staff believe that Memorial is fulfilling its public engagement mission. Faculty and staff reported a desire to contribute to the community and the province as their top motivation for doing publicly engaged research, and many respondents cited a sense of moral responsibility as guiding their public engagement projects. Among public partners surveyed, 83% agreed that Memorial is helping make a positive difference in Newfoundland and Labrador.
While the PEF evaluation gives us much to celebrate, it also identifies areas where we still have work to do. Faculty and staff identified barriers to taking on publicly engaged research; chief among these was lack of time. For some faculty respondents, the fact that public engagement is generally overlooked in promotion and tenure considerations has meant that they feel forced to choose between publicly engaged research and more traditional research modes in order to advance their careers.
To explore these findings, Memorial’s Office of Public Engagement assembled a panel of internal and external participants in the evaluation process. They looked back on the process of developing the Framework, and they explained the methods used in the evaluation. They were asked to reflect on the last ten years of public engagement at Memorial, and to share their visions for the future. Finally, they answered audience questions and commented on some of the success stories that have come from Memorial’s commitment to publicly engaged researc.
The panel was moderated by Dr. Robert Greenwood, Associate Vice President of Public Engagement and External Relations at Memorial University and current and founding Director of The Harris Centre.
The panelists were:
- Rebecca Cohoe, Manager (Public Engagement), Office of Public Engagement, Memorial University
- Janna Rosales, Associate Professor (Teaching), Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Memorial University
- Rob Nolan, CEO, Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador
- Peter Alexander Parker, Program Evaluation Consultant, NL Centre for Health Information
Watch the complete video to see what the panelists had to say:
“That we’re viewed as such a leader in this space really lends credibility and credence to moving forward.” Rob Nolan
To learn more about Memorial’s commitment to public engagement, read our Public Engagement Framework here.