Why Public Engagement?

As citizens and as scholars, we have an interest in today’s debates about public policy, conversations about the state of the world, and imagining a different future. Read more about the Public Engagement Projects' Mission and Vision

Upcoming Events

Summer Methodology Workshop: De-Mystifying Public Engagement
June 10-11, 9:00am to 3:30pm
June 12, 9:00am to 12:00pm (Optional)
Machmer Hall, Room E20, University of Massachusetts Amherst

As scholars, we often find ourselves wishing that our research could help people and organizations improve their work and lives, yet oftentimes we lack the skills and networks necessary to accomplish this worthy goal. In response, this workshop aims to promote participants' efficacy as public communicators and engaged scholars. Through a series of hands-on exercises and activities, participants will improve their ability to communicate effectively with non-academic audiences, learn how to engage diverse audiences, and develop personalized public engagement plans to promote follow-through and long-term success as engaged scholars. Participants do not need previous experience with public engagement and/or communication to attend but should come prepared to work on one or more concrete engagement products (e.g., op-ed, policy brief, media interview preparation). Go here for more info.

Paul M. Collins, Jr., 2015 PEP Fellow, comments in the Gazette about referendum questions on the state ballot.

Paul M. Collins, Jr.,  2015 PEP Fellow, comments in the Gazette about referendum questions on the state ballot. He says Questions 1 and 3 are written in a confusing manner. Collins says Question 3, where a "yes" vote would uphold a 2016 law that prevents gender identity-based discrimination in public accommodations, and a "no" vote seeks to repeal that law is an example of unclear language for ballot questions. Collins says Question 3 is unusual and attributed its inclusion on the ballot to the desire of some people to discriminate against transgender people. He also says ballot questions are sometime intentionally confusing as proponents try to influence the election results. "In think in an ideal world, experts in relaying information in plain English can be utilized. This is a common problem in the political world, that things get bogged down with jargon, and ballot measures are susceptible to this," Collins says.

2017 PEP Fellow, Erica Scharrer, interviewed on CTV News about the retirement of actor who voiced Big Bird on Sesame Street

Erica Scharrerr, 2017 PEP Fellow, interviewed on CTV News on the retirement of the actor who voices beloved children's character Big Bird. Scharrer notes that Big Bird is the "heart and soul" of Sesame Street, and his brand of "gentleness and generosity" is needed in today's world. She concludes by noting the impact of Sesame Street in teaching children about "embracing all forms of diversity and human difference."

2017 PEP Fellow, Erica Scharrer, comments in Thrive Global on depictions of fatherhood in the media

Erica Scharrer, 2017 PEP Fellow, quoted in Thrive Global article about depictions of fatherhood in the media. She says fathers on television are shown as, " as bumbling, ineffectual and immature, almost like a child rather than a parental figure." The article then cites her 2010 study, “Wise to Foolish: The Portrayal of the Sitcom Father, 1950s to 1990s,” which shows how depictions of fathers went from distant but kindly authority figures to inept buffoons who were often the butt of family jokes; a shift she argues is concurrent with changes in women's economic position in and outside the home.

The Public Engagement Project invites applications from UMass faculty for the Spring 2019 Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship

Do you want to share your research with audiences beyond the academy, write an effective op-ed or policy brief, testify before Congress, or work with community and professional groups?

The Public Engagement Project invites applications from UMass faculty for the Spring 2019 Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship. As a Public Engagement Faculty Fellow, you’ll develop a fellowship plan tailored to your expertise and aspirations for reaching broader publics. You will receive technical training in communicating with non-academic audiences, cultivating networks to reach those publics, and workshopping your policy brief, blog, op-ed piece, or other public engagement products. 

For more information, click here. 

Paul M. Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, comments in Baltimore Jewish Times and Slate about the recent controversy generated by the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Paul M. Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, comments in Baltimore Jewish Times and Slate about the recent controversy generated by the elevation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a commentary authored by Democratic U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, Mazie Hirono and Sheldon Whitehouse, Collins' research is cited on the number of amicus briefs filed supporting liberal and conservative positions and what impact they have on the outcome of 5-4 cases. In another commentary, the author points to Collins' view that the nomination process was possibly the most controversial in history, not only because of the allegations of sexual abuse, but also what he calls "fairly substantial evidence that at a minimum he [Kavanaugh] misled the judiciary committee.

Rebecca Spencer, 2015 PEP Fellow, discusses the potential effects of naps for small children on BBC.

Rebecca Spencer,  2015 PEP Fellow, says on BBC while it is known that deep sleep helps process memories and emotions, lighter sleep, such as naps for small children, can also have a soothing effect. She says, "kids are really emotional without naps, and they're hypersensitive to emotional stimuli," because they haven't consolidated the emotional baggage from earlier in the day. Spencer says naps can help adults, but not the same degree.

Paul M. Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, co-authored an essay in The Conversation on the increase in interruptions by senators and the nominees during Supreme Court confirmation hearings

Paul M. Collins, 2015 PEP Fellow, is co-author of an essay in The Conversation on how during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court justices, interruptions by senators and the nominees have increased since the 1980s. Collins and his co-author Lori A. Ringhand of the University of Georgia, say overall the rate of interruptions is increasing and they echo and amplify racial, gender and partisan divides.

2018 PEP Fellow, Elizabeth Evans, releases findings of recent study on complementary and integrative health (CIH) therapy use by the Veterans Health Administration (VA)

A recent major shift in practice by the Veterans Health Administration (VA) now means that complementary and integrative health (CIH) therapies such as meditation, yoga and acupuncture are increasingly being offered to VA patients as non-drug approaches for pain management and related conditions, says 2018 PEP Fellow, Elizabeth Evans, an epidemiologist in the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences. Now, Evans and colleagues at VA centers in California, the RAND Corporation, UCLA, and the Stanford School of Medicine report results of their recent study of CIH use by gender among veterans with chronic musculoskeletal pain, and variations in gender differences by race/ethnicity and age. The paper is featured as the "Editor's Choice" in the September/October issue of Women's Health Issues. Read more here.

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