Award Acceptance Remarks by Dr. Karl Hamner
I was asked to speak today about the impact engaged scholarship has had on my life and career. And while I have not really thought about my life and career from this perspective, the answer is really simple: Engaged scholarship has defined my career. To me it has always seemed the natural way we should go about our scholarship.
When I was a graduate student in sociology at UCLA, I started floundering about, lost in discussions on grand theory for which I had no passion. At the point I was ready to leave school, I met Dr. Richard Berk, who later became my dissertation chair. Dr. Berk introduced me and my fellow students to what we then called the field of "applied" social research. And for me at least, it was as if a switch had been thrown in my brain. I could do research on real issues and the results of that research could benefit real people and communities. My dissertation was on the impact of being a victim of hate-motivated prejudice and violence on lesbians, gays and bisexuals.
So I went to the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center and naively asked if they would partner with me in my research. Fortunately they said "Yes." Even more fortunately, they also asked, "And will you help us build an anti-violence project?"
As I said earlier, this seems to me to be the natural way we should go about our scholarship, so I said, "Of course!" And I spent the next two years spending as much time building that anti-violence project with them as I did working on my dissertation.
We launched the project the same year I filed my dissertation and graduated with my doctorate. Two decades later that project is still running and is the largest victim-services program of its kind in Southern California. But even I haven't looked at my dissertation in a long time.
I knew then I had found my passion, what I now consider my calling: engaged scholarship to make our communities and lives better. This has carried me every day of my career since.
Engaged scholarship is where the real impact is: applying what we have learned for social change. The skills and knowledge I have learned from my academic teachers and mentors have allowed me to do the work I do. The passion and fire I have learned from my community partners have given me the motivation to keep on this path. It is my hope that the work we are doing now to improve the lives of people in Walker County and Holt and our efforts to improve the health of veterans will be going strong two decades hence. Those of us fortunate enough to be able to work and live in the amazing world of academia need to understand that we have an obligation both as an institution and as individuals to give back.
And in giving back we advance our own mission.
The renowned management consultant and educator Peter Drucker once said "Rank does not confer privilege or give power. It imposes responsibility." Engaged scholarship helped me understand that the privilege of rank is service.