Provost’s Council for Engagement Spotlight: Kristen Ruegg

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: Kristen Ruegg, Ph.D.

Kristen Ruegg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Colorado State University. Her research focuses on the development of innovative genetic-based tools to conserve migratory birds in the face of climate change and other stressors. Ruegg is also the co-founder and co-director of the Bird Genoscape Project, a large multi-institutional effort to harness genomic methods for migratory bird conservation. The Bird Genoscape Project works to create comprehensive, visually impactful, migratory flyway maps for birds that can be used to motivate conservation efforts across geographic and political boundaries, and to map the potential for bird populations to adapt to climate change. Ruegg also works with students and post-docs to apply genomic tools to address basic and applied evolutionary and ecological questions.

We sat down with Ruegg to chat about her research, community-engaged scholarship and the land-grant mission.

Dr. Kristen Ruegg headshot
Kristen Ruegg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Colorado State University.

Why is faculty engagement important?

“I think Engagement is important because we have some really big problems out there and communicating and connecting the skills and research we are generating through engagement makes it useful for people outside academia. ”

Do you feel as faculty that there is a difference between serving as a faculty member at any university, and serving as faculty at a land grant university?

“I do. With service at the core of the university, I think the value that the university and faculty place on engagement is even greater.  I’m a conservation biologist which is a field that tends to have an applied and engaged focus.  As a result, I was particularly attracted to CSU because it has a reputation as being a place that values engagement.  I also find that I often connect and collaborate with researchers at other land grant universities. It’s like we share a similar personality.”

How have the fundamentals of engagement, such as reciprocity, co-creation, mutual benefit, influence how you approach your work?

“It hasn’t just influenced how I approach my work, it is how I do my work. I run a project called the Bird Genoscape Project which is focused on mapping bird migrations across the western hemisphere. And in order to study migratory birds and make any headway in the field, I have to collaborate with individuals not just at my university or in Colorado, but nationally and internationally. My work depends upon collaborating with hundreds of biologists, volunteers and NGOs every year.”

Can you give some examples of how you have shared your work with communities?

“I have worked with National Geographic to develop documentaries that reach broad audiences.  For example, last year, we produced Feathers in Flight which was hosted on Nat Geo’s Youtube channel.  I’ve also done live stream events such as Nat Geo’s Explorer Classroom, where I was Zoomed into about 20 classrooms from around the US at the same time.”

How do your students benefit from engaging with community?

“I think the students that are attracted to my lab are interested in the ability of our work to reach audiences outside of academia. I also think the ability to take part in engagement is incredibly useful for their professional growth; having to articulate the science you do to different audiences helps you really clarify the questions and ideas that you are interested and how they can be potentially transformative. I think this experience trains them to be a better scientist.”

Why did you join the Provost’s Council?

“I feel like this was an area where I have experience and it is so much a part of what I do, that it seemed like a natural place to have an impact at the university level. Serving on the Council, I have been able to see that there are many ways to do engagement at CSU. As a councilor I hope I can work with others to communicate and value the engagement work that is already happening on our campus.”

Anything else?

“Engagement is super fun. It makes you better at your job – and gives it meaning to your work that I find incredibly fulfilling.  I would add, too, that it’s great to do it at a university like CSU where it is a core part of our values.”

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.

Provost's Council for Engagement