The University Record, February 11, 1997

Kellogg Foundation's Richardson urges University-community partnerships

By Jared Blank


Speaking in Rackham Amphitheater last Thursday, William C. Richardson, president and CEO of the Kellogg Foundation and former president of Johns Hopkins University, urged universities to accept that they must alter their missions now that the Cold War is over. He suggested that faculty should share with and apply their research to communities outside the academy and ensure that their students are learning practical applications for different fields of study.

Richardson said that he was not debasing the value of what some may consider to be "esoteric" knowledge. In fact, he noted, fields that were once considered esoteric, such as Kurdish or Croatian studies, have gained prominence because of news events occurring in those societies.

"Problems arise when we fail to apply this knowledge to society's benefit," he said. "Increasingly, citizens expect universities to address not just that which makes us so strong, which is our fundamental research, but also the social problems that we find in our communities and to explore ways to combine what we have done traditionally very well with the needs of the communities."

Universities can promote community-based teaching and research by changing the reward structure for young faculty, he said. These types of outreach are beneficial for universities and its students, yet the current reward structure of basing tenure decisions on research and publication creates a "chilling climate" for young faculty who wish to undertake community-based activities.

As an example of successes in community-based teaching, Richardson noted that the Kellogg Foundation has supported a number of programs that promote community partnerships for educating health professionals. He said that this type of partnership has a two-pronged benefit: Communities will have more health professionals trained to deliver primary care and these communities will have more say in what types of health services will be available. "Community partnerships exemplify the principle of how, by reforming themselves, universities can, in fact, reform the society around them," he said.

On the U-M campus, he praised the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) for its innovative approach to teaching undergraduate students. Richardson said that universities need to consider ways to change the outdated "stand and deliver" approach to teaching, to give students a voice in the classroom because employers seek employees who think clearly and independently. He added that in the UROP program, not only do students benefit from the research they do, but teachers "rediscover the rewards of teaching."

Richardson's lecture was sponsored by the Office of the President, the Academic Outreach Program, and the Center for Learning through Community Service.