Moving Beyond the Single Discipline: Building a Scholarship of Engagement that Permeates Higher Educationi

Linda Silka, Robert Glover, Karen Hutchins, Laura Lindenfeld, Amy Blackstone, Catherine Elliott, Melissa Ladenheim, Claire Sullivan


Communities face complex problems that are best addressed by integrating the perspectives of multiple disciplines, yet many forms of engaged scholarship remain disciplinarily specific. Universities struggle to bring together highly disparate disciplines linking knowledge with action to address community problems. Sustainability is an important example of a complex, urgent problem that is best addressed by integrating multiple disciplines. In the United States, a unique multi-year initiative, Maine’s Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI), addresses sustainability problems by working across disciplines on engaged research. Scholars, representing multiple disciplines and most of the higher education institutions in the state, working with their community partners, are addressing sustainability problems related to landscape change, specifically urbanization, forest ecosystem management, and climate change. This initiative is composed of over two dozen interdisciplinary, engaged research projects that include diverse stakeholders (e.g., nongovernmental organizations, communities, policy organizations, and governmental leaders) as members of the research teams. Reflecting on the challenges of involving multiple disciplines in research projects, we discuss SSI as an exemplar of interdisciplinary, engaged campus initiatives. The scale and reach of the initiative (on-campus and statewide), the number of disciplines and stakeholders involved in the project, and the conversations around engaged scholarship occurring at the University of Maine capture the challenges and opportunities of moving the scholarship of engagement beyond the isolated work of individual disciplines. 


Interdisciplinary Research; engaged scholarship; community engagement; stakeholders; sustainability; community based PAR; Transdisciplinary engagement

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