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Engagement in Practice: Exploring Boundary Spanning in a School-University Partnership

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Community Engagement Division Technical Session 2

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Community Engagement Division

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Paper Authors

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Julee Farley Montgomery County Public Schools and Virginia Tech


Lisa D. McNair Virginia Tech

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Lisa D. McNair is a Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she also serves as Director of the Center for Educational Networks and Impacts at the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT). Her research interests include interdisciplinary collaboration, design education, communication studies, identity theory and reflective practice. Projects supported by the National Science Foundation include exploring disciplines as cultures, liberatory maker spaces, and a RED grant to increase pathways in ECE for the professional formation of engineers.

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Virginia Tech and Montgomery County Public Schools are exploring a mutually beneficial liaison model. Liaisons are shared positions between both Virginia Tech and a local educational entity, such as a school system or museum. The liaison program started in 2013-2014 by building relationships throughout the schools and among administration. In 2014-2016, the liaison position began by piloting a novel course and collaborative teaching model. In 2016-2017, the liaison position expanded to explore the potential for further reach, beyond a single school. The partners are focused on co-developing value in terms of broader impacts. Liaisons spend part of their time at VT and part of their time at the partner entity, so they can connect with the people and the needs of both entities. Also, it is typical that VT and educational entities the liaisons are trying to bring together have different languages and priorities. Liaisons serve as a translator to make sure that all needs and priorities are being met and can make strong, lasting, mutually beneficial partnerships that are targeted to meet the needs of each partner. Before the liaison positions existed, the only partnerships between VT and the local schools were small, project based partnerships that ended after the project was done. This partnership is long-term, not project-based, and is mutually beneficial to both groups. The partners have learned that it is valuable to have a liaison that can collect and interpret data that are meaningful to both groups. Also, it is important to have face time with both groups. Currently, we are expanding the liaison program and also trying different models of liaisons that spend different amounts of time in each location. As well, we are trying different levels of distance models to see how distance may change the type of liaison relationship needed.

Farley, J., & McNair, L. D. (2020, June), Engagement in Practice: Exploring Boundary Spanning in a School-University Partnership Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34530

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