Transformation Process
BC faculty publish book on outreach scholarship

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

    They have taught immigrant schoolchildren to read, helped arrange social services for the children's families, joined inner-city economic development campaigns, offered legal advice to troubled teens, and encouraged corporations to do well in business by doing good.

    Boston College faculty involved in so-called "outreach scholarship" are actively engaged in the communities they study, rejecting an ivory-tower remove in favor of direct cooperation between town and gown on social problems.

    Now more than 20 of these scholars from various disciplines across the University have offered their reflections in a forthcoming book, Transforming Social Inquiry, Transforming Social Action, edited by Prof. William Torbert (CSOM) and Adj. Assoc. Prof. Francine Sherman (Law), who also contributed chapters.

    "This book advances the theory and practice of a new paradigm of social inquiry and social action that no longer dichotomizes pure research at 'ivory tower' universities from 'messy' political action in real-world communities," explained Torbert, a primary instructor in the Leadership for Change executive training program of the Carroll School of Management and the Sociology Department.

Francine Sherman and William Torbert. (Photo by Justin Knight)

   Contributors detail projects that have engaged them in the community, Torbert and Sherman said, and explore the challenges posed by such involvement between researcher and subject.

    "The book is filled with examples of people thinking while they act," said Sherman, director of the Center for Child, Family and Community Partnerships. "The accent is on interdisciplinary cooperation, with the aim of contributing to the evolution of the university so that its work will have a greater impact on the society surrounding it."

    Sherman, who also directs of the Law School's Juvenile Rights Advocacy Project, reports on her work with the Girls Initiative, through which law students have counseled teenage girls in the juvenile justice system. Torbert's chapters include an examination of the role of the University's doctoral program in bridging knowledge and action, and the issue of creating a "community of inquiry" among scholar-consultants.

    Prof. Mary Walsh (LSOE) , co-director of the Center for Child, Family and Community Partnerships, joins a school principal and a social service director, among others, in detailing Boston College's seven-year involvement at the Gardner School in Brighton.

    Prof. Walter Haney (LSOE) draws on his experiences in the Jamaica Plain schools and Prof. M. Brinton Lykes (LSOE) discusses her work in the villages of Guatemala for a chapter on the ethical guidelines involved in participatory research.

    In one chapter, "From Data Raider to Democratic Researcher: Learning To Become An Academic-Activist With The Merrimack Valley Project," former sociology doctoral student Allen Fairfax describes how he sought to avoid treating community members as laboratory subjects for his dissertation during several years with an economic development project in Lawrence and Lowell.

    Faculty contributors from the Lynch School of Education include Prof. Marilyn Cochran-Smith; associate professors Richard Jackson, Maureen Kenny, Jean Mooney and Alec Peck; assistant professors Lillie Albert, Sara Freedman, Otherine Neisler and Nancy Zollers; and Adj. Assoc. Prof. Philip DiMattia, director of the Campus School. In addition, Prof. Severyn Bruyn (Sociology), Assoc. Prof. Eve Spangler (Sociology), Prof. Sandra Waddock (CSOM) and Assoc. Prof. Judith McMorrow (Law) contributed to the volume.

    The foreword was written by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) JD '76.

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