About TDC

About TDC

What is the Democracy Commitment?
The Democracy Commitment (TDC) is a non-partisan national organization dedicated to advancing democracy in higher education, and to make democratic skills available to all individuals who desire a voice and a seat at the table of local, state, and national discourse and action. To such end TDC provides a platform for the development and expansion of community college programs, projects, and curricula aimed at engaging students in civic learning and democratic engagement.

Our Work

What Does TDC Do?

Our community colleges play an important role in job training, for which we have received unparalleled national attention. But we also have a vital role to play in educating students for democracy- to be engaged and active citizens in their communities. Our communities need this more than ever, due to apathy and polarization in our politics, and the incredible stresses they face.  Our community college students’ ability to exercise their democratic rights and work together in public life, to be generous and tolerant and yet able to advocate for themselves, will help determine the future of our communities. Therefore, community colleges are Democracy’s Colleges and community college students are Democracy’s Students.

TDC follows the definition of Civil Engagement found in “Civic Responsibility and Higher Education,” edited by Thomas Ehrlich, published by Oryx Press, 2000.  Ehrlich writes that:

Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.
– Preface, page vi

Furthermore, Erlich expresses the type of student TDC strives for all community college students to become:

A morally and civically responsible individual recognizes himself or herself as a member of a larger social fabric and therefore considers social problems to be at least partly his or her own; such an individual is willing to see the moral and civic dimensions of issues, to make and justify informed moral and civic judgments, and to take action when appropriate.
– Introduction, page xxvi

Dr. Thomas Ehrlich

TDC recently celebrated its 5th Anniversary as it was launched on November 11, 2011, at The New York Times headquarters in New York City. Presidents and chancellors from 50 community colleges and districts nationwide were early signatories, and we have nearly doubled our network of committed member institutions progressing to realize our goal.

The Democracy Commitment is modeled after the American Democracy Project, a national coalition of public state colleges and universities committed to civic and democratic work, sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU.)

To advance the community college commitment to serving the economic, public policy, and social needs of their students and community.  Through advocacy, innovation, and leadership, The Democracy Commitment supports campus efforts that are rooted in the exchange and production of knowledge and resources in mutually beneficial partnerships with their local and global communities. It is the mission of TDC to ensure that every community college student graduates with an education in democracy and citizenship.

Our vision is to spearhead the effort in assisting community colleges to develop and prepare their students to become leaders who are engaged and productive members of our global society, who make civic-minded decisions and contribute innovative solutions to address the complex social, health, economic, scientific, and civic issues of our time.

Founded in 2011 with 50 original signatories, TDC’s membership is comprised of community college campuses dedicated to ensuring that civic and democratic education and engagement are available to all students.  TDC’s membership grows as the necessity for support in civic work becomes increasingly apparent.

TDC member institutions become “stewards of place” aimed at revitalizing democracy in the communities in which they are based and from which their students come.   TDC nationally supports the fact that community colleges are committed to and responsible for their communities, and assist in providing opportunities to achieve their missions rooted in democracy.

Our Team

Who is TDC?
To assist in achieving the mission and goal of TDC, the new National Team was created and is composed of community college administrators, faculty, staff, and student interns as well as national partnership all dedicated to advancing democracy in our community colleges.

The Democracy Commitment’s staff brings a wealth of experience from  higher education, political organizing, and community engagement to the organization. The team consists of a National Director and Interns working collaboratively to fulfil the mission and vision of TDC.  TDC’s national office is located in Washington, D.C., at the offices of AASCU.

The Late Dr. Bernie Ronan, TDC Co-Founder

The Late Bernie Ronan was tireless in his work for democracy, and every element of The Democracy Commitment network bears his imprint. He was an organizer, advocate, leader, and an eloquent spokesman for community college students. He was also a profound theorist of democratic culture and wrote about the significance of democratic engagement in the lives of students.   He was the Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs of the Maricopa Community Colleges. He oversaw the Division of Public Affairs, which includes government relations, marketing, media relations, communications, as well as the Center for Civic Participation.  He had been an administrator in the Maricopa Colleges for the over 20 years, including serving as the Acting President of Mesa Community College in 2007- 2008.   In honor of his tremendous devotion and commitment to TDC and the national civic engagement movement, we renamed our TDC student scholarship award after him last year.  The “Bernie Ronan Award” will stand as a living testimony to this good and loyal friend.

Dr. Brian Murphy, TDC Co-Founder

Dr. Brian Murphy is president of De Anza College in Cupertino, California. In 2011, he was instrumental in the development of The Democracy Commitment, a national project aimed at ensuring that every community college student has an education in democratic practice.  Murphy has been president of De Anza College since 2004. A key focus of his presidency is the preparation of students to be active, involved citizens committed to transforming their communities. This vision lead to the creation of De Anza’s Institute for Community and Civic Engagement.  He earned a bachelor’s degree from Williams College and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, all in political science. 

Members of TDC National Leadership Team are Administrators, Faculty, and Staff from our member institutions, and national partners committed to the mission and goals of TDC as well as its success.The National Leadership Team of The Democracy is composed of three bodies:

  • The Board of Directors
  • National Advisory Board
  • Campus Coordinator Advisory Council.

The National Leadership Team works closely with the National Office to ensure that every student of our member institutions receive an education in civic responsibility and democracy.

The Democracy Commitment is committed to helping its members graduate the next generation of informed and engaged citizens. To this end, TDC relies on a select group of partners to provide updates, guidance, and thought leadership on an array of issues impacting civic engagement and democracy in our community colleges.

Join TDC

Why become a member?
Member institutions become “stewards of place” aimed at revitalizing democracy in the communities in which they are based and from which their students come. TDC nationally supports the fact that community colleges are committed to and responsible for their communities, and assist in providing opportunities to achieve their missions rooted in democracy.


Member institutions are automatically eligible for participation in programs including national initiatives, projects, and grant-funded opportunities.  Administrators, faculty, staff, and students alike can take advantage of member rates when registering for TDC and TDC-sponsored summits, workshops, and meetings.  Additionally, everyone within your campus community can take advantage of selected publication discounts and exclusive permission to copy and distribute selected publications at no additional charge for faculty development and other internal campus activities.



TDC has amassed a national clearinghouse of program designs, curricula, and project development strategies for community colleges. Member institutions have access to these materials and ideas which extend beyond volunteerism embracing civic work broadly to include the democratic practice.  TDC membership provides ongoing access to resources in areas such as Electoral and Political Engagement; Civic and Democratic Education and Engagement;  Community Engagement; Global Citizenship; and Professional Training and Development. Members have exclusive permission to copy and distribute resources at no additional charge for faculty development and other internal campus activities.



TDC summits, workshops and meetings, programs, publications, and projects allow your institution to engage with the educational community at large.  Individuals on your campus can use these forums to share your institution’s experiences and accomplishments with others and learn best practices from our network of democracy’s campuses.  Additionally, TDC members can partner with other TDC campuses as well as in AASCU’s national initiatives focused on civic and democratic learning and engagement.



Through workshops, regional summits, and national meetings, our members have professional opportunities to develop skills in civic learning and democratic engagement and to learn from others across the country exchanging ideas on best practices to advance this work.  From examples of local organizing endeavors to training in deliberative dialogues, TDC provides our members the platform to work collaboratively and across institutional boundaries to build seamless curricular, co-curricular, and extracurricular opportunities for our community college students and their success. TDC members have the opportunity to develop regional and national programs that build civic skills among students, especially focusing on projects that support students in doing public work which has an impact on retention, completion, and ultimate student success.


TDC membership positions your institution to join with other campuses and organizations in AASCU’s sponsored initiatives such as Engage the Election powered by icitizen, ADP/TDC Economic Inequality Initiative.  Also, joint other grant-funded projects with organizations such as AAC&U such Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation and Citizenship Under Siege both funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).



Partnerships formed between TDC and national organizations give our members recognition and access to a myriad of opportunities for exposure. Because TDC is represented in our nation’s capital, our members are often spotlighted at national events along with our annual and regional meetings.  TDC and TDC-sponsored summits, workshops, and meetings provide numerous opportunities to share your institution’s best practices, innovations, accomplishments, and challenges with the higher education community at large.  Also, TDC members gain valuable exposure for their participation in TDC programs through TDC’s print and online publications and on TDC’s website. Additionally, TDC members can have institutional announcements, events, resources, and essays posted on our website and in our online member newsletter What’s New with TDC available to the entire educational community.

Firstly, to ensure communication between TDC headquarters and each college, all member institutions are asked to designate a Campus Coordinator.  TDC Campus Coordinator is a very important commitment we ask of each member institution. The Campus Coordinator is defined as: a faculty member, administrator,  or staff person who believes in the value of a civic education and is committed to the success of The Democracy Commitment on your campus.  

Additionally, the Commitment includes:

  • $1, 000 annual membership dues per college beginning each fiscal year on July 1st to aid in the continuation of TDC’s staff and further the dedication to civic learning and democratic engagement in America’s community colleges.
  • A public commitment to the central role of civic education.
  • Intentional support for both curricular and extracurricular programs that build civic skills among students, especially focusing on projects that support students in doing public work.
  • Faculty and staff development in civic engagement through civic-infused programs and curricula
  • Partnerships with local civic, non-profit, and/or governmental agencies whose primary work is the social and economic development of local communities.
  • Participation in the annual meeting that brings together students, faculty, staff, administrators, and partners. Development of joint regional and national programs with partner universities, and with national higher education associations.

Our early strategy was to reach out to a group of “early adopters,” presidents and chancellors whose colleges are already engaged in and committed to this work. The initial signatories since March, 2011 to The Democracy Commitment include:

  • Broome Community College (NY)
  • De Anza College (Calif.)
  • Delta College (Mich.)
  • Georgia Perimeter College (GA)
  • CUNY LaGuardia Community College (NY)
  • Lone Star College (Tex.)
  • Los Rios Community College (Cal.)
  • Maricopa Community Colleges (Az.)
  • Miami Dade College (Fl.)
  • Minneapolis Community and Technical College (Minn.)
  • Moraine Valley Community College (Ill.)
  • Riverside(Cal.)
  • Santa Monica(Cal.)
Joining The Democracy Commitment can be accomplished by simply submitting the following form:

New Member Application Form

Or by filling in the following Online Form:





Our Latest Stats

Member Institutions
Community College Campuses
Million+ Community College Students
Number of States in America