While faculty, staff, and students have been engaged with community partners locally, nationally, and globally for most, if not all, of the institution’s history, the move to a more comprehensive, integrated engagement focus came as a result of Kennesaw State’s inclusion in several national initiatives. In 2003, KSU was one of the founding members of the American Association of State Colleges & Universities’ (AASCU) American Democracy Project, a movement designed to reinvigorate civic learning and democratic engagement within higher education. In 2008, KSU joined Imagining America, a consortium of universities promoting public engagement in the humanities, arts, and design disciplines. Building on these initiatives, in early 2011, Ivan Pulinkala, Sabine Smith, and LeeAnn Lands met regularly with then Faculty Executive Assistant to the President Dr. Jorge Perez to explore tangible ways to institutionalize community engagement at KSU.
In March 2011, President Dan Papp called for KSU to become “Georgia’s Engaged University.” By promoting robust teaching and research relationships with organizations and communities, KSU would enhance quality of life, facilitate economic development, and foster positive social change. Subsequent to the announcement, the Engage KSU leadership team was formed to propose ways that KSU might realize that vision.
Led by Perez (representing the President’s Office) and Dr. Raj Veliyath (professor of management and Faculty Executive Assistant to the Provost), and in conversation with faculty involved in community engagement, an Engage KSU planning structure was announced in open forums and at senate meetings in August 2011. Consisting of five working teams -- engaged teaching, engaged scholarship, engaged service, partnerships and networks, and structures and resources – Engage KSU sought to institutionalize community engagement. Each team met throughout spring 2012 to develop recommendations that would highlight and support community engagement in teaching, research, and service, and strategically integrate community engagement into the fabric of the university.
KSU has emphasized community engagement within its 2012-2017 strategic plan and has set benchmarks for achievement. Additionally, since the launch of Engage KSU, the university has joined Citizen Alum, a national initiative focused on integrating alumni more fully into the campus community -- as “doers” rather than simply “donors.” In 2012, KSU was selected to be part of the NASPA Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Network. And in March 2013, KSU was named to the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, in recognition of exemplary community service.