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Community engagement

The University of Otago has reaffirmed aspects of community-engagement as a feature of its Strategic Directions to 2020. The documentation in particular, addresses the need for 'students to give back’ to the community and for this institution to show ‘commitment as a local, national and global citizen’. Community engagement has for many years described a core aspect of the way that some university teachers, programmes and disciplines conceptualise higher education learning and teaching; and internationally the 'scholarship of engagement' is developing as a defining description of much of higher education. Increasingly community engagement is becoming central to research also, making higher education's traditional divisions of teaching, research and service questionable. New Zealand's National Science Challenges, for example, demand more measurable and visible contributions to our environmental and social well-being, and national productivity, with greater emphasis than previously on partnership and cooperation. There are also strong links between these ideas and the recently released National Strategic Plan, ‘A nation of curious minds’ that promotes “a better engagement with science and technology across all sectors …”. HEDC does not have a longstanding, clearly articulated strategy to support community engagement, but is developing more in this area. HEDC has, for example, supported the development and management of a Community-engaged Learning and Teaching Special Interest Group. Recently we undertook research to explore how best to support the professional-development needs of community-engaged scholars and we used this research to support a series of professional development workshops. Contact Professor Kerry Shephard for a chat on 64 3 479 8439 or by email at kerry.shephard@otago.ac.nz.