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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.

#CLDE17: Pre-Conference Workshops Announced and Registration Now Open! Register Today!

We’re pleased to announce the introduction of pre-conference workshops to be held on Wednesday, June 7, 2017 as part of our annual Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (#CLDE17) Meeting. Institute topics were identified by the CLDE Planning Committee and based on feedback received after the 2016 CLDE Meeting.

Workshops are listed below and you can register now for the #CLDE17 meeting and the workshop(s) of your choice!

Full-day Pre-conference Workshops

Charting a Course on the Pathway to Civic Engagement: An Inventory and Action Plan for Engaged Campuses
Organizer: Marshall Welch, Independent Scholar and author of Engaging Higher Education: Purpose, Platforms, and Programs for Community Engagement (2016)

This full day pre-conference institute is designed for teams from colleges and universities interested in strategic planning of their civic learning and democratic engagement efforts. This institute will provide not only the results of a comprehensive inventory of current practice and infrastructure to advance community engagement, but the “gift of time” for administrators to meet and work with their directors of campus centers for engagement to begin strategic planning for continued development of community engagement. This institute is designed for TWO individuals from each institution: the director of the campus center for community engagement and their immediate supervising administrator.

 
Civic Engagement Assessment Pre-Conference Workshops with Networking Lunch – sponsored by ETS
Organizers: H. Anne Weiss, Director of Assessment, Indiana Campus Compact and Assessment Specialist in Community Engagement, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; and Ross Markle, Senior Research & Assessment Director, Global Higher Education Division, ETS

Attend both half-day assessment pre-conference workshops for a reduced price and participate in our assessment networking lunch from Noon – 1 p.m.

  • Planning for Institution-Wide Data Collection on Civic and Community Engagement (see below)
  • Measuring Civic Outcomes During College (see below)
Half-day Morning Pre-conference Workshops

Planning for Institution-Wide Data Collection on Civic and Community Engagement
Organizers: H. Anne Weiss, Director of Assessment, Indiana Campus Compact and Assessment Specialist in Community Engagement, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; and Ross Markle, Senior Research & Assessment Director, Global Higher Education Division, ETS

Most campuses are eager to answer the question “How are the students, faculty, and staff on campus working to address civic issues and public problems?” We will explore this question in this workshop by reviewing a range of strategies to assess community-engaged activities (i.e., curricular, co-curricular, or project-based activities that are done in partnership with the community). In addition to these many strategies, institutions also often approach assessment with a variety of lenses including assessment and evaluation of community outcomes, student outcomes, partnership assessment and faculty/staff engagement among others. In practice, campuses confront an array of challenges to align these approaches into a comprehensive data collection framework and infrastructure. This session will give participants tools, strategies, and information to design, initiate and/or enhance systematic mechanisms for monitoring and auditing community-engaged activities across your institution.

 
Integrating Civic Responsibility into the Curriculum
Organizers: Gail Robinson, Education Consultant; Duane Oakes, Faculty Director, Center for Community & Civic Engagement, Mesa Community College (Ariz.); Emily Morrison, Assistant Professor, Sociology, and Director, Human Services and Social Justice Program, George Washington University (DC.); and Cathy Doyle, Director, Sarbanes Center for Public and Community Service, Anne Arundel Community College (Md.)

Community engagement and academic learning are central to higher education’s mission. Explore ways to help faculty, staff, and administrators prepare students for effective involvement in a diverse democratic society, and examine the role and obligation of higher education to produce good citizens. This interactive workshop features hands-on activities that include looking at service learning from charity and social justice perspectives; identifying appropriate reflection activities; analyzing course syllabi for elements of civic responsibility and civic engagement; reviewing syllabi from the perspectives of students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community partners; and integrating purposeful civic learning strategies into college courses.

 
Dialogue and Democratic Deliberation: Moderator Training
Organizers: Kara Lindaman, Professor of Political Science, Winona State University (Minn.); John Dedrick, Vice-President, Kettering Foundation; William Muse, President Emeritus, National Issues Forum Institute; and John J. Theis, Executive Director, Center for Civic Engagement, Lone Star College (Texas)

In preparation for the Friday plenary session, Democratic Deliberation on Safety and Justice, we invite conference participants to this pre-conference institute for an introduction to democratic deliberation and moderator skills. During this session, participants examine democratic dialogue and deliberation while learning the skills and roles of active and engaged moderation.

Half-day Afternoon Pre-conference Workshops

Measuring Civic Outcomes During College
Organizers: H. Anne Weiss, Director of Assessment, Indiana Campus Compact and Assessment Specialist in Community Engagement, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; and Ross Markle, Senior Research & Assessment Director, Global Higher Education Division, ETS

As institutions implement high impact practices across their campuses, learning outcomes, curricular and co-curricular activities, and assessment tools can often become disjointed. This workshop will guide attendees through a concentrated, cooperative process of unpacking and measuring civic outcomes such as civic identity, working with others to solve wicked problems, civic mindedness, and being an agent for social change. Ultimately, participants will articulate the alignment (and in some cases, mismatch) between outcomes, interventions, and assessment methods. Attendees should come with a specific program or course in mind and consider bringing a colleague with whom you can brainstorm transdisciplinary assessment practices. Attendees will be introduced to the plethora of measurement tools that purport to assess students’ civic learning and development, such as: AAC&U VALUE Rubrics, Civic Minded Graduate Rubric 2.0, campus-wide survey instruments (ETS Civic Competency and Engagement, NSSE, CIRP Surveys, PRSI, etc.), and a host of other pre to post and retrospective pre to post scales such as social dominance orientation, belief in a just world, or the Interpersonal Reactivity Index. After this facilitated discussion, participants will have a chance to apply certain tools to student artifacts such as essays, digital stories, and eportfolios. Applying the tools to artifacts will allow for participants to evaluate and synthesize their plans for assessing student civic learning and development as it relates to participating in high impact practices during college.

 
Educating for the Democracy We Want, Not the One We Have
Organizers: Nancy Thomas, Director, and Ishara Casellas Connors, Associate Director, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE), Jonathan M. Tisch College for Civic Life at Tufts University (Mass.)

The presidential election of 2016 has been described as vitriolic, divisive, and alienating. And at the same time, colleges and universities have long been tasked with the responsibility for cultivating a citizenry that is informed, vigilant, and capable of managing the most pressing matters of public affairs. Does the 2016 election reflect some any kind of “failure” in political learning, systems, and citizen participation? If so, what is higher education’s responsibility to address those failures? The best time to take stock of deficits in democratic learning and engagement is not in the heat of an election, but in between elections. Over the past two years, the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education at Tufts University has been studying the campus climates – the norms, structures, programs, and attributes – of colleges and universities that are highly political and electorally engaged. From that research, clarity on the kinds of things campuses can do to educate for democracy is emerging. In this workshop, participants will have an opportunity to study and envision institutional norms, programs, structures, and processes that foster the conditions for democratic learning. It will include a candid look at the state of free speech and inclusive learning conditions on campuses with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight from the 2016 election. Participants will come away with new skills, as well as concrete action strategies to take back to their campuses in implement immediately. The workshop will provide a long view to change campus climate – not just envision more one-time programs or events.

 
Measures That Matter: Regarding Engaged Scholarship In Tenure and Promotion
Organizer: KerryAnn O’Meara, Professor of Higher Education, Director of UMD ADVANCE, University of Maryland, College Park

Many higher education institutions have faculty involved in community engaged scholarship but lack strategies for assessing the quality of this work for promotion and tenure or contract renewal. Engaged scholars do not know how to make the case that their work is scholarship and personnel committees do not know how to evaluate non-traditional, engaged scholarship. A knowledge gap exists related to criteria that might be held up against engaged scholarship projects to assess quality and impact. The purpose of this pre-conference workshop is to share specific reforms that can be put in place to define, assess, document, and reward community engaged scholarship. The presenter will share promotion and tenure language that has already been put in place at other institutions and then suggest four criteria that could be used to assess engaged scholarship portfolios.

 
Student Pre-Conference Workshop

For undergraduate students only
Organized by the 2017 CLDE Student Interns: Amber Austin, student, Tarrant County College (Texas); Tyler Ferrari, student, Chapman University (Calif.); and Christina Melecio, student, Winona State University (Minn.)

This workshop will introduce students to #CLDEStuds17 that will provide a space to discuss issues that focus on being an active participant in the local and national communities, and will give students the tools to be effective activists in their communities. These open discussions will be held in large and small groups to effectively dissect the topics being discussed. To thoroughly accomplish our goals at the conference we hope that our peers come with open minds, and thoughtful ideas to contribute to discussions not only at this conference, but at home with their peers. There will be additional information closer to the conference for those who register. We hope to engage our attendees with new, and exciting, information that can further reach students across the nation, and actively enhance the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement initiatives.

Click Here to Register!

Proposals Due January 30th for CLDE17 Conference in Baltimore in June

Submit your proposal here by January 30, 2017.

The American Democracy Project (ADP), The Democracy Commitment (TDC), and NASPA Lead Initiative are committed to advancing the civic engagement movement in higher education. During this year’s Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (#CLDE17) Meeting in Baltimore, Md. from June 7-10, 2017, our goal is to bring together our collective networks of faculty, student affairs professionals, senior campus administrators, students, and community partners to advance our work to ensure that students graduate from our colleges and universities–both public and private–prepared to be the informed, engaged citizens that our communities and our democracy need.

This year’s conference is seeking to enhance our emergent theory of change adapted from threads of the 2012 Crucible Moment report. Thus, we are seeking conference proposals that consider how best to cultivate the following elements within their civic engagement work:

  • Civic Ethos governing campus life: The infusion of democratic values into the customs and habits of everyday practices, structures, and interactions; the defining character of the institution and those in it that emphasizes open-mindedness, civility, the worth of each person, ethical behaviors, and concern for the well-being of others; a spirit of public-mindedness that influences the goals of the institution and its engagement with local and global communities.
  • Civic Literacy & Skill Building as a goal for every student: The cultivation of foundational knowledge about fundamental principles and debates about democracy expressed over time, both within the United States and in other countries; familiarity with several key historical struggles, campaigns, and social movements undertaken to achieve the full promise of democracy; the ability to think critically about complex issues and to seek and evaluate information about issues that have public consequences.
  • Civic Inquiry integrated within the majors and general education: The practice of inquiring about the civic dimensions and public consequences of a subject of study; the exploration of the impact of choices on different constituencies and entities, including the planet; the deliberate consideration of differing points of views; the ability to describe and analyze civic intellectual debates within one’s major or areas of study.
  • Civic Action as lifelong practice: The capacity and commitment both to participate constructively with diverse others and to work collectively to address common problems; the practice of working in a pluralistic society and world to improve the quality of people’s lives and the sustainability of the planet; the ability to analyze systems in order to plan and engage in public action; the moral and political courage to take risks to achieve a greater public good.
  • Civic Agency involves the capacities of citizens to work collaboratively across differences like partisan ideology, faith traditions, income, geography, race, and ethnicity to address common challenges, solve problems and create common ground; requires a set of individual skills, knowledge, and predispositions; also involves questions of institutional design, particularly how to constitute groups and institutions for sustainable collective action.

Members of the CLDE community are invited to join in dialogue prior to the conference on social media using #FacesofCLDE and #CLDE17. Our hope is that colleagues will come together to share why they are a proponent of Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement work in higher education and, in turn, spread the great work that happens at each of your campuses and organizations.

Submit your Program Proposal by Jan. 30, 2017 here: 2017 Civic Learning & Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Meeting and learn more about the #CLDE17 Meeting at the official meeting website.

Interested in being a program proposal reviewer? Complete this form and then follow the instructions on the confirmation page to complete the reviewer sign-up process.

Meet the 2017 CLDE Interns!

We are thrilled to introduce you to our three student interns for the 2017 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Meeting (#CLDE17). Amber, Christina, and Tyler introduce themselves below and together represent a vested interest in civic engagement among students in our network to engage meaningfully on our campuses, in our classrooms, and in our broader communities and our democracy. In the coming weeks they will work with the meeting planning committee on the program, arranging a student symposium and specifically on creating networking, learning, and organizing opportunities for the students that attend the conference in Baltimore from June 7-10th. Please join us in welcoming Amber, Christina, and Tyler!

Jen, Stephanie, & Verdis


My name is Amber Austin, and I am a sophomore marketing major at Tarrant County College (Texas) where I am pursuing a career in event planning. I am a current member of The Democracy Commitment, Phi Theta Kappa, DECA, the psychology club, and the president and founder of the club Imagine. The club Imagine was created to help students on our campus build networking and leadership skills.


My name is Christina Melecio, and I am a sophomore attending Winona State University (Minn.). I am triple majoring in political science, public administration, and Spanish. I am exploring more options to better help my community and continue to grow into a better person. I am currently a student senator at Winona State University, the treasurer of College Democrats, and the president of our Political Science Association club.


My name is Tyler Ferrari, and I am a sophomore political science major and economics minor studying at Chapman University (Calif.). I am pursuing a career in public policy where I hope to specialize in debt reduction and foreign affairs. I am also a Civic Engagement Assistant, which is a position dedicated to getting the student body involved in the local and global community through political engagement and community service. I am currently the president and founding member of the Chapman University Young Americans for Liberty, a group aimed at promoting economic and personal liberty and training activists to fight for these causes.


We are all incredibly excited, and humbled, to represent students on the 2017 CLDE Planning Committee. We hope to use our positions to help students stay engaged in the political process in the post 2016 election environment, so that effective and positive change can be made in our local college communities and across the nation. With the 2016 election ending, students begin to feel apathetic, as they no longer see tangible ways to be involved in politics. We hope to engage students, and show them ways that they can continue to be active and involved with their community, as well as engage them in their civic duties. After this event, we hope to use the skills we learned planning and executing this event and use them back on our campuses and communities to build civic relationships with schools not in this network.

 

TDC Post-Election Series: “Election Reflections”

This blog was originally posted by NASPA Lead Initiative on November 10, 2016. Reposted by author permission.

Author:  Nancy Thomas, Director, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.


As the director of a research institute studying higher education’s role in democracy, I have been inundated on November 9 with emails, texts, and calls. Donald Trumps’ election as the 45th President of the United States shocked people on college campuses who are worried about his messages of exclusion, hate, and fear, his disregard for facts and truth, and an anti-intellectualism that may characterize his leadership and  “base.” As I have written before, his messages are antithetical to goals of truth, equal opportunity, and inclusion central to higher education’s mission. We hope that colleges and universities will seize this moment in the nation’s history to reflect on their role in strengthening American democracy. That reflection would include honest introspection and an examination of political learning, discourse, and action during the election, as well as a look at the underlying campus climate for democratic learning. We’ll be posting some questions that campuses can use as the basis for this reflective exercise.

I envision three kinds of immediate responses on college and university campuses. One would be programming to address concerns of students, those who supported Hillary Clinton and feel like their work was for naught and those who feel denigrated and at risk based on their gender, race/ethnicity, immigrant status, physical abilities, and more. The second could be conversations about what this means for students personally in terms of their loans, the cost of college, their legal status in this country, some of which is already covered in Inside Higher Ed. A third might be a message of opportunity from institutional leaders – including the notion that President-Elect Trump represents everyone, not just his supporters, and that what we have witnessed is democracy in action.

These are appropriate immediate responses, but I would like to propose something more far-reaching and aligned with higher education’s mission, something educational.  

College and university faculty and leaders should view this election as a teachable moment and an opportunity to reflect on how well they fulfilled their roles as educators of citizens in a just democracy. Here are some questions I hope faculty and administrators will ask themselves – and ask students about:

  • To what extent was this election used to advance political discourse, agency, and equity campus-wide? Did faculty across disciplines, not just in fields like political science, discuss policy issues in the classroom?
  • Did students across disciplines grapple with underlying problems of hate, discrimination, and marginalization based on social identity, political ideology, or lived experiences?
  • To what extent did the institution involve the local community in understanding election issues, facts, and policy implications? Was the community invited to election activities? Did faculty and students go out into the community for political conversations?
  • How did students learn about and gauge multiple viewpoints around the country, particularly the challenges of non-college youth or people from different communities? Was empathy an explicit learning goal for students?
  • Did students understand the government’s system of checks and balances, the difference between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and what was at stake beyond the presidency? How well does the political process actually work, and how can it be improved?
  • What was the role of basic fact-checking in this election? How did students, faculty, and staff come to informed voting choices?
  • What is the institution’s overall campus climate for political learning and engagement? How diverse yet cohesive are your students, faculty, and staff? How do students practice political agency on campus? How did you balance free expression, inclusion, and respect?

Colleges and universities can take this opportunity to take stock of how well they used this election to educate students for their role as citizens in a democracy, and how they worked with the local community to gain understanding of election choices. To the extent that the answers to these questions raise doubts about the campus climate for or commitment to student political learning and engagement, this election presents an opportunity for change. Political learning and engagement in democracy begins anew today, not during the next election season. Like all elections, this one should be a wake-up call.


Nancy Thomas directs the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education and the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life NSLVE is both a service to colleges and universities – providing more than 900 institutions nationally with tailored reports containing their student s’ voter registration and voting rates – and a database of 8.5 million student records, which is used to study college student political learning and engagement in democracy.  She holds a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a JD from Case Western Reserve University. (NSLVE is a partner of TDC) You can follow along with our work on Twitter @TuftsIDHE.


Opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of TDC. If you agree or disagree with the content of this post, we encourage you to dialogue in the comment section below. Thank you.

Call for Proposals Now Open: CLDE17 Meeting

Submit your proposal by January 30, 2017.

The American Democracy Project (ADP), The Democracy Commitment (TDC), and NASPA Lead Initiative are committed to advancing the civic engagement movement in higher education. During this year’s Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (#CLDE17) Meeting in Baltimore, Md. from June 7-10, 2017, our goal is to bring together our collective networks of faculty, student affairs professionals, senior campus administrators, students, and community partners to advance our work to ensure that students graduate from our colleges and universities–both public and private–prepared to be the informed, engaged citizens that our communities and our democracy need.

This year’s conference is seeking to enhance our emergent theory of change adapted from threads of the 2012 Crucible Moment report. Thus, we are seeking conference proposals that consider how best to cultivate the following elements within their civic engagement work:

Civic Ethos governing campus life: The infusion of democratic values into the customs and habits of everyday practices, structures, and interactions; the defining character of the institution and those in it that emphasizes open-mindedness, civility, the worth of each person, ethical behaviors, and concern for the well-being of others; a spirit of public-mindedness that influences the goals of the institution and its engagement with local and global communities.

Civic Literacy & Skill Building as a goal for every student: The cultivation of foundational knowledge about fundamental principles and debates about democracy expressed over time, both within the United States and in other countries; familiarity with several key historical struggles, campaigns, and social movements undertaken to achieve the full promise of democracy; the ability to think critically about complex issues and to seek and evaluate information about issues that have public consequences.

Civic Inquiry integrated within the majors and general education: The practice of inquiring about the civic dimensions and public consequences of a subject of study; the exploration of the impact of choices on different constituencies and entities, including the planet; the deliberate consideration of differing points of views; the ability to describe and analyze civic intellectual debates within one’s major or areas of study.

Civic Action as lifelong practice: The capacity and commitment both to participate constructively with diverse others and to work collectively to address common problems; the practice of working in a pluralistic society and world to improve the quality of people’s lives and the sustainability of the planet; the ability to analyze systems in order to plan and engage in public action; the moral and political courage to take risks to achieve a greater public good.

Civic Agency involves the capacities of citizens to work collaboratively across differences like partisan ideology, faith traditions, income, geography, race, and ethnicity to address common challenges, solve problems and create common ground; requires a set of individual skills, knowledge, and predispositions; also involves questions of institutional design, particularly how to constitute groups and institutions for sustainable collective action.

Submit your Program Proposal by Jan. 30, 2017 by visiting here: 2017 Civic Learning & Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Meeting and learn more about the #CLDE17 Meeting at the official meeting website.  Registration will open in December 2016.

Engage Tomorrow’s Election with TDC and ADP

As we are less than 24 hours away  from election day, we have some opportunities to engage the election nationally for you to pass on to your campuses for students, faculty, staff, and community.

mm-voting11-07_promo

Millennial Monday: Voting Questions?  What You Need to know Before #ElectionDay

The Students Learn Students Vote coalition (SLSV) is sponsoring a Twitter Chat using #MillennialMon on Monday, November 7, 3-4 pm ET hosted by Young Invincibles @YoungInvincible.  TDC is a partner in this event and the program promises to answer all last minute questions concerning voting the this year’s election.

ivoted

TDC Tweeter Chat using #iVoted16

Please join TDC in a week-long Tweeter Chat using #iVoted16 and share your experience engaging in this election.  The most compelling tweets will be highlighted nationally in our next newsletter.

ielection16_fbprofile

Election Night Returns Party Tweet-Up using #iElection16

As part of the ADP/TDC Engage the Election 2016 intiative powered by icitizen, James Madison University is hosting an Election Night Returns Party and Tweet-Up on 11/8 from 7 pm-12 am.  Verdis Robinson, TDC Interim National Manager, will be on the scene to interview attendees, record reactions to returns, and help celebrate our democracy in action.  Join us on tweeter by using #iElection16 and visit the TDC facebook page for live feeds every half an hour until a new president is elected.

sanpchat

Join TDC interim National Manager on Snapchat:  tdcnational

Verdis Robinson will be snapchating while at JMU’s Election Night Return Party capturing reactions, experiences, stories, and comments.  Join his snapchats every half an hour opposite the facebook live feeds until a new president is elected.

The 2016 White House Healthy Campus Challenge

On September 27, 2016, the White House  launched the Healthy Campus Challenge. This Challenge aims to engage college and university campuses, and in particular community college campuses, across the country in health insurance enrollment efforts. They will work with administrators, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and local community leaders and elected officials to reach the uninsured both on campus and in the surrounding community, sharing best practices with them that have worked during prior open enrollment periods.

TDC encourages participation in the 2016 White House Healthy Campus Challenge which builds on the successful 2015 White House Healthy Communities Challenge, in which Milwaukee – the challenge winner – saw about 38,000 people newly select a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace during the open enrollment period.

To participate, campuses should submit an application HERE by November 1, 2016, TODAY, committing to fulfill a specific set of Open Enrollment outreach actions. Throughout open enrollment, the White House (@WhiteHouse), the Department of Health and Human Services (@HHSgov), and the Department of Education (@USEdGov) will amplify and highlight the efforts of participating campuses across the country to reach the uninsured, especially young people on their campuses. Additionally, each participating campus will be connected with a White House point of contact (POC) to provide technical assistance as they engage in actions to reach people on their campus and in their broader community.

On or after December 15th – the deadline for Marketplace coverage starting January 1st – participating campuses will confirm that they have taken all Challenge actions with their White House POC. Once campuses verify that they have completed all actions, they will be deemed a White House Healthy Campus. They will be recognized with a certificate signed by the President and will be entered into a lottery for a chance to be recognized during Healthy Campus Day at the White House in January.  For more information, please visit the website. 

 

Ethos Matters: Inspiring Students as Democracy’s Co-Creators

Originally posted by the American Democracy Project on September 29, 2016, https://adpaascu.wordpress.com/

By David Hoffman, Assistant Director of Student Life for Civic Agency, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)


Civic Ethos:
The infusion of democratic values into the customs and habits of everyday practices, structures, and interactions; the defining character of the institution and those in it that emphasizes open-mindedness, civility, the worth of each person, ethical behaviors, and concern for the well-being of others; a spirit of public-mindedness that influences the goals of the institution and its engagement with local and global communities.
(A Crucible Moment, 2012, p.15)


My university, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), celebrated its 50th anniversary this month, and our collective pilgrimage to the wells of institutional memory yielded plenty of insights about our earliest days. For an educator like me interested in orienting students to lives of deep engagement in their communities and democracy, it was an inspiring trip with provocative implications.

In UMBC’s earliest years, the sense of civic possibility and collective agency was palpable on campus. The original faculty members had been recruited with the promise that they would have the chance to participate in building a new institution. Students steeped in a climate of social upheaval in Baltimore and in American society arrived with the expectation that they would participate in the decisions affecting their lives. Campus administrators invited students to assume responsibility for programs and participate in university governance because they believed it was the right thing to do. The absence of established traditions encouraged a kind of self-reliance that fueled creativity. In the program for the first commencement ceremony in spring 1970, senior Diane Juknelis reflected, “The present class of graduates is the first in a long line of innovators who are not to be considered products of UMBC, but rather constant producers of all that gives it character and quality.”

The sense of civic agency that vibrates through Juknelis’s words hints at the way her education embodied the educational philosopher John Dewey’s insight that students learn from their entire environment, not just through the formal curriculum. She seems to have internalized some of the spirit that prevailed in those days at UMBC and in U.S. public life.

It is sobering to consider that today’s students are similarly internalizing the spirit of our times. Most of them have lived their entire lives in what arguably has been a decades-long period of civic decline characterized by gridlock, diminished trust, and eroding civility from the highest levels of government to ordinary neighborhoods. Rather than summoning us to action, our social divisions and challenges—the clash of worldviews in a national election, the persistence of racial bias in our institutions, the potentially catastrophic transformation of our global climate—seem to deepen our sense of inefficacy and paralysis. The revolution in our information technology has enabled us to communicate and collaborate as never before, but also has encouraged us to customize our experiences in ways that isolate us from people who do not share our preconceptions.

Few of us would argue that most citizens feel much confidence that they can participate meaningfully in shaping our collective destiny. A Crucible Moment, the widely influential report of the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement published in January, 2012, featured a warning from Kettering Foundation president David Mathews that we were on the verge of becoming a “citizenless democracy,” (p. 17 ) because trends in public life had pushed ordinary people to the sidelines and made it harder for us to work together to solve problems. Five years later, the situation seems even more vexing.

Important aspects of the UMBC environment have changed as well. The students who arrived this semester, having been immersed in our national culture of civic distress, are navigating a campus that appears much more complete than the one Diane Juknelis experienced 50 years ago. In place of haphazard dirt paths and unfinished structures, they see brick, concrete, and clean lines. It would be understandable if students initially took what they found as given and beyond their capacity to shape.

As a Student Affairs educator, I want to counter that perception and help students transcend the limitations of contemporary public life. I want them to develop a strong sense of their campus and world as fluid and changeable, and of themselves as potential agents of transformation. Furthermore, I want to be able to do this using the vehicles most readily available to me, including programs and activities.

My most successful effort in this vein has been STRiVE, a five-day, off-campus civic leadership program for undergraduates that I developed and administer with colleagues. By STRiVE’s final night, I often find myself in a state approaching euphoria. As I sit with a group of participants and we reflect on the journey of the previous few days, I soak in their confidence and hope. In those moments, the students know that they have the capacity to work across difference to enact their purposes together. The profound feeling of community among people who had only recently been strangers hints at civic possibilities to be realized back home.

Yet Dewey’s insight that students learn from their entire environment illuminates the peril of relying on vehicles like STRiVE alone. If students have empowering experiences in programs my colleagues and I control, but find themselves otherwise immersed in cultures that cast them as mere customers, voters in periodic elections, or users of resources created for them by others, they are likely to internalize the totality of the implicit lesson: that they can experience power and agency only within the boundaries of experiences designed for that purpose, and only when helped along by professionals like me. It’s a concern reflected in A Crucible Moment’s call for commitments to civic learning and democratic engagement to be integrated across institutions, not just in isolated departments and programs. Ethos matters.

We also need to pay attention to the environments we create within our programs, so that our intentionality as designers does not negate the agency of the participants. I learned a valuable lesson a few years ago when I conducted in-depth, open-ended interviews with several STRiVE participants. While they were deeply enthusiastic about the STRiVE experience, not one of them mentioned having been particularly helped or inspired by the components I had designed to build their efficacy as initiators and producers of social change.  Instead, they spoke passionately about how the relationships they established with peers and staff at STRiVE in unscripted moments had affirmed, liberated and transformed them. Immersed in an environment painstakingly developed to be fluid and open, in which they had felt truly seen and heard, working with people who cared enough about their community to be willing to brace ambiguity and resistance together, they had begun to feel themselves truly capable of changing their world.

At UMBC, colleagues and students across the institution have been collaborating to infuse that spirit of civic agency in all that we do, including courses, programs, communications and cultural practices. Through an organizing process that has connected people across traditional role boundaries, we have embraced another of Dewey’s ideas: that democracy is not merely a form of government but a way of life that “must be enacted anew in every generation, in every year and day, in the living relations of person to person in all social forms and institutions” (“Education and Social Change,” 1937, p. 473-474). We have helped to sustain and enlarge a culture characterized by mutuality and reciprocity in our relationships on campus and beyond, in which people truly see and respect each other, and in which innovation and collective action are manifestly possible.

In this work, our collective, institutional past has been among our greatest resources. We have no shortage of stories embodying UMBC’s ethos of deep engagement in living democracy. A key to surfacing and making meaning of those stories has been to look beyond the narrow constraints and definitions of contemporary civic life: beyond the volunteerism programs and voter registration campaigns. We have located and communicated our culture in stories like those shared at our 50th anniversary celebration: accounts of improvisation, collaboration across difference, and authentic respect for the potential of every person to contribute as a “constant producer[…] of all that gives [our communities] character and quality.”

Following our weekend of anniversary celebrations, sophomore Gerardo Herrera-Cortes posted (to Facebook): “This is a place of learning, engagement, and development; of nurtur[ing], civility, and citizenship; a place of founders, agents, and pioneers; and finally, a place of grit and greatness. This is my UMBC, your UMBC, and our UMBC.” The ethos persists, and with it, the hope that all of us together can heal our democracy and build a future in which we all can thrive.


How are you and your campus cultivating a campus ethos of civic learning and democratic engagement?  Share your thoughts, resources, and concerns with us at the annual Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Meeting in Baltimore, Md. from June 7-10, 2017.

For more information on how David and his colleagues are continuing to cultivate a campus CLDE ethos, see David’s previous blog post on Describing Transformative Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Practices (2015).


References:

Dewey, J. (1937). Education and social change.” Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors 23, 6, 472–4.

The first commencement exercises of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (1970). University Publications collection. Special Collections, University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (2012). A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.


About the Author:David_Hoffman David Hoffman
Assistant Director of Student Life for Civic Agency, UMBC

David is an architect of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC)’s BreakingGround initiative. His work is directed at fostering civic agency and democratic engagement through courses, co-curricular experiences and cultural practices on campus. His research explores students’ development as civic agents, highlighting the crucial role of experiences, environments, and relationships students perceive as “real” rather than synthetic or scripted. David is an alum of UCLA (BA), Harvard University (JD, MPP) and UMBC (PhD).

TDC Electoral Engagement Resource Pages Now Updated

The Democracy Commitment (TDC) has desired to become a national clearinghouse of resources, publications, program designs, curricula, and project development strategies for community colleges.  In an effort to make resources more accessible and comprehensive, and especially in preparation for the upcoming election, TDC has updated the resource pages on its website- www.thedemocracycommitment.org.  All member institutions have access to these materials and ideas which extend beyond volunteerism embracing civic work broadly to include the democratic practice. Please visit our newly designed resource pages for information, links, tools, and guides for voter registration and electoral engagement.  Also, feel free to share suggestions for more resources.

The following is a summary of what you will find on the TDC website.  Please click on the link for more information:


Voter Registration Tool and Resources

Student voters are essential to our democracy.  As elected officials are increasingly making decisions on topics like student debt, funding for higher education, and the economy that can have direct effect on student success, students have the power to make a difference.  An important way to achieve this is to make their voices heard at the polls on Election Day.  The first step is voter registration.  The resources below provide information about the many voter registration tools at your disposable to make the voting process as easy and accessible as possible on your campus and for our students.  We also would like to introduce a TDC Register to Vote tool powered by Rock the Vote that you can use at your convenience located on our website.

TDC Best Practice User Guides for Voter Registration:

Online Tools for Voter Registration:

  • Canivote.org
  • TheFederal Voting Assistance Program
  • Rock the Vote
  • TurboVote
  • Vote.org
  • Vote411.org
  • Voto Latino’s- VoterPal

Click Here for More Information


Electoral Engagement Resources

Electoral education and engagement are also essential to our democracy, and student engagement in the election on our member campuses is a priority. Civic responsibility and duty means more than just showing up to cast a ballot on election day— it means engaging in the community and nation, and choosing candidates who share a vision for what matters.  It starts with registering students to vote, but it must continue with educating students on who and what’s on the ballot, so that when election day comes, they are ready to vote informed and empowered.  Most of the resources here are for voter information and ballot/candidate information that can inform and educate student voters.  We have compile documents and written Best Practice Guides to assist our members in educating and engaging community college students in the electoral process.

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ADP/TDC Engage the Election 2016 Webinar Series powered by icitizen

  • Webinar #1 | Becoming a Voter-Friendly Campus
  • Webinar #2 | National Study of Learning, Voting & Engagement (NSLVE)
  • Webinar #3 | “Demystifying Youth Voting – Why Some Young People Vote and Some Don’t”
  • Webinar #4 | “Teenage Mutant Civic Hurdles: How Civic Tech Turns Students into Citizens”
  • Webinar #5 | Walk2Vote: Student Empowerment through Civic Engagement
  • Webinar #6 | Voter Registration & Campus Technology: Engaging Student Voters by the Thousands
  • Webinar #7 | Graduating Students into Voters: Overcoming the Psychological Barriers Faced by Student Voters and Improving Student Voting Rates Using Insights from the Behavioral Sciences
  • Webinar #8 | Text, Talk, Vote!
  • Webinar #9 | Is your campus ALL IN? Join the Challenge to Increase Democratic Engagement

Click Here for the Webinar Information and Recordings

TDC Best Practice Guides for Electoral Campus Engagement:

Voting Information Resources- “How Do I Vote?” “Where Do I Vote?”

  • Voter Information Project
  • Verified Voting
  • Vote411.org

Ballot/Candidate Information Resources- “Who/What’s on the Ballot?”

  • Ballot Ready
  • icitizen
  • NBCUVoterEducation.com

Electoral Information Resources- “How Does it Work?”

  • 270towin.com
  • Countable: Contact Congress and Vote on Bills.
  • Electionary
  • Vote Smart

Click Here for More Information


Partner and Friends Electoral Engagement Resources

We have compiled a list of Partner and Friends resources vetted by TDC which offering valuable national connections with national organizations with the goal of preparing future Americans to be informed, active, and mobilized citizens in their communities, states, and the nation.

 

ceep

Campus Election Engagement Project (CEEP) http://www.campuselect.org

 

 

campus-vote-project

Campus Vote Project http://campusvoteproject.org

 

FELN Logo

Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN) http://fairelectionsnetwork.com

 

vip-logo

Voting Information Project (VIP)- https://www.votinginfoproject.org

Click Here for More Information

Professional Development Opportunity: Deliberative Dialogues “Train the Trainer” Workshop

ADP/TDC’s Economic Inequality Initiative is proud to announce a special professional development opportunity for members interested in training in Deliberative Dialogues and becoming moderator trainers.  We will be hosting a Deliberative Dialogue “Train the Trainer” Workshop at Keene State College in New Hampshire on October 28, 2016. Dr. Kara Lindaman of Winona State University, Minnesota, and Dr. John Theis of Lone Star College, Texas, will conduct the training from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm on the Keene State Campus.  The workshop will provide moderator training for deliberative dialogues and attendees will learn how to train moderators as well.

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Interested parties should contact Kimberly Schmidl-Gagne, kgagne@keene.edu, at Keene State College for more information and opportunities for assistance.