The University of Michigan is taking steps to expand how its faculty members engage with the public to influence federal, state and local policy, and how they share their knowledge about important issues with those outside the academic world.
President Mark Schlissel announced the effort to boost faculty public engagement during his annual Leadership Breakfast on Tuesday. He also announced the recipients of two new presidential awards recognizing public engagement and its impact.
Public engagement can take various forms, ranging from consultation, testimony or serving on advisory panels to writing op-ed pieces, appearing in the media or offering classes or talks directed at beyond the university.
Highlighting the importance of celebrating those who pursue public engagement, Schlissel announced the recipients of the first President’s Award for National and State Leadership and President’s Award for Public Impact. Each award has two recipients in this inaugural year.
The President’s Award for Public Impact honors individuals who have offered their academic research and expertise in tangible service of a major public-sector challenge. One of the awards went to Meghan Duffy, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology.
"Professor Duffy is a leading national voice in promoting the crucial importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the STEM disciplines," Schlissel said.
An email from EEB Professor and Chair Diarmaid Ó Foighil elaborated: In addition to being one of three lead writers for the science blog, Dynamic Ecology, Meghan has undertaken many new initiatives over the past year including her high school outreach last summer through the Wolverine Pathways program that formed the basis of her successful nomination for a prestigious 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Public Engagement Fellow.
She has also established EEB Mentor Match, to pair undergraduate students from minority-serving institutions who are interested in ecology and evolutionary biology with mentors who can provide feedback on graduate school and fellowship applications. And she co-founded, with Gina Baucom, Diversify EEB, a self-nominated online list of female and/or underrepresented minority researchers (many of them graduate students and postdocs) in ecology and evolution, now with over 1.1 thousand enrollees. These initiatives are in addition to her being an invited speaker on the main stage at the March for Science event in Washington, DC, and hosting the highly influential @realscientists twitter account for a week that led to more than 3.8 million engagements on Twitter and one trending hashtag (#myworstgrade).