In the spring of 2013, Dr. Lisa O’Quinn was awarded a post-doctoral fellowship by Dublin City University (DCU), Office of Civic Engagement, in Dublin, Ireland, to serve as the primary researcher responsible for the creation of an instrument which measured the university’s involvement in civic engagement programs and the impact these outreach efforts have had upon the community and the university.
DCU’s Office of Civic Engagement is part of the university’s external and strategic affairs division which encompasses university projects relating to community based learning and community based research. Campus Engage is a network created for the development of civic engagement programs, funded by the Irish government. Together the Office of Civic Engagement and Campus Engage work with the Creative Dublin Alliance (members of local government, commerce, industry, education and state agencies as well as the nonprofit sector) and Dublin Fifth Province, a group of committed citizens, to rethink the future of their city. All three groups define civic engagement as the relationship the university has with the community which encompasses local, national and global groups whose focus is social, economic, cultural, political and cultural development of its citizenry. Efforts in these areas include the collaborative participation of academic departments, administrative units, faculty, staff and students, whose actions embody global citizenship.
During her tenure at DCU, O’Quinn interviewed heads of schools, deans and faculty in each of the schools and directors of research institutes regarding partnerships they have developed with area agencies, private companies and non-profits. Throughout the course of these interviews, she sought to fully understand the evolution of these civic engagement programs and how they are imbedded in the culture of the university.
In addition to engaging in qualitative research, O’Quinn also designed a survey instrument which measured the following: the number of staff participating in each event; the purpose of each event; hours devoted by staff each year and number of community participants in attendance at each event; public service; number of programs offered each year; number of hours per year; public service activities; purpose they serve to the university and hours of commitment; faculty articles submitted for publication and any in-kind donations that the university makes to the community.
This study of civic engagement activities at DCU was unique in that it was the first time the SMEV (Socially Modified Economic Valuation) methodology was applied in a university study.
DCU will use the pilot study instrument in its national study of all universities regarding civic engagement partnerships in the Republic of Ireland in the 2014-2015 academic year. The data collection and analysis process for the pilot study is ongoing and will conclude later in the fall semester when O’Quinn will present a report on findings to DCU and NOVA.