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A generation into the information revolution, many academic departments find themselves at a crossroads. Many of the old assumptions on which the academic enterprise is based have been eroded as society’s needs have changed. Departments find themselves struggling to find their place within an increasingly global academic community and to maintain relationships with external constituencies in an increasingly competitive environment. As departments seek to redefine their relevance in this rapidly shifting environment, outreach—once something done in a faculty member’s spare time—is becoming strategically important to both academic departments and individual faculty members.
In this briefing, I describe some of the external factors that are driving outreach activities into the mainstream of strategic academic planning and define several major types of outreach practice, giving examples of effective practices along the way. I also outline a process for planning outreach programs and for creating a strategic plan for outreach within an academic department. In addition, I examine some key issues surrounding how to sustain outreach, especially the important issue of recognizing and rewarding faculty participation in this increasingly vital part of life in an academic community.