Community Engagement Definitions

Community Engagement Definitions

IUPUI has had a deep history of engagement with the community since its founding in 1969. Over the years, the terminology used to describe this work has grown and evolved. Below are the commonly agreed upon definitions for community engagement terminology in the context of the campus, teaching, research, and service as well as graphics reflecting the continuum of community engagement in these areas. 

In the context of the campus

Continuum of campus community engagement
IAP2 Spectrum of Public Participation adapted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Institutions that intentionally apply their economic power and human capital in a long-term partnership with their local communities to improve mutual well-being. Through the Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan University (CUMU) Anchor Learning Network (ALN) members explore opportunities for advancing anchor mission strategies grounded in the Anchor Mission Framework that centers community wealth building and explores strategies around our core economic assets of purchasing, hiring, and investment, while gaining an understanding of how to advance racial equity through anchor work. [Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan University (CUMU) Anchor Learning Network (ALN) Anchor Learning Network | CUMU (]

Group of people external or internal to the campus who are affiliated by geographic proximity, special interest, similar situation or shared values. ["Incorporating Community Engagement Language into Promotion and Tenure Policies: One University's Journey," Lynn E. Pelco and Catherine Howard, 2015.]

Collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in the context of partnership and reciprocity. The purpose of community engagement is the partnership of college and university knowledge and resources with those of the public and private sectors to enrich scholarship, research, and creative activity; enhance curriculum, teaching, and learning; prepare educated, engaged citizens; strengthen democratic values and civic responsibility; address critical societal issues; and contribute to the public good. [Carnegie Elective Classification for Community Engagement]  

Application and provision of institutional resources, knowledge or services that directly benefits the community. Examples include music concerts, athletic events, student volunteers, public lectures, or health fairs. [Clinical and Translational Science Awards Consortium’s Community Engagement Key Function Committee. (2011). Principles of community engagement (2nd ed). (NIH Publication No. 11-7782). 

Sustained collaboration between institutions of higher education and communities for the mutually beneficial exchange, exploration, and application of knowledge, information, and resources. Examples are research, capacity building, or economic development. [Clinical and Translational Science Awards Consortium’s Community Engagement Key Function Committee. (2011). Principles of community engagement (2nd ed). (NIH Publication No. 11-7782). 

A title in formal appointments for faculty who are recruited, hired, charged and evaluated to carry out community engagement as an integral aspect of their faculty scholarship, roles and responsibilities. 


In the context of teaching and learning

Continuum of community engagement in teaching and learning
Illinois State University Center for Civic Engagement

A meta-category of learning that includes: "knowledge (e.g., historical, political, and civic knowledge that arises from both academic and community sources); skills (e.g., critical thinking communication, quantitative reasoning, public problem solving, civic judgement, civic imagination and creativity, collective action, coalition building, organizational analysis; and values (e.g., justice, inclusion, and full participation) (Saltmarsh 2005). Through developing our civic faculties, we cultivate our individual capacities to be active members of society; in addition, we develop an expanded notion of "we, the people" and the social commitments that binds us together to work toward human thriving locally and globally. (Saltmarsh 2005)

A person’s inclination or disposition to be knowledgeable of and involved in the community, and to have a commitment to act upon a sense of responsibility as a member of that community. (IUPUI Center for Service & Learning)

Variety of educational methods and programs faculty may utilize to connect what is being taught in schools to their surrounding communities, including local institutions, history, literature, cultural heritage, and natural events.  Community-based learning is motivated by the belief that communities have intrinsic educational assets educators can use to enhance learning for students.  (E.g. internships, student teaching, service learning.) [Lynch, Matthew, A Guide to Community-Based Learning, The Edvocate April 27, 2021.]

Pedagogical approach that connects students and faculty with activities that address community-identified needs through mutually beneficial partnerships that deepen students’ academic and civic learning. Examples are service-learning courses, or service-learning clinical practica. [Saltmarsh, J. (2010). Changing pedagogies. In H. Fitzgerald, C. Burack, & S. Seifer (Eds.). Handbook of engaged scholarship: Contemporary landscapes, future directions. Vol. 1: Institutional change. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press.]

Learning through equitable access to pathways of connected curricular and co-curricular experiential, applied, and integrative learning opportunities. Engaged learning prepares students for lives of meaning and success with skills to communicate, innovate, engage with communities, and solve the problems of the 21st century. [IUPUI Institute for Engaged Learning]

Uses the unique history, environment, culture, and economy of a particular place to provide a context for learning. Student work is directed toward community needs and interests, and community members serve as resources and partners in every aspect of teaching and learning. [Melaville, A., Berg, A., Blank, M. Community-Based Learning: Engaging Students for Success and Citizenship]

In these programs, field-based “experiential learning” with community partners is an instructional strategy—and often a required part of the course. The idea is to give students direct experience with issues they are studying in the curriculum and with ongoing efforts to analyze and solve problems in the community. A key element in these programs is the opportunity students have to both apply what they are learning in real-world settings and reflect in a classroom setting on their service experiences. These programs model the idea that giving something back to the community is an important college outcome, and that working with community partners is good preparation for citizenship, work, and life. [AAC&U definitions for HIPs]

In the context of research

Continuum of community engagement in research
Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Clinical and Translational Research (2008)

Research that is situated within the local community, is initiated by a research topic of practical relevance to the community (as opposed to individual scholars), and is often carried out in community settings such as non-profit or government agencies. 

A partnership approach to research that equitably involves, for example, community members, organizational representatives, and researchers in all aspects of the research process. [Israel, B. A., Schulz, A., Parker, E. A., Becker, A. B., Allen, A., & Guzman, R. (2003). Critical issues in developing and following community based participatory research principles.] Can also be referred to as participatory action research. 

Research/creative activities, teaching, and service undertaken by faculty members in collaboration with community members (and often students) and that embody the characteristics of both community engagement (i.e., reciprocal partnerships, public purposes) and scholarship (i.e., demonstrates current knowledge of the field/discipline, invites peer collaboration and review, is open to critique, is presented in a form that others can build on, involves inquiry). [Glassick, C., Huber, M, & Maeroff, G. (1997). Scholarship Assessed: Evaluation of the Professoriate. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass]

An intellectually and methodologically rigorous endeavor that is responsive to public audiences and non-academic peer review. It is scholarly work that advances one or more academic disciplines by emphasizing production of knowledge with community stakeholders. [Wood et al (2016) Public Scholarship at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis]

An umbrella term that describes integrative scholarly activity integral to a faculty member’s academic work & role. PES encompasses different forms of making knowledge, creative activity, teaching and service in, about, for, and with diverse publics and communities. Through a coherent, purposeful sequence of activities, PES contributes to the public good and yields artifacts of public and intellectual value. [Publicly Engaged Scholarship Review Committee: Promotion and Tenure: Faculty Affairs: Office of Academic Affairs: IUPUI]

Process of scholarship that explores how institutions of higher education engage with their communities and the impact that this has on students, faculty, staff and the community.  

Translational research occurs when researchers/scholars generate new knowledge, collaborate/form partnerships with community leaders and groups, then use this information to develop meaningful, evidenced-based practices that solve problems people face in their everyday lives. These problems range from complex social, health, governmental, cultural, and relational issues.

Translational research is interdisciplinary or cross-disciplinary. This kind of community engaged research targets the goal of making a difference in people’s lives. Translational research takes knowledge generated from scientific inquiry or humanistic scholarship and transforms that knowledge into practices and solutions. [IUPUI Center for Translating Research into Practice]

In the context of service

Application of one’s professional expertise that addresses a community identified need and supports the goals and mission of the university and the community.  Community-engaged service may entail the delivery of expertise, resources, and services to the community. 1,5  (E.g. public talks, serving on a board or committee, or providing professional services to community groups, local businesses, or government agencies.) [Clinical and Translational Science Awards Consortium’s Community Engagement Key Function Committee. (2011). Principles of community engagement (2nd ed). (NIH Publication No. 11-7782).

The application and provision of institutional resources, knowledge or services that directly benefits the community. Examples include music concerts, athletic events, student volunteers, public lectures, or health fairs. [Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. (2011). Classification description: Community engagement elective classification.]

University service supports and develops IUPUI and its schools and units. Most tenure-track faculty and librarians, as well as some clinical faculty, also participate in disciplinary service which supports and develops the research and professional goals of their discipline. [IUPUI Promotion & Tenure Guidelines]