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The Democracy Commitment is the leading national organization focused on the civic education of community college students.   To such an end, TDC  is an excellent source of information on community college curricular change, how community colleges are educating and engaging students in our democracy, and ensuring that community college voices are heard and do matter in our society.  TDC National Office aims to expand public and student civic knowledge and understanding. Welcome to the National Newsroom

What's New with TDC

The quarterly newsletter from TDC’s National Office is published at least once every semester and contains updates on TDC’s latest work, announcements, opportunites, and news from member institutions.  See below for the most recent issues and archives of previous issues.

National Blog

Our national blog contains important news, updates, announcements, and opportunities from TDC National’s Office on a weekly basis.  Sign up for the mailing list to receive notifications when they posted and check it out frequently to stay up to date.  Contact the national director for opportunities to contribute.

#e214 Update: Respect or Reject Campaign Conversations

By Stephanie R. South, TDC National Coordinator

To respect or to reject? That is the question the National Institute for Civil Discourse (NICD) is asking of voters this campaign season via the Respect or Reject campaign.

The campaign (hashtag #respectorreject) debuted post-Labor Day and has engaged voters (and candidates) via social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. With Election Day tomorrow, we thought that sharing these rich conversations would not only add to your election-watch-party conversations but provide some food for thought as you head to the polls.

To view and join the conversation on Facebook, click here.

For twitter, click here.


#e214 Update: CEEP’s Non-Partisan Candidate Guides

Courtesy of Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP)

When students don’t vote, it’s often because they feel they don’t know where the candidates stand.

The national nonpartisan Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) has created 2014 guides for many states, including running draft versions by key stakeholders, like campus Young Democrats and Young Republicans. Here are some ways to distribute them—or any others you feel that are useful:

  • Encourage your student newspaper to use them as a starting point for their election coverage, highlighting the impact candidate positions can make in student lives. Students may not read outside papers, alas, but they do read the campus paper. If the paper makes the election salient, there’s a far greater likelihood that students will participate. As discussed in our election engagement guide for campus newspapers, they can do a huge amount to cover the candidates and their actual stands. We’d be delighted if they used our guide as a start, either elaborating on it or printing as an insert, as various schools have done, like Virginia’s James Madison University.  And the earlier you get the guides to the student paper, the more likely they’ll be able to help galvanize their engagement.
  • Distribute the guides through all-campus email, or print them and put them in students’ physical mailboxes. As mentioned, Viterbo printed copies for all their students. Virginia’s James Madison University ran them as an insert in student paper. If you can find a way to print them and hand them out, they can be an excellent starting-point for campus conversations. Or you can send them out electronically and link to them on your school’s election-related website.
  • Use them to help spark discussions in classrooms and residence halls.
  • Think big: blow them up in posters large enough to be visible to passing students. Display in high-traffic areas of the student union, classroom buildings, or residence halls. Lots of schools did this in 2012 and 2013.
  • Create your own nonpartisan guides to down-ballot races, like Secretary of State, Attorney General, Congressional and local legislative races, and local and statewide initiatives. Have students draw up these guides under the supervision of political science, communications, or honors faculty, or have the faculty create them. Distribute them in the campus, community, and online as you would the CEEP guides.

One note on categories which we’ve marked Answer Unknown. These are areas where we simply couldn’t find an answer for one of the candidates, sometimes because their opponent had the chance to vote on a particular issue and they didn’t. But you can still be proactive and ask candidates yourselves,  or ask your campus newspaper to do so. And if you do get an answer please let your state CEEP staffer know, so they can update the guides for the other schools in your state.

#e214 Update: CVP’s Reminder and Resources

Courtesy of Fair Election Legal Networks’s Campus Vote Project

Did you know that two-thirds of students surveyed who did not vote in the last midterms (2010) cited a lack of information reason, such as not understanding the process or missing an important deadline?

Help make sure your students have all the information they need to get registered and cast an effective ballot this year.  You can find more non partisan student voting information by checking Campus Vote Project’s state-specific Student Voting Guides for all 50 states and D.C., available here: CVP Student Voting Guides.

Students can create real change by voting on issues and officials that impact their lives and the well-being of their community. It is important to remind students that their vote can make a difference on policies that affect them on campus as well as after graduation. Below are six important reasons students should keep in mind when deciding whether to vote this November.

  1. Young adults (ages 18-29) will make up at least 24% of the voting age population this year but are less likely to cast a ballot than older voters. Young voters have the numbers to make change, but we have to vote to make that happen.
  2. Officials at the federal, state and local levels influence decisions on issues that directly impact students like student loan debt, higher education funding, voter ID laws, and job creation. Students have the power to elect representatives who support and protect student issues.
  3. Across the country states have made deep cuts to higher education funding since the recession. Average state funding is down 23% per student, or $2,026.
  4. 48 states are still spending less per student than they did before the recession six years ago.
  5. Annual tuition at 4-year public institutions has jumped 28% or $1,936 since the 2007-2008 school year.
  6. This is your campus, your community, your state and your country. Voting is the easiest way to participate, enact change and make a difference in your home.

For more information on how to help students register and get your campus out to vote this November visit:

VOTE on November 4
and Make Your Voice Heard.

#ADPTDCelect: A Midterm Elections Tweet-Up

By Stephanie R. South, TDC National Coordinator

As part of ADP’s eCitizenship and Political Engagement Project initiatives, the American Democracy Project (ADP) and The Democracy Commitment (TDC) are planning a multi-campus digital dialogue (i.e., Tweet-Up) about the 2014 Midterm Elections during November 4-11, 2014.

As we head to the polls on Election Day (November 4th) and throughout the rest of that week, ADP and TDC encourage students and faculty to engage in a discussion about this important election cycle—including domestic policy issues most affecting higher education—using Twitter.

In order to prompt discussion during the Tweet-Up, Illinois State University’s School of Communication will compile a primer on major national themes and domestic policy implications gleaned from commentary occurring via social media on the night of the election. Specifically, the Social Media Analytics Command Center (SMACC) will be used to analyze public conversations from social media outlets, popular discussion forums, and major blogs. By following messages as they spread and diffuse across social networks, the SMACC can help identify and begin to predict message trends related to the 2014 election cycle. The SMACC report will be made publicly available on November 5th and will be shared with all Tweet-Up participants.

All Tweet-Up participants should use the hashtag #ADPTDCelect during this conversation. The Twitter handles for the ADP, TDC, and SMACC are:

ADP: @ADPaascu

TDC: @TDCNational


As the ADP and TDC are non-partisan and interested in preparing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens, we hope many of you will join us and encourage your students to do so as well. We want to encourage more students to engage in the electoral process and are not looking for a partisan battle, but for a supportive, interesting, and analytical conversation that encourages civic and political engagement.

So, just to recap:

What:  ADP/TDC 2014 Midterm Elections Tweet-Up

    When: Tuesday, November 4, 2014 – Tuesday, November 11, 2014

           How: On Twitter using the hashtag #ADPTDCelect; it only takes a few minutes for most students to learn to use Twitter, and they can create an account at

Common Cause Writing Competition on Defining a “Gerrymander Standard”

Post Courtesy of Common Cause


Common Cause is pleased to announce its inaugural “Gerrymander Standard” Writing Competition. The U.S. Supreme Court has long suggested there is a limit for what is acceptable partisan gerrymandering, but like obscenity, so far the line is undefined and left to courts to know it when they see it. The Court has said that it is willing to hear constitutional challenges to partisan gerrymandering, but existing legal theories have been insufficient to empower citizens with the tools they need to overturn partisan gerrymanders in court. This is your chance to change that.

Common Cause invites legal and social science practitioners, scholars, and students to submit papers proposing a new definition of partisan gerrymandering or further developing an existing standard. Winning papers will be selected by a distinguished panel of former State Supreme Court Justices, litigators, and election scholars.

Prizes will be as follows:

  • 1st place – $5,000
  • 2nd place – $3,000
  • 3rd place – $2,000

The top entries will also be published in Election Law Journal, the leading academic publication in the elections field. Common Cause will cover expenses for winners to travel to Washington, DC in the fall of 2015 to present their papers.

How to Submit a Paper
Please review the 2015 “Gerrymander Standard” Writing Competition Submission Requirements before submitting your entry. Submissions must be sent to by Friday, February 27. Do not include any information identifying yourself in the paper. Include your name, phone number, and address only in the body of the cover email. Feel free to email us at with any questions.

To view the flyer about this writing competition, click here.





TDC Event: Advancing Civic Learning in Online and Virtual Space Webinar on 10.28.14

Next week, on Tuesday, October 28, 2014, at 3:30 p.m. EST, The Democracy Commitment and the American Democracy Project have teamed up with the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University to offer a special webinar to our member institutions.

Advancing Civic Learning in Online and Virtual Spaces will be an interactive and participant-led webinar and learning experience related to designing online and virtual courses that include an academic service-learning component.

Eric Hartman, Brandon Kliewer, and Chance Lee from the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University will facilitate this learning experience. Participants will develop their thinking around how to systematically design online and virtual courses that include academic service-learning that maximizes student learning. Although the course design process is relevant to a range of disciplinary and topical learning outcomes, this session will focus on dimensions of intercultural competence. As a result of this webinar, participants will be able to design online and virtual courses and programs that advance intercultural competence.

To register for the webinar, please sign-up via this Google Doc:

To join the meeting on October 28th, click this AdobeConnect link:

For meeting audio, dial 1-866-642-1665 and enter 499385 as the participant code.

Updates & Announcements: State of Civic Education Policies (via CIRCLE)

Courtesy of the American Democracy Project

Interactive Map Shows State Civic Education Policies

In the past two years, many states have been updating their civic education policies, some to conform with Common Core standards or to adopt the new College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework for social studies. CIRCLE has created a new interactive map designed to quickly see where states stand on key civic education measures like required years of social studies in high school or assessments at the state level.

The interactive map lets users explore by regions and allows for custom comparisons between states. By double-clicking on a state you can also get a more detailed snapshot of a state’s civic education within the context of other key information like educational spending, population demographics, political climate, and voting rates (see a sample PDF).

Explore the map HERE.


Florida, Tennessee, and Hawaii: Three Case Studies of Civic Education Policy

Recently, CIRCLE conducted case studies of new or revised civic education reforms in three states:

– In Florida, the Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civics Education Act mandates a high-stakes standardized test in civics.
– In Hawaii, a required “Participation in Democracy” course places a strong emphasis on experiential education. The requirement was passed in 2006 and an effort to repeal it was defeated.
– In Tennessee, recent legislation mandates project-based civics assessments at the middle and high school levels.

CIRCLE released a short fact sheet that describes each bill or proposal in detail, including the advantages and drawbacks identified by both proponents and detractors. They also released a paper that includes interviews with prominent stakeholders in each state and takes an initial look at the process behind each proposal and some of the issues faced by the educators tasked with implementing them.

Download the Fact Sheet here.
Download the Working Paper here.

Both the civic education map and these case studies were funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.


What We’re Reading: General Education and Democratic Engagement

Courtesy of the American Democracy Project

What we’re reading right now is AAC&U’s latest issue of Diversity and Democracy which is focused on general education and democratic engagement — issues we here at AASCU’s American Democracy Project value deeply. Pay special attention to Thia Wolf’s article on Public Sphere Pedagogy from ADP member campus CSU-Chico. Thia and her colleagues presented about their public sphere pedagogy in a plenary session at ADP’s 2012 national meeting; you can find more information on their work here and here. You’ll also encounter articles from three community colleges that are members of our sister organization The Democracy Commitment.

– Jen, ADP National Manager

DD coverDiversity & Democracy: General Education and Democratic Engagement

General education programs and curricula can provide key opportunities for students to practice democratic thinking and civic action. This issue of Diversity & Democracy features approaches to general education that help students develop the skills they need for participation in a diverse and globally connected democracy. Contributing authors also raise pertinent questions about opportunities for and barriers to faculty and students’ democratic engagement in higher education itself.

The table of contents for this issue of AAC&U’s Diversity & Democracy is below, with links to full online articles. Diversity & Democracy, Summer 2014, Vol. 17, No. 3


From the Editor

General Education and Democratic Engagement

Modeling Democratic Practices through General Education Reform: A Developmental Journey
Lenore Rodicio, Miami Dade College
“Even as the national dialogue on student success continues to focus on workplace readiness, our goal as ‘democracy’s college’ is for every graduate to become a well-informed citizen who can effectively—and actively—participate in civic and economic life within a diverse and globally connected environment.”

Moral Discernment: Essential Learning for a Principled Society
L. Lee Knefelkamp, Teachers College, Columbia University and the Association of American Colleges and Universities
“Our work as educators to help students develop mature capacities for democratic engagement cannot be separated from our work to help them develop mature capacities for ethical and moral reasoning.”

Public Sphere Pedagogy: Engaging Students as Participants in Democracy
Thia Wolf, California State University–Chico
“Recognizing that college students, particularly first-year college students, frequently occupy the role of observers in their survey classes or large lecture courses, faculty engaged in PSP work seek to provide students with arenas, means, and reasons for public participation.”

Connecting Democratic Engagement and Global Learning in General Education
Carina Self, Dona Cady, and Matthew Olson—all of Middlesex Community College
“To address current pressures on and goals for higher education, MCC began its general education reform process in 2011 with this question: How do we, as an institution, mobilize across a number of functional areas to provide general education that develops students’ intercultural competence, global understanding, and democratic engagement?”

Campus Practice and Perspective

Integrating Democratic Education at Stonehill
Hailey Chalhoub, Stonehill College
“IDEAS is an outlet for students to further develop their identities as leaders and change agents by designing and facilitating classes attended by their peers.”

Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation: A Project for Democracy
John Dethloff, Lone Star College–Kingwood
“Classrooms should serve not only as meeting places for students or training grounds for future employees; they should provide a space for the birth of citizens.”

Science Literacy: A Key to Unlocking a Fully Engaged Citizenry
Amy F. Savage, Bard College
“In today’s world, an educated citizenry must be prepared to make decisions that are rooted in scientific or technological knowledge.”

“Getting the Community into the Student”: The Indianapolis Community Requirement
Donald Braid, Butler University
“Developing successful community-engagement programs presents several pragmatic challenges. Even well-designed experiences require significant attention to achieving civic learning outcomes.”

An Ethic of Listening in Higher Education
Adam Bush, College Unbound
“College Unbound attempts to build a learning environment and a degree pathway that is safe, inclusive, and imbued with an ethic of listening.”

Parts of a Whole: Contingency, Democracy, and Higher Education’s Mission
Maria Maisto, New Faculty Majority
“The truth of the harm contingent employment causes to the entire academic enterprise is still very difficult for academic citizens to confront, even though it speaks to a core principle of the civic engagement curriculum: that authentic learning cannot take place in an environment that does not foster inclusion, justice, and collaboratively oriented action.”

Game Theory and Reality TV: Pathways to Democratic Thinking
Carol A. Davis, Hampton University
“Through communications projects based in game theory, students become engaged in the process of learning, participate in both their educations and their community, and learn to work together in the service of shared goals.”

For More

Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Resources
From the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Action Network

#ADPTDC15 Updates & Announcements: SAVE THE DATE for NOLA


Be there.

Mark your calendars! We’re looking forward to seeing everyone for the 2015 American Democracy Project/The Democracy Commitment National Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana from June 4-6, 2016!


Please Note:
The meeting schedule will be a bit different this year — we’ll start sessions bright and early on the morning of Thursday, June 4th and will finish by 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 6th. Make plans accordingly! Also, stay tuned for the call for proposals in early October — proposals will be due by the end of the calendar year in December. 

2015 ADP/TDC Meeting Theme

Each year we choose a meeting theme around which a variety of speakers and sessions are dedicated. Please note, however, that while we seek proposals that address the meeting theme, we also welcome all proposals related to broader civic learning and democratic engagement topics.

The 2015 meeting theme is “Stewardship of Place: A Civic Mission of Higher Education.”

Public higher education has a number of distinct yet overlapping civic missions, including: creating informed, engaged citizens; engaging in research on topics such as civic learning and development; serving as spaces for democratic dialogue and deliberation; and identifying and addressing community needs in partnership with other community members and organizations (The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and CIRCLE, 2006).

Each of these civic missions involves the “place” where our institutions operate, and our meeting theme this year focuses on this: What role does place play in public higher education? How are our institutions involved in the multi-layered communities in which they are situated? How are our colleges and communities dependent on each other? What does it mean to act as stewards of these places, in teaching, research and service? How do we teach students to serve as stewards of their current and future communities?

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU)—ADP’s parent organization and host of TDC’s national office—defines its member institutions as Stewards of Place, framing the work of these institutions as inexorably linked to the well-being of the communities, regions and states in which these colleges and universities are situated (AASCU, 2002). In a recent publication, AASCU asked its member institutions to consider their work as stewards of their communities in four distinct yet overlapping areas—economic and community development, k-12 education, internationalization, and—most relevant to our ADP and TDC work—civic learning and engagement (AASCU, 2014 – available soon!). Likewise, TDC’s member institutions, for which community is not just part of their title but their legacy, share a similar commitment to stewardship.

As we come together in June 2015 in New Orleans, we cannot think of a better location in which to explore this definition and focus on our work collectively and in alignment with this civic mission. Both the American Democracy Project (ADP) and The Democracy Commitment (TDC) share a deep commitment to ensuring that our institutions and our students are thoughtfully and meaningfully engaged in our often overlapping communities. As we join the people of New Orleans in commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and the 50th anniversary of the Higher Education Act, we will explore our individual and institutional responsibilities and contributions to our democracy both in New Orleans and in the communities in which our institutions reside.

Potential topics based on the meeting theme might include:

  • Role of place in public higher education
  • Campus/community partnerships
  • Examples of mission-driven community-based work
  • Community-based learning and research
  • Economic and community development efforts
  • Ways of mapping and measuring community impact
  • Shared institution/community events and spaces

Join us in New Orleans as we consider the meaning of place in public higher education and our role(s) as stewards of the spaces and places with which our campuses are so deeply entwined.

We look forward to seeing you there!

TDC Partners & Friends: Register for the 2014 National Conference on Citizenship (10.10 in Washington, DC)

Courtesy of the American Democracy Project

NCoC 2014 conference

Strengthening Civic Life

Civic life is how we come together to accomplish big goals and overcome serious challenges. What is amazing is that it is often grounded in the smallest actions. Actions like talking with neighbors, eating with family and friends, exchanging favors, and other random acts of kindness. These acts create the social connections necessary to solving big problems and maintaining a healthy democracy.

The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) is an organization dedicated to strengthening civic life in America. For 70 years, NCoC’s Annual Conference has been a must attend event for community builders searching for new ways to engage their neighbors and create positive change. Given the current social and political polarization, the need for this Conference couldn’t be greater.

Leaders from the nonprofit, private, open data, and technology sectors will converge at the Conference to share best practices and uncover innovative civic engagement strategies. There will be high-quality Learning Summits, panels, and networking time – all chances to strengthen civic life and take on the issues facing our field.

We hope to see you in DC, a month from now, on October 10 at the 2014 National Conference on Citizenship. Click here to register.