A spare minute with the CEI: Lynn Pelco, associate vice provost for community engagement
Q: What brought you to working in the community engagement field? Why do you think your work is meaningful?
Pelco: One of the continuous threads through my career has been my interest in improving educational outcomes in a variety of settings. I have focused most of my career on creating inclusive and engaged learning environments in public education, first as a school psychologist and then as a university faculty member preparing K-12 education leaders. My transition to the community engagement field was a natural one because strong educational outcomes, regardless of the students’ level, depend on strong school-community partnerships.
Q: Give us a day-in-the-life picture of your job. What do you like the most about what you do?
Pelco: During my 10 years as the associate vice provost for community engagement, my job has definitely evolved and expanded. What I enjoy most about my current role is working with university leaders to identify strategic opportunities for improving students’ learning outcomes, especially through academic-community partnerships. Whether I am consulting with an academic department or with individual faculty members, I find my role in collaborative problem solving to be very rewarding.
Q: Tell us about a recent work accomplishment or program/initiative that you’re working on that really excites you.
Pelco: During the past two academic years, I have collaborated with leaders in the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and the American Association for Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) to create capacity on college campuses that support students’ civic learning and engagement. Virginia is one of only three states in the country with a statewide requirement for assessing university students’ civic engagement competencies; and I have found the initiatives we have launched to meet this goal very exciting and engaging.
Q: Best piece of professional advice you’ve received:
Pelco: A professor once advised me, “never accept work where you’re not learning.’ I think I have followed that advice across my career and have never regretted it.
Q: How do you engage with the community outside of work?
Pelco: I grew up with immigrant grandparents and spent every weekend at their little homestead - gardening alongside my parents and watching my grandfather tend his honeybees. Those experiences have left me with an appreciation of nature, so most of my community work relates to environmental issues.
Q: Book/show/podcast that you’re loving right now and why:
Pelco: I listen to audiobooks and like all sorts of different genres. I just finished Tea Obreht’s “Inland: A Novel” and am currently listening to Dana Goldstein’s “Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.” I love books that help me better understand different cultures and the historical roots of issues we are facing in the world today. Of course, I also love a great story!
Q: When you’re not in the office, where can we find you and what are doing?
Pelco: Hanging out with family and friends; paddle boarding on the lake, walking my dogs; gardening; and thrift shopping.
In September, the VCU Center for Urban Communities and VCU Division of Community Engagement merged to create the VCU Center for Community Engagement and Impact.
The new center aligns vital resources to build on the university’s legacy of community engagement while expanding community-university partnerships and cross-disciplinary collaboration to further influence student success, scholarship and the public good.