Archive for October, 2010

President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll Deadline Dec. 16

By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project

Last year, 18 American Democracy Project campuses were listed in the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. I’m hoping many more campuses will be listed in this year’s Honor Roll. ADP campuses are leaders in the movement to prepare informed, engaged citizens for our democracy. The Honor Roll is one way for ADP campuses to be recognized for their hard work. To apply for the Honor Roll, please visit this website.

The President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, launched in 2006, annually recognizes institutions of higher education for their commitment to and achievement in community service. The President’s Honor Roll increases the public’s awareness of the contributions that colleges and their students make to local communities and the nation as a whole. President Obama has pledged to make service a central cause of his administration and wishes to commemorate the significant role that higher institutions, their students, staff, and faculty play in helping to solve pressing social problems in the nation’s communities.

The Corporation for National and Community Service opened registration on September 20, 2010 for the 2010 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll. The final deadline for 2010 application submission is December 16, 2010. For more information visit the Honor Roll’s registration site.

Please remember, the application deadline is December 16, 2010.


Democracy Can Make You Cry

By Jocelyn Payne, Northeastern State University

The voices of democracy can seem shrill and strident. From pundits to political candidates, experts to officeholders, regardless of our blueness or redness, too often we hear unflattering views of our political worldview. Nonetheless, Northeastern State University offered our students an opportunity to express ideas about democracy during Constitution Week on the Broken Arrow campus.

Democracy Walls were butcher-paper covered tables placed in each building around campus that allowed people to express their ideas about democracy. Multi-colored crayons were scattered on each table, next to signs which included a brief explanation of the project, and the question to be answered: What is Democracy? Our sole restriction also was displayed: Free speech is respectful speech – No profanity please. We also placed voter registration forms on each table, along with flyers about a university-wide creative expression contest also focused on the democracy question  Members of our team checked the tables periodically each day, and replaced the butcher-paper if we discovered profanity or if one of the walls was covered with comments.

Late in the evening of the first full day the walls were in place, I was pleased to find intellectual and heartfelt comments sans profanity. My heart was nearly full when I entered the last building and saw the most expressive table of all. Some comments I saw were:

  • “I can write anything on this table and it matters what I say.”
  • “The freedom to be a Republican social worker.”
  • “Democracy is my voice being heard. My thoughts validated. An opportunity to change the status quo.”

As I read the comments – rich and textured, rigid and flexible, earnest and silly, focused and diffuse, defining and questioning, serious and funny – all the blue and red together, the memory of shrill and strident voices faded. There I was, crying at the Democracy Wall with the varied wisdom and diverse thinking of our students echoing softly in my mind. I felt truly privileged to know those are the voices of scholars who surround me every day.

Our Constitution Week included dozens of comments, multiple paper changes, limited violations of the guideline and positive assessment by all involved. Our team is ready to embark on our next adventure: A campus-wide POV documentary screening through which we hope to bring all the voices into dialogue.

To read more about this project, please visit this website.


Have you created a Democracy Plaza or Democracy Wall on your campus? If so, how did the students respond? What was the discussion like?

Super Saturday at Kennesaw State University

By Carlton Usher, Kennesaw State University

Super Saturday is the Atlanta Urban League Young Professional’s (AULYP) annual voter education series that emphasizes voting in national, state and local elections, as well as working with elected officials to enact change. Kennesaw State University’s American Democracy Project has been and remains a central partner since 2006.  In 2006, Dr. Carlton Usher accompanied eight students affiliated with the African American Male Initiatives at Kennesaw State University (KSUAAMI) to the first event held at D.M. Terrell High School in Atlanta.

After the successful event at Terrell High School, Dr. Usher met with several community organizers to explore the possibility of organizing another event with Kennesaw State University as a major participant. Consequently, with the support of Dr. Ralph Rascati, Dean of the University College, and other members of the American Democracy Project team, Dr. Usher initiated a strong and lasting partnership with AULYP. The AULYP consists of bright and focused young leaders with strong reputations in governance, community development, and entrepreneurship. We remain extremely proud go these future leaders.

Super Saturday 2008 featured opening remarks by Beverly Hall, the superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, a keynote by Georgia State Senator Vincent Fort whose tireless work includes countering mortgage and lending redlining and gentrification in the downtown Atlanta neighborhoods.  The mayoral panel moderated by WSBTV 2 reporter Tom Jones included the then

Super Saturday 2008: Candidate now Mayor Elect Kasim Reed, Dr. Carlton Usher and Kennesaw State University Students

Candidate and current mayor Kasim Reed, Atlanta City Council members Mary Norwood and Caesar Mitchell, and Jessie Spikes senior partner at McKenna Long and Aldridge


Super Saturday 2009 featured candidates Lisa Borders, Mary Norwood, Kasim Reed, Jessie Spikes and Glenn Thomas. Opening remarks were delivered by Atlanta Deputy Fire Chief Nishiyama Willis.

Super Saturday 2009: mayoral candidates Lisa Borders, Mary Norwood, Kasim Reed, Lisa Borders, Jessie Spikes and Glenn Thomas, Dr. Carlton Usher, Sherwin Murray.


With the City Council President Lisa Borders conceding in a very close race, and the new mayor Kasim Reed in place, we focused our Super Saturday 2010 on the gubernatorial primary. Unlike the past events planned for September, this day of civic engagement was slated for considering both major parties primaries for July 20, 2010.  A crowd of approximately 100 people heard Democrats DuBose Porter, David Poythress, Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker, and Bill Bolton, as well as representatives of Democrat Carl Camon and Republican John Oxendine. The candidates discussed the challenges they believe the next governor should address. Most

Super Saturday 2010: Georgia Gubernatorial Debates, Grady High School Atlanta, Georgia

talked about the state of the economy, local issues such as transportation, water, and public safety. After a few opening remarks from several local political strategists and lawmakers, the audience experienced an awesome and heartfelt keynote address by labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond (he is currently running for the senate against incumbent John Isakson).  CBS news anchor Danielle Knox moderated the event and several news outlets interviewed the candidates before and after the debates. The coverage was extensive and Kennesaw and the American Democracy Project’s work in conjunction the AULYP remains one of the hallmark events leading up to the November election.

Georgia Gubernatorial candidates take questions from reporters.

Georgia Gubernatorial candidates take questions from reporters.

Georgia Gubernatorial candidates take questions from reporters.







Can Gaming Save the World? Project Evoke Thinks So

Project Evoke is an online game developed by by the World Bank,  infoDEV and Jane McGonigal  (the creative director). The game is a new and exciting way to help young people practice problem-solving skills for real-world problems.
“It goes beyond the realms of any game that merely entertains using graphics and active player participation, because it incorporates aspects that one would not usually associate with gaming; social awareness and education. Described as a ‘ten week crash course to save the world,’ Evoke is a platform that encourages various young individuals from around the world to collectively create solutions to social challenges plaguing many continents, specifically Africa.” (Quote taken from this article.)
Please see below for more information and consider sharing this wonderful game with your students.
EVOKE is a ten-week crash course in changing the world.

It is free to play and open to anyoneanywhere.

The goal of the social network game is to help empower young people all over the world, and especially young people in Africa, to come up with creative solutions to our most urgent social problems.

Players who successfully complete 10 game challenges will be able to claim their honors: Certified EVOKE Social Innovator – Class of 2010.

Top players will also earn online mentorships with experienced social innovators and business leaders from around the world,seed funding for new ventures, and travel scholarships to share their vision for the future at the EVOKE Summit in Washington DC. (Learn more about these rewards.)

EVOKE was developed by the World Bank Institute, the learning and knowledge arm of the World Bank Group, and directed by alternate reality game master Jane McGonigal.

EVOKE is for all ages; recommended age 13 and up.

Learn the five secrets of the EVOKE Network.
Plus: Find out how to play the game from a mobile phone.

Visit the Project Evoke website today and get in the game!

Democracy Plaza: A Signature Practice of Civic Engagement

By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project

It started with a simple idea.

What if there was an open space on campus for anyone could “talk democracy?” What if this space was available for student groups, professors, staff and others to reserve and use as fodder for deep and sometimes difficult discussions about our society? And, what if faculty members could use this space to inspire students to get engaged and be informed? The faculty, staff, and students at Indiana University, Purdue University Indianapolis sought to make this idea a reality with Democracy Plaza.


Democracy Plaza at IUPUI


Created by a group of students, faculty members and staff in the summer of 2004, the Democracy Plaza at IUPUI provides the campus community with an “an opportunity to express, speak, and hear diverging thoughts surrounding social, political, economic, and religious issues relevant to the campus, city, state, country, and world.” For the last six years, the Democracy Plaza has been available for the students, faculty members, and staff of IUPUI to voice their opinions about contentious issues such as gun rights, gay marriage, and abortion. The Democracy Plaza is a collection of chalk boards located centrally on campus. People are encouraged to contribute questions, answers, opinions and thoughts on these walls. As stated on its website, “the mission of DP is to support the development of well-informed and engaged students through critical thinking and civil discourse on political ideas and issues.”

We believe that the Democracy Plaza is a signature practice of civic engagement for the following reasons. It is non-hierarchical – anyone can engage in a conversation on these boards. It encourages the campus to engage in democratic discussions. And finally, it strives to raise student awareness of and engagement with important issues facing our society. Since its creation, the Democracy Plaza has received media attention for its success in bringing people to have an ongoing discussion, and has inspired other campuses to adopt the Democracy Plaza model.


Democracy Plaza at the ADP National Meeting, June, 2010


At the  American Democracy Project (ADP) National Meeting in Providence, RI, we invited the facilitators of the Democracy Plaza at IUPUI to collaborate with us on creating a Democracy Plaza for the meeting. We provided large boards and markers for people to use to discuss the Obama administration, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the contentious labor dispute at the hotel, among other issues.

The results were stunning.

Conference attendees contributed their thoughts and reactions to a series of questions we posed on the walls. The questions were created by the student leaders of the Democracy Plaza at IUPUI, and were thought provoking and at times controversial. During each break between workshop sessions, people milled around and engaged in spontaneous conversations with one another while contributing to the wall. In addition to the wonderful depth the Democracy Plaza brought to the normally unscheduled time at the conference, many of the conference attendees were inspired to create their own Democracy Plazas.

Fort Hays State University is experimenting with its own version of Democracy Plaza, named “Tiger Talkback.” Each Monday, a new question is posted on the board and the campus community has until Thursday to contribute their reactions to the question. Tiger Talkback also has an online dimension called “Wiffiti,” which allows commuter students to take part in the discussion.

The Democracy Plaza is Contagious

Other ADP schools are adopting the Democracy Plaza model as well. Northeastern State University, Middle Tennessee State University, and Indiana University South Bend included Democracy Plazas in their Constitution Day programming.

A Virtual Space for Democracy

As part of our eCitizenship initiative, IUPUI is now developing an eDemocracy Plaza that will be online. It will be a virtual companion to the physical Democracy Plaza. The University of Wisconsin-Stout also plans to experiment with a virtual Democracy Plaza.

To read more about the Democracy Plaza model, please visit this website and watch the brief video below.


Are you considering creating your own Democracy Plaza? Please contact Anne H. Weiss, President of IUPUI’s Democracy Plaza, for more information.

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