Situated in the newly emerging interdisciplinary field of “civic studies,” I center my work as a scholar and educator on the project of advancing democratic varieties of public engagement in the academic profession. Specifically, I seek to understand how academic professionals and students perceive and deal with conflicts, tensions, and dilemmas that arise when they engage with their non-academic partners in the public work of naming and framing problems, deciding what should be done about them, and acting to pursue cultural ideals and values and common and public interests. Beyond simply understanding, I seek to improve higher education's public engagement work in ways that support and enhance rather than hinder and diminish people's voices, capacities, interests, power, and agency. To this end, I seek to contribute to the project of advancing the theory and practice of public scholarship and civic professionalism in higher education. I also serve as Co-Director of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (http://imaginingamerica.org).
Community-based processes of research, learning, and development that involve and engage diverse participants carry a good deal of promise. But they also involve a number of difficult challenges. With respect to the promise of these processes, I seek in my research to understand the ways they serve not only as a means of solving problems, but also of facilitating human and community development and growth, and of cultivating and sustaining democratic publics. With respect to challenges, I seek to understand how academic professionals navigate and deal with the conflicts, tensions, and dilemmas that arise when they engage with their non-academic partners in the public work of naming and framing public problems, deciding what should be done about them, and acting to produce public goods and advance common and public interests. Beyond simply understanding, I seek to improve higher education's public engagement mission in ways that support and enhance rather than hinder and diminish people's voices, capacities, values, power, and agency. To this end, I seek to contribute to the positive project of advancing the theory and practice of civic professionalism in the land-grant system, especially in relation to the task of facilitating a shift to sustainable community food systems.
Outreach and Extension Focus
Using tools from narrative inquiry and action research, I seek to provide opportunities and resources that help people and organizations reflect on and learn from their public engagement work and experiences. I serve as the principle investigator for Cornell's participation in a five-year (2011-2016) integrated teaching, research, and extension project (supported by a $5 million grant from USDA) called "Food Dignity: Action Research on Engaging Food Insecure Communities and Universities in Building Sustainable Community Food Systems." I also serve as an associate editor of the Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement http://openjournals.libs.uga.edu/index.php/jheoe/index.
I teach undergraduate and graduate courses that focus on the history, philosophy, politics, theory, and practice of community development and organizing, with special attention to complex relationships and tensions between democracy, science, and education. I also teach a research design and methods course on narrative inquiry and analysis in social science and action research.
- Russ, A., Peters, S., Krasny, M. E., & Stedman, (2015). Development of Ecological Place Meaning in New York City. The Journal of Environmental Education. 46:73-93.
- Peters, S. (2017). Recovering a Forgotten Lineage of Democratic Engagement. p. 71-80 The Cambridge Handbook of Service Learning and Community Engagement Corey Dolgon, Tania D. Mitchell, Timothy K. Eatman (ed.), Cambridge University Press.
- Peters, S. (2010). Democracy and Higher Education: Traditions and Stories of Civic Engagement. Michigan State University Press.
- Peters, S. (2005). Engaging Campus and Community: The Practice of Public Scholarship in the State and Land-Grant University System. Peters, S.J., Jordan, N.R., Adamek, M., and Alter, T.R. (ed.), Kettering Foundation Press, Dayton, OH.