Good Society Described as a Process of Community Engagement

Meg Tate ’23, Contributing Writer

The belief that there is a society that is close to a “good” society is not the case according to Professor of Community and Environmental Sociology Randy Stoecker. Stoecker delivered a lecture on the that societies will always need to get better.  

“We don’t think of colleges and universities as being a way to build the good society […] but I believe that it is a great way to accomplish it” said Stoecker.  

Stoecker, however, also believes that the good society is in fact not a thing, it is a process that involves conscious strategizing, structured organizing, and collective action. He focused on the fact that all of these strategies desperately need the community to act as a collective one person instead of many individuals.  

The community in a town that hosts some sort of higher education, like a college or university is most definitely part of the community. This is what Stoecker discussed the majority of the talk about how to get the colleges or universities involved in making society better.

  Stoecker said, “Currently higher ed’s involvement in the good society is to keep things the same, however we can make it better.”

Stoecker said throughout the talk that they (his group) decided to change the structure of what order is the most important for the colleges and universities to get involved. The old process went in the order of, student learning then charity service then community lip service and then system maintaining change. He wanted to switch that completely around and start with system maintaining change and go to student learning as the last one.  

This process through his experiences has worked. He decides to help with what he determines as broken. Stoecker said, “I know it’s broken when I hear people’s pain, that’s when we need to make it better.”

He then began giving the audience examples of how his university is getting involved in the community of Madison, Wisconsin. For the past four years now he’s been working with a group within the community, Urban Community Arts Network (U.C.A.N.), and they’ve slowly impacted change.  

“I think the community of Madison was really broken as he had said and I think that it is so unique that he and his students were and are able to help them move closer to a good society through U.C.A.N.,” said Alex Thompson-Hill ’23. He continued and said that, “all universities could use a class like [the one] Mr. Stoecker [teaches].”

ATS had many members of the community, faculty and students at this talk that was very informational towards uniting the community and college. Another first year, Julia Lynch ’23 decided to attend Stoecker’s talk.  

“I think maybe my biggest takeaway was how schools impact community engagement,” said Lynch.  Lynch continued, “I remember someone asked a question and talked about the Title IX protest and divest Dickinson and I thought that was an interesting view of community engagement since the interactions between the administration and students are overlooked sometimes.” 

Randy Stoecker is a professor at the University of Wisconsin in the Department of Community and Environmental Sociology. He teaches classes on how to get the students more involved in the community and each year the class has a project with groups in the community to study the desired project.  

“From Community Engagement to the Good Society” took place at 7:00-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 19 in the Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium and was co-sponsored by the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues and the Middle East studies department.