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Take Your Scholarship Public

by Allison Adams

Institutions of higher education around the nation frequently proclaim the importance of scholarship to the public good. Emory University—with its mission statement emphasizing “knowledge in the service of humanity” and a vision statement that enjoins us to “work collaboratively for positive transformation in the world”—is no exception. But in this era of shrinking resources and growing demands for accountability in higher education—especially to the agencies, funding organizations, and communities that support it—the pressure has increased on institutions to demonstrate the transformative impact of their scholarship.

Allison Adams

Allison Adams is Managing Editor of the Academic Exchange at Emory

As New York Times columnist David Brooks succinctly put it in his 2010 defense of the humanities, “When the going gets tough, the tough take accounting.” That is, in times of high anxiety around resources and training, the cultural impulse is to fixate on the most obviously practical and utilitarian notions of education and to dismiss the rest as an intellectual luxury.

All of this means that now more than ever, scholars must be able to talk about their work in terms both comprehensible and compelling to audiences beyond their immediate fields. In other words, they must be able to effectively take their scholarship public. One way of influencing the public sphere is through external media discourse: by commenting as guest experts on television and radio news programs; serving as consultants in the development of documentaries; and writing magazine articles, op-eds, and books for trade audiences.

The voices we hear most in this world, however, come from an extremely narrow slice of society: white, wealthy and overwhelmingly male. Key commentary forums are 85% penned by men. Pundits on Sunday talk shows on TV are 84% male and 90% white; and Congress is 85% white and 83% male.

How do we cultivate more public thought leadership among women and minority scholars? It takes skill and savvy to bring your work into this milieu. It calls upon scholars to learn to say succinctly, coherently, and persuasively what their expertise is and why it is important.

Two opportunities are coming up for faculty and graduate students to learn more about cultivating such a public voice. The CWE and the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence at Emory are partnering to present a series of workshops designed to help scholars strategize in this area. The second and third of these sessions are coming up on March 26 and April 25:

Stories from the Op-Ed Front Lines
Monday, March 26, 2012
Center for Ethics
Noon-1:15 p.m.

Three Emory faculty members—Drew Westen, Professor of Psychology; Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies; and Hank Klibanoff, James M. Cox, Jr., Professor of Journalism and Pulitzer Prize winner—will share their experiences and advice as op-ed contributors in major national media outlets.

Through the Eyes of an Op-Ed Page Editor
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
ECIT 217, Woodruff Library
Noon-1:15 p.m.

Two op-ed page editors from major newspapers, Autumn Brewington from the Washington Post (via teleconference) and Tom Sabulis from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, will discuss what they seek in pitch, tone, scope, style, and other aspects of an op-ed for their papers. Bring your sharp questions and ideas.

Both of these events are open to all faculty and graduate students. Lunch will be provided for the first 25 people to RSVP. Please RSVP to Roopika Risam at rrisam@emory.edu.

You can learn more about CWE’s Public Scholarship Initiative here and read about the Op Ed Project at Emory here.

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