As part of CSU’s land-grant mission, the Provost’s Council for Engagement serves as a connecting bridge between campus and communities across Colorado. Made up of a dozen faculty members representing all eight colleges and the Morgan Library, the Council serves as a champion for advancing the practice and recognition of engaged scholarship embedded within CSU’s core teaching, research and service missions.
Members of the Provost’s Council bring unique perspectives and experience to community-engaged scholarship and research. In this series, we spotlight individual members, highlighting their work and impact across Colorado.
Spotlight: Dr. Carrie Havrilla
Dr. Caroline Havrilla is a plant and soil ecologist working at the interface of community and ecosystem ecology. Dr. Havrilla serves as an Assistant Professor of Rangeland Ecology and Management in the Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship at CSU where she leads the Dryland Ecology and Management Lab. The research program seeks to understand how biotic interactions, global change and restoration shape patterns of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning across dryland ecosystems and how this knowledge can be used to support effective land management.
We sat down with Dr. Havrilla to chat about her research, community-engaged scholarship and the land-grant mission.
Why is faculty engagement important?
“As faculty, lab leaders and PIs, we have the opportunity to set the tone for our commitment to engagement. Engagement itself, at all levels, is important because it connects the work we do, our teaching and research, to the communities we are serving, and allows us to incorporate community goals and perspectives into our programs; it helps to align the work we do at CSU with on-the-ground application and increases our impact. Community engagement also improves the quality of our work, and our work is broadened by the diversity of voices, knowledge, and perspectives found in the community. So, engagement is not just an outreach mechanism, but it improves the quality of our work itself.”
How has community engagement influenced how you approach your work?
“Engagement and research are highly integrated in the work that I do: in ecology and natural resource management, community engagement informs the practical on-the-ground management of ecosystems. As a lab group, we seek to involve the community before even starting a new research project, pursuing any funding, or testing an ecological question; we go to the community first. We often work with CSU Extension and meet with community partners and stakeholders including ranchers, Indigenous tribes and government agencies focused on these issues to understand what their goals and priorities are for research before we do anything. My work and that of my students is driven by the needs of the community and on-the-ground management challenges. We do science to provide science-based tools and strategies – so we have to understand their needs and perspectives.”
How have your students benefitted from your work as an engaged faculty member?
“My students benefit from doing research with an engagement lens to develop the ability to manage merging ecological understanding with complex human dimensions of these social-ecological systems. They also must learn to build and manage working partnerships. Engaged research helps them learn how to listen and understand a diversity of goals and perspectives, and how these shape ecological outcomes. They also learn that there are different keepers of knowledge that may not be scientists but provide insight that is invaluable to the research. My students get a very integrated, multi-disciplinary engaged learning experience. Engagement makes them better researchers.”
Why did you join the Provost’s Council for Engagement, and what do you hope the Council can accomplish?
“Especially as an early-career faculty member, I have learned so much from the other members of the Council – and too, how engagement looks in other colleges and other disciplines. I would personally like to contribute to how we can promote engagement at CSU and make it easier to understand and contribute to that broader understanding across campus. I would also like to share the opportunity to work with Extension and how they can support engagement.”
Learn more about the Provost’s Council
The Provost’s Council for Engagement serves to advance the practice and recognition of our integration of academic scholarship and community engagement. As a faculty-driven initiative established in 2016, the Provost’s Council advances the scholarship of engagement, including engaged teaching, engaged research and engagement with communities across Colorado and the world.
Faculty members from across CSU are eligible to join the Council. Members serve as Campus Ambassadors and College Champions and identify, promote and grow university/community engagement for the shared benefit of faculty, students and communities. CSU faculty and staff can learn more about engagement here.
Interested in joining the Council?
Nominations for the Provost’s Council for Engagement open this summer. Contact Gen Ponce-Pore, Program Manager for Engagement, for more information on how to join.