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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.

Turning 50 and the Catalyst for Change: Service and Community Engagement

Author: Annette Orozco Bhatia, Civic Responsibility and Student Development Coordinator, Borough of Manhattan Community College

Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) first opened its doors to students in 1963, with a mission to provide an affordable, quality education.

In the 50 years since, we have done a lot of growing and learning, both inside and outside of the classroom. We have witnessed significant moments in American history and as New Yorkers, we have learned the most about ourselves – who we are, what we can handle, how we show up for others – in the face of adversity and how to move on exemplifying our college motto, “Start Here. Go Anywhere.”

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, one of the College’s buildings, Fiterman Hall, was irreparably damaged when 7 World Trade Center fell. The building was closed due to safety issues. Because we lost Fiterman Hall, classes had to be held in our main building and in classrooms and modular spaces all over the city. There were also concerns about air quality, which meant that no windows could be opened. Despite this, we all showed up to continue teaching and learning.

Eleven years later, Hurricane Sandy hit us where we live, work and play. While necessary precautions were put into place, the campus did not expect the severe flooding, resulting in a one-week, college-wide closure. Using social media and text messaging, BMCC advised students of campus closures, where to find resources and assistance,  and when classes would resume. Communication with the college community was maintained, surprisingly, without one single letter being mailed out via the U.S. Postal Service.

BMCC 1After re-opening its doors, the college created initiatives to provide further information and assistance to those affected by the storm. What the college was not prepared for was the overwhelming response from students who desired not to receive assistance, but to provide it. A new group, BMCC Engaged in Service Together (BEST) was created to centralize existing while developing new volunteer opportunities providing disaster-related relief for many of the same neighborhoods that our students came from.

Many students jumped at the opportunity to volunteer with the BEST team. Given the diversity of our population, students were already having a difficult time managing work, classes and personal obligations. To better assist in connecting these students with service opportunities that fit their schedules, the BEST Coordinator began seeking to establish official partnerships with local non-profit organizations. One of the incentives was to have organizations posted as official community partners on the BMCC Co-Curricular Transcript (CCT). The CCT provides students with an official record of their civic engagement and co-curricular activities while enrolled at the college. When paired with the academic transcript, it provides a holistic representation of the student’s experience at BMCC.

BMCC 2Within five months of Sandy, BMCC formed official partnerships with some of the largest non-profit organizations in the city –  New York Cares, 9/11 Memorial and the Puppetry Arts. In addition, BMCC was among the first cohort of colleges selected to participate in CUNY Service Corps, a City University of New York program giving students the opportunity to be paid for serving the city with non-profit organizations. Through this program, the college has been able to establish additional partnerships with community organizations throughout the city. We are currently in talks with the NYC Food Bank and Catholic Charities of New York, as well as providing a large pool of seasoned student volunteers to serve as “Hospitality Guides” for the events leading up to the 2014 Super Bowl in the New York City area.

BMCC 3Perhaps it was fitting that the college focused on providing service to the community in preparing for its semi-centennial birthday. Looking back at all the college has done, the road to recovery from 9/11 and Sandy has shown us that great things can be born from catastrophe.  Following our own experiences with both man-made and natural disasters, The Division of Student Affairs realized that we can tap into the power of the human spirit to serve others for the greater good as we continue to build a civically responsible and engaged student body.

Important News From TDC Headquarters

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Dear The Democracy Commitment colleagues and friends,

It is with a mixture of sadness and deep appreciation that we pass on the news that Amee Bearne, our founding national coordinator, will be leaving office this coming January. Amee entered graduate school this fall, and has secured a wonderful full-time paid internship opportunity in the field (urban planning) and place of her fondest dreams, her current town outside of Washington, DC. Amee always told us she would be making a transition into planning, where her passion for sustainable growth, citizen participation in community development, and environmental justice can have its best expression. We kept hoping she would delay (and keep delaying), but we have to admit that this opportunity was too good to pass up.

We’re sad at losing Amee, and filled with appreciation for her work and care over these past two-and-a-half years. Under her thoughtful attention, our campus network has grown to over 130 community college campuses, our campus coordinators have always had the support they needed from Washington, our national web presence grew dramatically, and our annual meeting had the steady hand of Amee in the planning and execution of the event. Amee is rightfully proud of playing so central a role in the founding of the first national network for community college civic engagement, and we are deeply in her debt.

Bernie Ronan and I joined George Mehaffy in Washington last week to identify someone to serve in an interim role until such time as we can mount a search to fill the permanent position. We are delighted to announce that Stephanie South, already at AASCU, has agreed to serve as our interim national coordinator. Stephanie is deeply experienced in civic engagement work, and brings a passion and commitment for our shared work of democratic engagement. During the year that she has been at AASCU, her work included a variety of initiatives and projects closely allied with TDC and AASCU’s American Democracy Project. I can think of no one who is in a better position to move into the role of interim national coordinator and maintain the amazing progress that we have enjoyed over the past two and a half years. We are delighted that Stephanie will work as the interim national coordinator of TDC.

We will look forward to celebrating the many contributions Amee Bearne has made to The Democracy Commitment at our annual meeting in June, in Louisville. For more information about the meeting, please visit our website meeting page. There you can find information about our Call for Proposals, registration, hotel, and meeting theme. It looks like the meeting will, once again, be an excellent one.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Louisville. Meanwhile, happy holidays.

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Brian Murphy
President, De Anza College

Students Study Sustainability Issues

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By: Omairys Rodriguez
College Assistant, Communications & Public Relations
Guttman Community College

Students Study Sustainability Issues for City Seminar Final Project.

During the end of the Fall I semester, first-year students in the City Seminar I course gave presentations as part of their final projects based on the theme of maintaining a sustainable New York City. Students in House I, for example, were given a scenario-based assignment to reconstruct New York’s infrastructure after a catastrophic seismic event. Students were assigned to City Planning groups to study the structure, function, governance, successes and failures, and the sustainability measures of one of eight city departments, including Agriculture, Transportation and Education and to present plans to create new, improved and sustainable departments to manage the rebuilding of New York City. Final presentations were made to a panel of faculty experts, who posed questions to each group.

House I students gave their presentations on December 4.
House I students gave their presentations on December 4.

House 3 students explored the differences between public opinion and data concerning New York’s sustainability. They examined topics such as waste and recycling and asthma and air pollution by researching these subjects and studying data based on surveys they conducted. Students presented their findings as part of nine panels focused on different topics. One student served as a moderator for each panel.

Over a dozen invited guests from outside the college responded to student research from their areas of expertise, including Michael Chase Johnson of Green City Academy, Mark Seaman of the Planning and Regional Development Division of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority and Sabina Pendse of the Environmental Protection Agency, who noted, “I was very impressed by the students’ research and insightful presentations. I only wish we had more time to ask questions and continue the discussions with the students. I thought the presentations were well-organized and I was also impressed by how well the students moderated the discussions.”

City Seminar is a year-long interdisciplinary course that introduces students to a variety of perspectives within the liberal arts and sciences, including education, urban policy, environmental studies, business and industry, public health, work and labor markets, immigration, and public arts and culture. During the fall semester students explore the complex issues that impact New York City. City Seminar builds critical thinking and analytical skills by challenging students to evaluate the historic and social context of different issues, survey multiple perspectives, and analyze the evidence driving key decisions. The course also provides students practical learning and community-based opportunities. Group activities facilitate broad discussion and engage students to take action to improve the city.

For more photos of the event click here.

All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement

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CIRCLE is holding a FREE, 5-week, open online seminar that will provide youth organizations with a venue to discuss and wrestle with the research and recommendations from the recent report “All Together Now: Collaboration and Innovation for Youth Engagement”.

Registration is now open and further information can be found on the CIRCLE website at:

http://www.civicyouth.org/tools-for-practice/learning-community/

Since the release of the report in October 2013, CIRCLE has been in conversation with a wide range of stakeholders interested in and committed to improving the civic and political engagement opportunities and outcomes for ALL youth in the United States. This FREE and open online seminar is an effort to reach out and engage individuals and groups interested in extending the conversation about that state of youth engagement and future strategies to improve it. The seminar welcomes and encourages young people, parents, educators, policymakers, youth advocates, researchers, and others to join this five-week learning community. The seminar is also designed to allow for multiple levels of participation and will have synchronous and asynchronous elements to accommodate those who need additional flexibility.

The All Together Now report was commissioned by a bipartisan group of distinguished scholarly experts from diverse disciplines and institutions. The Commission report is based, in part, on data collected from more than 6,000 young adults and 720 high school civics or government teachers, and an analysis of all states’ voting and education laws. More information about the report can be found here. Some reflections on the report’s implications for higher education are here.

More information on the Commission on Youth Voting and Civic Knowledge Releases Report is also available.

Public Achievement: Transforming Education

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By: Noelle Johnson
Public Achievement Coordinator
Northern Arizona University

15 students were gathered in a room in Minnesota and asked to identify challenges that face their community and public spaces. Harry Boyte realized then that youth have a lot to say and do indeed feel strongly about community issues and change when given the space to explore their inner voice. Public Achievement (PA) is now going into its 24th year as a movement and involves youth in this practice as the foundation for the work. PA is a different kind of politics – public work — that empowers students and others, and can transform schools, colleges, and communities. Started in 1990 by Harry Boyte, who was active as a college student in the Citizenship Education Program (CEP) of the civil rights movement, and sponsored by the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Public Achievement translated the empowering pedagogies of CEP into the current day. Public Achievement has grown and is now flourishing in hundreds of communities, schools, and colleges in the US and more than two dozen countries, including Japan, South Africa, the West Bank, Poland and Northern Ireland.

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Students at Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory in Flagstaff, Arizona turn compost to maintain one of their ongoing projects.

At least 15 of those institutions are participants in the American Democracy Project and The Democracy Commitment. The main question, how can youth be active and engaged citizens in our democracy and see themselves as co-creators has changed the way that institutions are involved with the community and local school. It has also changed the way that teachers are educating their students in K-12 education as well as higher education. It has begun to produce new understandings of the educational vocation, “citizen teacher.”

PA teaches concepts such as democracy, power, politics, public work, citizenship, and diversity through hands on projects. Every site adopts its own model of PA to fit the unique needs of the students and school. The general format involves K-12 students who work with undergraduates at a college and while learning these concepts, decide on an issue and a problem they want to solve and a project that goes with that. The university students are “coaches” for these students and take on a role that is actively engaging, mentoring and encouraging youth. Through both courses and community engagement the undergraduate students are benefitting from this program as well as the youth they work with. A student at Northern Arizona University wrote, “I have never had a professor or teacher want to get to know their students as much as Lauren (Berutich) does. She truly cares about her students and changing the world by Public Achievement”. This student wrote this in a response discussing the one-to-one relational meeting that she had with her professor. She also mentioned that she wished more professors would take this time with their students, to truly understand who they are. This is one benefit the Public Achievement program has had on higher education. Not only are students more engaged in the classroom and the community but also the instructors take the time to model this to their students. PA takes a different form at each site when it comes to training the coaches but there is a free space created within each class and students have the ability to explore and critically think about current issues as well as how this program can affect change in our current educational system. College and K-12 students are becoming active and engaged citizens, understanding what a democracy is, and enacting change in their communities with the power that they have.

Last summer at the American Democracy Project National Meeting in Denver, Public Achievement coaches and coordinators from across the U.S. gathered to talk about their work and how they can collaborate with one another. American Democracy project and The Democracy Commitment both create a space where PA coaches and coordinators can share the work that they are doing as well as help others implement this program at their locations. June 5th through 7th, at the next ADP/TDC National Meeting there will be coaches and coordinators from across the U.S. that will be present to share their experiences and information for other schools that are interested in starting this program at their location.

Giving Made Easy at Guttman: a TNU Sponsored Event

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By: Carolee Ramsay
Student Engagement Coordinator
Stella and Charles Guttman Community College (CUNY)

Like most other CUNY schools celebrating CUNY Month in November, Guttman’s faculty, staff, and TNU Club members came together to serve free lunch to students on Thursday, November 21. “It is a way to embrace our rich diversity and reinforce our student-centered, collaborative model”, says President Scott Evenbeck.

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Guttman’s President, Scott Evenbeck (second from right), serves students hot meals at their International Fall Food Fest held November 21st. TNU Club members, Kristine Anne Perez, Mirella Laure, and Papa Diatta assist.

The Fall International Food Fest was attended by over 100 students with over 35 faculty and staff members donating food, time and other services to make the luncheon a success. Sponsored by Trending News Update Club (TNU Club), club members, faculty, and staff featured cuisine from 5 continents. For Student Government President and TNU Club member, Alfajo Jallow, the event signifies a proud moment during his tenure and is representative of the platform of unity and community, which he campaigned on.

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Staff members join TNU Club members as they take a break from serving students. L-R is Randolph Moore, Sara Oomen, Nicola Blake, Alfajo Jallow, Mirella Laure, Khalifa Ndiaye, Carolee Ramsay, Scott Evenbeck, Tracy Daraviras, Daquan Allison, Adesh Ramcharatin (partially hidden), Sam Aldailam, Kristine Anne Perez, and Papa Diatta.

As students went off to celebrate their own Thanksgiving, many reflected on the event as a way of having Thanksgiving with their Guttman family. That connectivity and enrichment to students’ lives are testimonies to the advancement of Guttman’s fundamental mission. Special thanks to the co-organizers: Chief of Staff, Linda Merians, President Scott Evenbeck, Communications Director, Bruce Lyons, College Assistant, Omairys Rodriquez, Executive Assistant to the Provost, Chris Aviles, Executive Assistant to the President, Latoya Jackson, IT Associate Chris Eng, and Director for Peer Mentoring, Daniel Ambrose. The TNU Club also recognizes members Henesse Molina, Daquan Allison, Dycota Robinson, Gibsy Lino, Adesh Ramcharatin, Samuel van der Swaagh, Alfajo Jallow, and Mirella Laure along with their advisers Nicola Blake, Tracy Daraviras, and Carolee Ramsay for their tireless support and efforts in coordinating this event.

Reflecting on the American Past and Moving Forward

This past Thanksgiving homes across the country were filled with an assortment of food, laughter, flashing bulbs, embarrassing moments, and joyous announcements. Thanksgiving, as many recognize it, is a day to simply celebrate and give thanks. A uniquely American tradition stemming from early European settler relations with Native Americans, Thanksgiving Day is a tradition with a rich history for the country and for its citizens. While many Americans celebrate this day with joy and laughter, others take a different view of the occasion. In an article on USA Today, “On Thanksgiving Native American Students Reflect,” it highlights the difference many Native American college students feel for Thanksgiving. Some of the students interviewed feel a slight offense that the rich culture and history of their people are ignored on most days except Thanksgiving. The Native Americans have long sought recognition in a country that has, for the most part, overlooked not only their presence in history taught at school but also the injustices done to them.

Among the students interviewed is Carrie Wright, a Mercer County Community College student in New Jersey. She expressed deep resentment towards Thanksgiving. To her, the day only reminds her of the genocide of her people. Wright said, “I just think it’s insulting to native people … it boils my blood because Natives were treated like garbage and that’s never really out there for people to understand.”

Carrie Billy, the President of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), contributed some reflection on the words of the students interviewed. She was quoted saying, “the issue of historical trauma … really affects the self-esteem of our students. That is a challenge.” AIEHC works to support the efforts of quality education for Native Americans in the tribal colleges and universities. In addition, the consortium works to assist on and develop legislative support on higher education for Native Americans.

As the country celebrated a day of giving thanks, many– including media outlets– were unaware that the month of November was also Native American Heritage month. A month-long celebration and recognition of the “first Americans” culture and history, not commonly or widely observed. Terra Trevor, a Huffington Post blogger suggests in her impassioned Thanksgiving blog, “Happy Thanksgiving: An American Indian Perspective”, that Native Americans have become myths in the American society. She also notes the consumerist culture that is heightened on the day of or the days following Thanksgiving, further diminishes the history and meaning of the day. To Trevor, the Native American college students, and the rest of their community Thanksgiving is not about the exclusive shopping deals or the Turkey, it is a day to honor their ancestors, remember the history, and as well give thanks.

As our initiative works to foster education in democracy, we’re taking this time to highlight the “first Americans” who continue to live through marginalization. Our commitment to democracy details a civic education o to voting to “Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation”. It’s imperative to the initiative to look at democracy at every angle, especially at an often unnoticed one. How can the Native American population feel more integrated in the country of which also proudly brings democracy across the world? The place of the Native American culture and heritage belongs in the center of the American discourse. To what extent can democratic practice bring about change in the way history is viewed?

[Call for Papers] 2014 Minding The Gap – Educating For Economic Justice

The growing gap in the United States between the rich and the poor (or even between the rich and the middle class) and the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of the few is difficult to justify. The gap is even greater between the wealthy in developed nations and the destitute in the Third World. A significant amount of research highlights the deleterious effects of wealth inequality on a society and around the globe. These effects include increased crime, mental illness, educational underachievement, and more. In such a situation, American colleges and universities cannot sit idly by. At its 2014 annual meeting, the Society for Values in Higher Education will investigate the gap and reflect upon ways that educational institutions can mind it and mend it.

Papers may address these values from a number of theoretical and (inter)disciplinary perspectives,including but not limited to questions such as:

Exploring the Issues
• What is economic justice? Are we our brother’s (economic) keeper?
• To what extent is violence the basis of economic disparity? Does economic disparity contribute to violence?
• What is the relationship or what is the future relationship of education and the American Dream?
• How does economic disparity affect education?
• How does the widening gap between the rich and poor change the structure of education? Does education replicate inequalities? What are the questions of justice in funding education?
• How do colleges and universities benefit from wealth disparities?
• How does wealth disparity shape our cultures, communities, and our selves?

Bridging the Gap
• How can education facilitate economic justice?
• How can educational institutions address problems of economic inequality?
• Can education address the widening gap of rich and poor?
• How can education help us develop better conceptions and attitudes about wealth and what leads to genuine happiness?

Contact Information

Direct inquiries and proposals to Eric Bain-Selbo, Department Head, Philosophy and Religion, Western Kentucky University (bain-selbo@svhe.org). Proposals should not exceed 1000 words. Proposals will be reviewed as they are submitted. Review will continue until all available slots are filled. No proposals will be accepted after the deadline of April 15, 2014. Interdisciplinary and/or practice oriented proposals are especially encouraged.

Awards

Those selected to present will receive a reduced registration rate of $50 for members or $75 for non-members (which includes a complimentary year-long membership) for the 2014 Fellows Meeting. Two papers will be selected for special recognition and awarded $300.  To be eligible for an award, completed papers must be submitted by July 1, 2014. Authors are expected to attend the SVHE meeting to present their papers.

Yavapai College – The Remembrance Day National Roll Call

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By: Sheila Jarrell

The Remembrance Day National Roll Call event was held at Yavapai College on Friday, November 8, at the Prescott and Verde Campuses. It was an honor to host such an event, and it would not have been possible without the contributions of many Yavapai College students, staff and faculty. It was an extremely moving and very touching event as we remembered and honored the lives of these valiant men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice serving our country.

To view the schedule in PDF form click here.