Academia’s Emerging Crisis of Relevance and the Consequent Role of the Engaged Scholar

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Thursday February 01 2018

Dr. Andrew (Andy) Hoffman, Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, discussed the role of engaged scholarship in public and political discourse.

Universities are facing a crisis of relevance. While there are multiple reasons for this to be happening, one that deserves particular attention is the extent to which academic scholars do not see it as their role to engage in public and political discourse. However, increased engagement is unavoidable in an emerging educational context where the caliber of public discourse has become so degraded and social media is changing the nature of science and scientific discourse within society. Further, there is a demographic shift in play, where young scholars are seeking more impact from their work than their more senior colleagues.

In this presentation, Andy talked about what we know and what we don’t know about the evolving role of the engaged scholar. First, why should academic scholars engage in public and political discourse? Second, how can we structure a set of ground rules that could form what might be considered a handbook for public engagement?


Andrew (Andy) Hoffman is the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan; where he studies the processes by which environmental issues both emerge and evolve as social, political and managerial issues and the corporate responses that have emerged as a result of those pressures, particularly around the issue of climate change. He has published over 100 articles/book chapters, as well as 14 books, which have been translated into five languages. He also writes about the role of academic scholars in public and political discourse. His work has been covered in numerous media outlets, including the New York Times, Scientific American, Time, the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, Atlantic and National Public Radio.