Community Engagement

UMass Lowell Community-Engaged Scholarship and Community-Serving Activities

UMass Lowell engages in a variety of partnership and collaborative activities that exchange knowledge and resources between the university and the public, private, and non-profit sectors. This includes community-engaged partnerships that address a community need while advancing university teaching, research, service, and economic development. Partnerships can span from local to global communities, be funded or unfunded activities, and are often associated with nonprofits, government offices, community groups or individuals.

Community-engaged teaching and learning can include credit or non-credit bearing academic programs or learning activities conducted for public understanding. 

Community-engaged research and creative activities attempt to address problems experienced within society in partnership or collaboratively with nonprofit, governmental, foundation, community groups or individuals, or private entities. 

Community-engaged service includes client and patient-directed care (e.g. clinical services), technical assistance, or direct community service not associated with academic programming. 

Community-engaged economic development includes research on the economy at the macro and micro levels, workforce development, business development, and assistance and support of university and industry research that can have commercial application.

The following is a list of the most common types of community-engaged and community-serving activities at UMass Lowell:

1.    Teaching and learning activities can include credit or non-credit bearing academic programs or learning activities conducted for public understanding. Examples include:

  • Service-learning: A method of instruction in credit-bearing courses that meets or addresses a community need, and fosters civic learning and responsibility by connecting curriculum with community service in a real-world setting. Activities are usually semester based but can range from one-time weekend activities to year-long projects.
  • Community Co-ops/Internships: Paid or unpaid activities that are closely tied to learning outcomes and that enhance students’ understanding of a specific career or set of skills.  Community Co-ops/Internships usually require a high-level of time commitment and some can be done for credit or independently by a student to gain experience.
  • Practicum: Similar to an internship, but more focused on students gaining skills through the application of course instruction (i.e., student teaching, clinical rotations, etc.).
  • Community Federal Work Study: A federally funded financial aid program for college students, federal work study provides opportunities for students to earn financial aid by working in locations on and off campus.
  • Sharing of Academic Resources: Community members can connect to academic resources through continuing education programs; free or discounted classes, workshops, and trainings; or various other professional development opportunities that are designed for the public.

2.     Research and creative activities by university faculty, staff, and students can be connected with the community in a variety of ways. These include:

  • Translational Research: involves the conversion of knowledge gained through research into a form where it can be used by practitioners and community members to have immediate positive impact.
  • Community-based Research: the community serves as the source of information that drives research on an issue impacting a particular community.
  • Collaborative Research: Research jointly designed, conducted, and reported by the community and members of a higher education institution.
  • Action Research: University-driven research to propose action on a community issue.
  • Participatory Action Research: Similar to action research but is community driven.
  • Advocacy Research: Similar to participatory action research but with an intended goal of influencing policy makers through research and on behalf of a community.
  • Empowerment Research: Advocacy research done in collaboration with the community with a goal of empowering a certain population to increase its effectiveness in influencing policy decisions.
  • Evaluation or Evaluative Research: A systematic approach to assess the efficacy or impact of a program, policy, or phenomenon.

3.     Service activities include client and patient-directed care (e.g. clinical services), technical assistance, or direct community service not associated with academic programming. Illustrations of this are:

  • Community-driven and Serving Programs: Services and programming offered by the university or community partner to address a wide range of community needs.
  • Sharing of Individual Expertise: This usually takes the form of consulting or advising; serving on an external board or committee; or creating or performing public works of art.
  • Volunteerism: Can be one-time, short term, or ongoing volunteer activities with no direct connection to academic study.
  • Sharing of University Space and Facilities: This can be a one-time, short term, or ongoing use of university space and facilities for the betterment of a community, cause, or public need.

4.     Economic and community development activities are represented through supporting entrepreneurship and connecting the public to scholarly endeavors. This is in addition to the university’s role in workforce and career training and includes:

  • Market Research: Research that supports public services and servants.
  • Business Development: Programs that focus on the development of small and disadvantaged businesses in order to help them to compete in the marketplace.
  • Intellectual Property: Copyrights, patents, and licenses that advance a public good.
  • Business Incubators: Business support resources and services designed to help small startup and early-stage companies succeed.
Appreciation to University of Massachusetts Boston Office of Community Partnerships who originated this definition. Adapted by permission.