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U-M helps to build engaged university with series of events

The personal and economic benefits associated with receiving a college education top the list of what matters most to people, according to a recent survey about the connection between higher education and the public good.

By contrast, higher education’s impact on civic responsibility and the practice of democracy ranked near the bottom of the list of responses from more than 1,000 adults ages 18 and older in the United States, said Jennifer Sosin, president of KRC Research of Washington, D.C., which conducted the surveys earlier this year.

Sosin presented the data to about 150 university presidents, faculty members and educators Oct. 30 during the first day of the Kellogg Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good National Summit, hosted by U-M. The three-day event was held to deepen the broad-based commitment to strengthen higher education’s public good role and craft an action agenda to increase momentum for the national movement.

“The language and how it is used in the university setting is not what common people understand,” said Sosin, who indicated that respondents struggled to define the connection between higher education, democracy and the public good. "Instead, many people said universities and colleges exist only to educate students for their careers."

Respondents said the goals of higher education were to provide education in basic skills (85 percent), and 72 percent said another important goal was career training or re-training. On the lower end, 56 percent said preparing people for effective participation and leadership was an important goal of higher education.

Seventy-one percent of respondents said it was "absolutely essential" that students should get out of college a sense of maturity and how to manage on their own, Sosin said. Only 44 percent said it was essential for college to give students responsibilities of citizenship, such as voting and volunteering.

"Public opinion research is not an exact science, but we try to understand where people are coming from," Sosin said. "We learned that higher education is first and foremost about economics, from better jobs to higher salaries to more people in the workforce. A close second are the social benefits in life such as more life choices, networking for career and non-career purposes, and a sense of accomplishment."

Building the Engaged University

Increasing those lower percentages, as well as recognizing, exploring and promoting a national move The personal and economic benefits associated with receiving a college education top the list of what matters most to people, according to a recent survey about the connection between higher education and the public good.

Collectively titled "Building the Engaged University: Inspiration and Challenge," the intended impact of the events is both national and local, influencing and sustaining dialogue and action, as well as demonstrating U-M's commitment to serve society through its position as a premier public research institution.

U-M is hosting the national conference, "Imagining America 2002: The Engaged University, the Engaged Community, and the Daily Practice of Democracy," which began Nov. 3 and runs through Nov. 5. Imagining America, founded and based at U-M, is an alliance dedicated to putting cultural work in the public interest at the heart of American higher education and local community life.

The conference, which will host public events Nov. 4 in the Michigan League and Nov. 5 in the Alumni Center, will stress the daily practice of democracylocally and globallywhere higher education, public life, and the arts and humanities converge.

The keynote address, "Harlem: A Parable of Culture's Urban Perils and Promises," will be delivered at 1:45 p.m. Nov. 4 in the Michigan League by Mary Schmidt Campbell, dean of theTisch School of the Arts at New York University and founding director of the Studio Museum of Harlem.

Imaging America presenters:

• Ismael Ahmed, executive director of ACCESS, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services in Dearborn;

• Harry Boyte, co-director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, University of Minnesota;

• Lonnie Brunch, president of the Chicago Historical Society;

• John Burkhardt, director of the Kellogg Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good;

• Dudley Cocke of Roadside Theater in Appalshop, Ky.;

• Spencer Crew, former director of the National Museum of American History and now president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati;

• Jan Cohen-Cruz, associate professor, Art and Public Policy Department and director, Office of Community Connections, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University;

• Richard Howorth, mayor of Oxford, Miss., owner of an independent bookstore and collaborator with the University's Center for the Study of Southern Culture;

• Julia Reinhard Lupton, founding director of "Humanities Out There," Univ. of California, Irvine;

• Kathleen Woodward, director of the Simpson Center for the Humanities at the Univ. of Washington, and chair of the Imagining America National Advisory Board.

Imagining America, launched at a White House conference in 1999, is a consortium of member colleges and universities. At the invitation of U-M in 2001, 30 college and university presidents have become charter members of the consortium.

Other events on campus

As part of Michigan Community Scholars Program (MCSP), which held its retreat last week, students in a residential living-learning community have filled the corridors of Couzens Hall with colorful posters describing what they have been studying, learning and doing during their fall semester in MCSP.

The public is invited to join students, faculty and community partners from 6­8 p.m. Nov. 5 in the Couzens' living room to talk with them about their courses on issues such as community, democracy, the arts, diversity, sustainability, education, service-learning and social justice.

The "Building the Engaged University: Inspiration and Challenge" series concludes Nov. 8. A special edition Second Friday Breakfast with the Arts of Citizenship program begins at 9 a.m. in Lane Hall, Room 2339.

From 2­6 p.m. Nov. 8 in the Michigan Union, the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching will host a 40th anniversary celebration. As part of the event, which also will feature a teaching fair, Parker Palmer, author of the widely acclaimed book, "The Courage to Teach," will deliver the keynote address. Palmer is a senior associate of the American Association for Higher Education.

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