Timothy Eatman and Scott Peters named Imagining America co-directors

Syracuse University and Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (IA) announce the appointments of Timothy K. Eatman and Scott J. Peters as IA co-directors, effective Aug. 1.

“With Eatman and Peters as directors, IA will continue to advance the movement for engaged scholarship in higher education,” says Bruce Burgett, chair of IA’s National Advisory Board. “In many ways, this is a better outcome of our national search than anyone on the IA board could have imagined. Building on the inspired work of outgoing IA director, Jan Cohen-Cruz, Tim and Scott will be able to use their shared commitment to institutional transformation to create significant impact, both locally and nationally.”

Eatman has provided national leadership as IA’s director of research for the last eight years, and since 2007 has been assistant professor of higher education in SU’s School of Education. He continues as a faculty member in the Higher Education Department.

A distinguished scholar of the history of American higher education’s public purposes and work, Peters comes to IA and SU from Cornell University, where he is an associate professor of education. He will have an appointment in SU’s School of Education as a professor in the Cultural Foundations of Education Department, and will also be a faculty affiliate with the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

A consortium of 90 colleges and universities from across the country, IA is the only national coalition working explicitly at the nexus of publicly engaged scholarship and the humanities, arts, and design. IA works with academic and community partners to develop knowledge about and resources for individual and institutional change through community organizing and movement-building, a large-scale annual conference, and ongoing research and action initiatives. Current initiatives include projects aimed at transforming higher education tenure and promotion policies, assessment practices, and graduate and undergraduate education to cultivate publicly engaged scholarship; linking diversity and engagement efforts on campuses; and partnering with community-based arts, cultural and humanities organizations. SU is host to IA through 2017, an extension that was announced in fall 2011.

Innovative Leadership Model

The appointment of co-directors, chosen by IA’s National Advisory Board and SU, puts Eatman and Peters in a unique position to demonstrate to IA’s national network the value of collaborative leadership. It reflects IA’s vision of not only building an organization, but also a movement for institutional transformation in which publicly engaged scholars, artists, designers and community members enrich civic life for all.

“We believe that the establishment of a shared leadership model for IA that places in view joint roles, as well as distinct but interdependent responsibilities, will nurture the health of the consortium,” says Eatman. Peters adds, “Collaborative leadership aligns with the democratic spirit and values of IA and the national public engagement movement.”

As co-directors, Eatman and Peters will share the responsibilities of strategic planning, advocacy and research, strengthening and expanding IA’s consortium, implementing robust program activity that includes an annual national conference, managing staff and fundraising. Both members of the steering committee of the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP), Eatman and Peters began collaborating on a national level last spring. ACP is a broad alliance of organizations—including the White House Office of Public Engagement and U.S. Department of Education—that promotes higher education as an agent of democracy. Through ACP, Eatman and Peters will be engaging the IA consortium in a new major action-research initiative aimed at rebuilding and reconstructing “democracy’s colleges” in American higher education.

Eatman and Peters will also have an active presence at SU and in the Syracuse community, maintaining a vigorous research and writing agenda that advances and exemplifies the public dimensions of scholarly and creative work and contributes to Scholarship in Action. They will be working across the institution with SU’s leadership and faculty of every school and college to establish an institutional presence for IA’s work that will endure beyond the years when IA’s national headquarters is located at SU.

“The appointment of Tim Eatman and Scott Peters as co-directors of Imagining America is a huge win-win for IA and SU,” says SU chancellor and president Nancy Cantor. “Not only does it model for IA’s membership the kind of collaboration that is central to the organization’s identity, but it assures that SU and our many ‘communities of experts’ will benefit from the collective impact of these two nationally prominent, innovative scholars.”

About Eatman and Peters

As IA’s research director, Eatman has provided leadership on key research and action initiatives that have shaped regional, national and global conversations about publicly engaged scholarship. As co-principal investigator of the Tenure Team Initiative on Public Scholarship, he co-wrote its seminal report, “Scholarship in Public: Knowledge Creation and Tenure Policy in the Engaged University” (2008) with IA’s founding director, Julie Ellison, and organized a series of regional meetings with Campus Compact that involved more than 60 higher education institutions. This work on faculty rewards developed into a second national study by Eatman on the career aspirations and decisions of graduate students and early-career academic professionals who identify as publicly engaged scholars.

Eatman, who transitioned with the IA headquarters from the University of Michigan to SU in 2007, has championed the expansion of the consortium’s research enterprise. He has represented IA and SU nationally and internationally through keynote addresses, workshops and consultancies that have increased conceptual understanding about and visibility for publicly engaged scholarship, forging critical relationships with several leading higher education associations. This summer for a second consecutive year he was a faculty member of the American Association of Colleges and Universities’ Institute on High-Impact Practices and Student Success. He serves on the leadership team of IA’s collaborative action-research project with Columbia University Law School’s Center for Institutional and Social Change on diversity and engagement, and will soon begin a two-year appointment as an Honorary Professor at the University of South Africa.

An educational sociologist, Eatman received his Ph.D. in educational policy studies at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a master’s degree in college student development at Howard University and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood development at Pace University. He is the recipient of the 2010 Early Career Research Award from the International Research Association for Service Learning and Community Engagement.

Peters has devoted his professional career to studying and strengthening higher education’s public mission, purposes and work. His research agenda focuses on the connections between higher education and democracy, especially in the land-grant system. His most recent book, “Democracy and Higher Education: Traditions and Stories of Civic Engagement” (Michigan State University Press, 2010), contributes to a new line of research on the critically important task of strengthening and defending higher education’s positive roles in and for a democratic society. He is the author of Imagining America’s Foreseeable Futures position paper, “Changing the Story About Higher Education’s Public Purposes and Work: Land-Grants, Liberty, and the Little Country Theater.”

A nationally recognized scholar, Peters has designed and pursued independent research projects with significant support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Kettering Foundation. He is on the leadership team of a national five-year initiative, funded with a $5 million grant from USDA, called “Food Dignity: Action Research on Engaging Food Insecure Communities and Universities in Building Sustainable Community Food Systems.”

At Cornell since 1999, Peters established an innovative teaching and research program that interweaves democratic theory and political and educational philosophy with historical and narrative methods. Before Cornell, he spent two years as an assistant professor of public work with the University of Minnesota Extension System. He received two graduate degrees at the University of Minnesota: a master’s degree in public affairs from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, and a Ph.D. in educational policy and administration. Before his graduate work, he served for 10 years as program director of one of the nation’s oldest community-university partnerships, the University YMCA at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received his bachelor’s degree in education.

This fall, IA will host an event for the SU community to engage with new directors Eatman and Peters. They will preside over IA’s upcoming annual national conference, Oct. 5-7, in New York City.