"Enlarge the horizons of your own 'seeing', so that you don't end up simply being a product of your history," Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Crain Soudien said at the recent launch of UCT's Engaged Scholarship Programme.
He was addressing the first 20 participants on programme, a new professional development initiative for staff who want to embed high-quality social or public engagement in their research and teaching.
The programme is a first for the country and will create a cohort of young academics at the vanguard of engaged scholarship – which sits at the heart of UCT's strategic priorities and social responsiveness mission.
Its design helps researchers critically reflect on their existing practices related to engaged scholarship, or discover how to enhance their teaching or research by engaging with real-world challenges in society through mutually beneficial partnerships with external constituencies.
The interactive programme is based on four three-hour workshop-cum-seminars (April to July) and includes reading, reflective work and brief practical applications. Over forty academics responded to the call for applications. Twenty were eventually selected on the basis of their motivations and track records and letters of support from their heads of department.
Those with a track record in engaged scholarship will lead the workshop-seminars and present aspects of their work.
In the second semester, participants will be mentored on preparing portfolios on engaged scholarship and funding proposals for projects that incorporate components of engaged scholarship into research and teaching.
Two senior scholars, Emeritus Professor Shirley Pendlebury and Emeritus Associate Professor Dave Cooper, have 'come out of retirement to join the programme's team from the Institutional Planning Department: director Judy Favish, senior planning officer (social responsiveness) Sonwabo Ngcelwane, and intern Mpho Phoba.
Cooper joined the University Social Responsiveness Committee (USRC) in 2005 and has played a leading role is helping to re-conceptualise social responsiveness as engaged scholarship.
"Once this conceptualisation was established in the revised UCT Social Responsiveness Policy of 2012, it was a short next step for me and the USRC to begin to think of launching an Engaged Scholarship Programme – to introduce the ideas, concepts, practices and debates in relation to engaged scholarship, to a catalyst group of UCT academics," he said.
Responsibility to society
Comments from participants indicate that the course is timely.
Mundia Kabinga of the Graduate School of Business said engaged scholarship produced knowledge "that is more penetrating and meaningful" when scholars and practitioners work together.
"I'd like to be part of a team of academics and practitioners that uses interdisciplinary solutions to the most complex problems of poverty, inequality and financial exclusion in South Africa."
|For more background on the Engaged Scholarship Programme, browse through the 2015 programme outline You can also contact Sonwabo Ngcelwane or anyone else on the programme team for more information.|
Story by Helen Swingler. Images by Je'nine May.
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