Linking academic, public scholars

A tour of Central Park's landscape, a visit to a museum, a perusal of health information on the Internet...all of these activities help us to accumulate and use knowledge in a variety of ways, whether it be for the good of society in general or to enhance our enjoyment of life. A recent award of $247,000 from The Rockefeller Foundation will help Emory bring together the "public" scholars who produce this type of knowledge outside of universities with scholars who work in the academic world to enrich the life of society.

The Rockefeller award will enhance and expand the work of Emory's Center for the Study of Public Scholarship (CSPS), which was established two years ago within the Institute of the Liberal Arts (ILA) to foster closer collaboration between academic and public scholars through joint research projects, conferences and publication. The definition of public scholars is broad and can include community physicians, museum curators, community arts organizers and documentary film makers.

"We want to ease the boundaries between academia and society," said Ivan Karp, former ILA director and CSPS founder. "If our goal is to build an informed society, we need to find ways to draw from the best of both worlds." The award will fund graduate interns and a three-year CSPS project to team up with a public institution to examine "Institutions of Public Culture." In 1997-98, the first program, co-sponsored by the Center for Health, Culture and Society at Emory, will focus on issues of public health importance, including AIDS and emergent diseases.

The following year, CSPS will explore the politics of exhibition in conjunction with the Center for Folklife Programs & Cultural Studies at the Smithsonian Institution, and in 1999-2000 the topic will be the politics of urban space with co-sponsor Atlanta History Center. Project leaders for these programs will include Karp, history department chair Randall Packard and urban studies professor Dana White. Cooperating public institutions, the Graduate School and Emory College, have provided additional funding and resources in support of the program.

According to Karp, the public scholars who are accepted as fellows in the CSPS will work with Emory students and serve as advisers on student projects. "Most of the fellows will not be academics per se, but will be scholars who work in the non-academic public sphere," said Karp. "The CSPS programs are also part of a unique graduate program in which every graduate student is required to turn an aspect of their proposed research into something designed for a general public. In other words, we teach the skills of public scholarship in the ILA."

--Nancy Seideman

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