Archive for April, 2011

ADP Query about Tenure and Promotion Practices that Recognize Democratically Engaged Teaching and Scholarship

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

A signature feature of the American Democracy Project is its focus on creating university institutional intentionality for preparing informed, engaged citizens for our democracy. Tenure and promotion policies and practices that encourage faculty commitment to civic engagement are an important component of this institutional commitment to activating students for lives of engaged citizenship. To this end, we would like to know how your university recognizes civic education and engagement in its tenure and promotion guidelines.

An ADP Coordinator at a school in Tennessee has done preliminary investigations into how engaged learning and scholarship is recognized in tenure and promotion guidelines at a number of institutions. She found that many universities count “community-based learning” in their tenure and promotion policies. As she astutely observes, community-based learning and all that it connotes is important and critical, but it stops somewhat short of describing all that is entailed in democratically engaged teaching and scholarship. She would like to know if there “there are short, pithy, potent terms/phrases (not to replace “community-based learning” but as a conceptual supplement to it) to add throughout universities’ tenure and promotion wording as guidance objectives and touch points?”

As far as we can tell, community-based learning is fairly well embedded in many tenure and promotion guidelines (as are service learning and experiential learning). As we have often observed, though, community-based learning, service learning, and experiential learning are frameworks, processes, tools, and mechanisms for student empowerment and engagement.  The even larger goal, of course, is awakening students to active citizenship and to their responsibilities in and to a participatory democracy. So the question becomes, how do we fully articulate the role of the faculty member in activating students as citizens in a way that extends beyond discrete tools, mechanisms, and specific teaching strategies (such as service learning, community-based learning, etc.)?

The field of civic education uses a lot of different terms, sometimes without much precision. We are particularly interested in collecting precise and descriptive language as guidance for objectives and touch points for tenure and promotion guidelines, but we want to see any tenure and promotion language that refers to educating students for active citizenship.

To contribute to this discussion and share your campus’s practices, please complete this brief, online survey. Thank you in advance for your help. The results will be shared with all ADP campuses. We hope to uncover best-practices for encouraging engaged teaching and scholarship through this query.

To fill out the online query about Tenure and Promotion practices, please visit this website.

Top 10 Desired Learning Outcomes for Participants of the ADP National Meeting

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

Below you will find the “Top 10 Desired Learning Outcomes” for participants of the ADP National Meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 2-4, 2011. I know some of you who read the ADP Blog  on a regular basis will not be able to join us in Orlando. I thought I’d share these Desired Learning Outcomes, though, because they reflect the progress we have made in ADP and the major lessons we have learned over the past nine years.

As many of you know, the ADP National Meeting is not a traditional academic conference. At the Meeting we hope to engage in a process of national cross-pollination. We have the goal of showcasing individual campus lessons learned and challenges faced throughout the ADP network. To this end, we encourage our presenters to compose presentations that give an assessment of what has worked on their campuses, what has not worked, and how challenges to doing civic work have been overcome.

I sent the list of learning outcomes to all presenters yesterday and I encouraged them to think outside of the PowerPoint presentation box. It will be exciting to see the types of presentations and sessions are created that will meet these desired learning outcomes.

Please plan to join us for the 9th Annual American Democracy Project National Meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 2-4, 2011. Registration, conference and hotel information can be found on this website.

Top 10 Desired Learning Outcomes for Participants of the ADP National Meeting

Ways of Knowing

1. Understand the field of civic engagement. What contributions has higher education made to the civic engagement movement? Get to know the major players in the American Democracy Project and where we are heading as a project.

2. Understand your community through engagement. Get to know the root causes of community problems and how universities might leverage their resources to solve these problems.

3. Understand higher education’s role in American democracy. What role does higher education play in ensuring we improve on and protect American democracy? Think about the major successes of the civic engagement movement and think about the important next steps for the movement.

Ways of Thinking

4. Think in terms of culture change. Much of the focus in ADP is on institutional intentionality. How might the culture of your campus be changed to create a focus on preparing students as citizens?

5. Think in terms of student learning outcomes. What are the best strategies for equipping undergraduate students with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes they need to be informed, engaged citizens? How can we effectively assess student learning outcomes?

6. Think in terms of networks. How might the ADP network aid you in your work on campus? What contributions can you make to the civic engagement movement through your involvement with the ADP network? How might you tap the networks in your community to solve public problems and activate student citizen leaders? Use the ADP National Meeting as a time to mine for program ideas and strategies that will help you institutionalize civic engagement on your campus.

Ways of Interacting

7. Think in terms of student leadership. How might students be activated as civic leaders on campus? How might faculty and students form equitable partnerships to prepare informed, engaged citizens?

8. Think in terms of reciprocity. How might university leaders create equitable partnerships with community leaders to address and solve community-based problems? What are the different types of expertise needed to do public work?

9. Think in terms of “We the People.” How might the university be used as a civic space for public work? How might university and community leaders partner with elected officials to solve public problems?

Ways of Being

10. Think in terms of Civic Agency. How might we activate our students and ourselves to be civic agents and architects of democracy? What does authentic civic leadership look like and how might we embody it on our campus and in our communities?

Fort Hays State Launches a Service Learning Initiative

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

This week’s Campus Spotlight is on Fort Hays State University (FHSU). Fort Hays recently won financial support from the Welch Charitable Fund to encourage faculty members to use service learning in their teaching. Service Learning, when combined with community organizing tactics and effective reflection activities, can be an important civic pedagogical tool that will help students develop their citizenship skills. The press release below describes the details of the new FHSU initiative.



Faculty members at Fort Hays State University (FHSU) now have extra
incentive to employ service learning, a pedagogical strategy in which students learn through a unique educational experience that incorporates reflective learning and service to the internal FHSU community and the broader civic community of which the university is a part.
The Provost’s Service Learning Faculty Fellows Program (PSLFFP), instituted by FHSU Provost Dr. Larry Gould and the university’s Service Learning Committee, will award up to four $1,500 fellowships each year with the goals of increasing the number of available service learning courses and contributing to the integrity and value of service learning as part of tenure, promotion, sabbatical and merit processes and decision making.

“The new program will be an excellent way to help meet the teaching and scholarship expectations of the university’s relatively new and broadened definition of scholarship passed by the Faculty Senate,” said Gould.

“Equally important, it will enhance the opportunity for faculty to earn recognition for their efforts to create innovative experiences that foster learning by doing and to include those innovations in their case for merit, tenure and promotion.”

The PSLFFP is supported in cooperation with resources provided by George Welch and the Welch Charitable Fund. Welch is a successful entrepreneur in real-estate development, transportation, manufacturing, finance and banking.

Dr. Stacey Smith, chair of the FHSU Service Learning Committee, has worked with Welch. “George Welch has spent many years as an outstanding businessman with a passion for education and community work,” she said.

“His personal and business ventures have given him the opportunity to mentor many young individuals, including myself. I look forward to sharing with George the growth of service learning initiatives on the FHSU campus that will be made a reality as a result of his generosity,” said Smith.

The application process for the first set of service learning fellows is now under way. The application deadline is 4pm on Tuesday, May 3, 2011.  The first group of Faculty Fellows will be notified on May 13. Applications are available through the chair of the Service Learning Committee or the Office of the Provost.

The applications must include a description of the applicant’s service learning project, a statement of why the applicant is motivated to participate in service learning and what he or she expects to gain from their involvement in the Service Learning Fellows program.

Selections will be made by a panel that includes members of the university’s Service Learning Committee and, eventually, five current and former service learning fellows as the program reaches full implementation. Appointments begin on July 1 of each fiscal year and end 18 months later, on Dec. 31. The $1,500 stipend will be disbursed every six months, in increments of $300, $450 and $750. The Welch Charitable Fund has committed resources to support the program for five years.

Training for fellows is divided into two phases, professional development and academic leadership.  In the professional development phase, fellows will participate in an orientation and development workshop, develop a service learning course, and perform annual service as a member of the Service Learning Committee.

During the academic leadership phase, fellows are required to give presentations on the purpose and practice of service learning to internal and external audiences and teach at least one course that includes a service learning component. To keep the service learning title beyond the end of the fellowship period, faculty will be asked to meet a number of expectations and responsibilities contained in the program’s charter document.

Individuals with questions or a need for further information should contact the Service Learning Chair, Stacey Smith at 628-4696 or email her.

Join an Online Discussion on Economic Security: Saturday, April 30

By Beth Offenbacker and Bill Corbett, The Center for Voter Deliberation of Northern Virginia

You are invited to join a continuing National Issues Forum in the virtual world of Second Life on Saturday April 30 at 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time).  The topic is economic security in America.

Participants in our first forum, two months ago, focused on how best to take charge of the future so families can feel reasonably secure, parents can help their children prosper, and everyone can move toward a financially stable retirement.

We had a small and like-minded group, one that was more concerned about the actions of government than individuals in failing to prevent the nation’s recent recession and in needing to take further steps to remedy it.

“I hadn’t realized before how fundamental is a properly functioning financial system….Because of the distortions in the financial system supported by government, the financial system is not doing its traditional job of supporting innovation throughout the entire economy.”

“I wasn’t thinking about how the current economic crisis is an opportunity to question the fundamental design principles of our economy such as whether we even want to return to the same kind of economy we had in 2008. It would be useful to think about how to rebuild in a better way than we had before.”

We hope to broaden the discussion on April 30, and to add your point of view.

To register and get information on how to join Second Life (it’s free), please email the organizers  or complete this online form.  Registration will close at noon on Friday April 29.

Earth Day the ADP Way: Query and Campus Spotlights

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

Happy Earth Day!

“Each year, Earth Day – April 22 – marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970 (from the Earth Day Network website).” ADP campuses have long celebrated this important day of environmental awareness and action through celebrations and service projects. This year’s Earth Day is no different. Below you will find descriptions of Earth Day celebrations that are planned on three ADP campuses.

Earth Day Query: Are you an ADP Campus Representative? Is your campus planning celebrations for Earth Day? If so, please take a moment to fill out this brief query so that we can gather your great ideas and share them with the rest of the ADP Network.

Earth Day the ADP Way: Campus Spotlights

Northern Arizona University: Earth Day Extravaganza!

Earth Event: NAU Earth Day Extravaganza & Outdoors Gear Swap
As part of the city-wide celebrations for Earth Day, NAU will be hosting its own Earth Day Extravaganza and Outdoors Gear Swap. This event will be on the 2nd Floor of the University Union Expansion and outside the Union Expansion. Come join us for free food, conversation with student groups, and a gear swap! 

Earth Event: CHEI First Indigenous Music Bash
As part of the celebrations for Earth Day, the CHEI Club, The Applied Indigenous Studies Department, Department of Health and Human Services, The Office of Hawaiian Affairs, and the Student Association Council proudly present the 1st Annual Indigenous Music Bash. Performers include Nation’s Ensemble, Pax Harvey, Kupa’aina, Pamyua, Wade Fernandez, and Black Fire. Along with this, there will be activity and information booths set up by student organizations, departments and community members, following with the Indigenous and environmental themes of the event. There will also be a raffle that includes items donated by local community members to raise money to create a scholarship fund for Native students. So come out and “BASH YOUR HEAD NOT THE EARTH!”

Earth Event: Green Room Earth Day Celebration
The Student Environmental Caucus will be hosting an Earth Day celebration at the Green Room. Tickets are $5 for NAU Students, Staff, and Faculty and $10 for community members. Contact the Student Environmental Caucus for more information or to reserve a ticket. The Green Room is located at 15 N Agassiz St in Flagstaff. 

Western Kentucky University: One Planet Day

Students at WKU are re-imagining this year’s Earth Day festivities under the new theme of One Planet Day. The idea for One Planet Daycame from the One Planet Living framework of sustainability developed by the World Wildlife Fund and BioRegional. One Planet Living features 10 principles of sustainability including Zero Carbon, Zero Waste, Sustainable Transport, Local and Sustainable Building Materials, Local and Sustainable Food, Sustainable Water, Natural Habitats and Wildlife, Culture and Heritage, Equity and Fair Trade and Health and Happiness.

One Planet Day is about going beyond what we typically associate with being green,” said Charlie Harris, One Planet Day student organizer. “We want to challenge everyone, whether they’re completely new to sustainability or a seasoned greenie, to take the next step in their personal commitment to living a better, more sustainable life.” Friday’s One Planet Day events are just one part of the annual Earth Week festivities at WKU which begin Wednesday night at 7 with a lecture in Mass Media and Technology Hall Auditorium by Sarah Lynn Cunningham called The Elegant Solution, Climate Solutions Cut Costs, Create Jobs and Stabilize Our Economy.

Thursday night will feature a One Planet Day-themed Poetry Slam from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Downing University Center Courtyard. On Friday, students, faculty and others will have the opportunity to receive One Planet Day punch cards at informational booths across campus. For each One Planet Day action pledge one makes they will receive a punch on their card. Once all 10 sustainability principles have been punched they can turn in their card to be eligible for one of many free prizes including a ride in a hot air balloon.

Harris and other student organizers hope to take the message of One Planet Day beyond WKU’s campus. They’ve partnered with a non-profit design group to launch the One Planet Website and a Facebook page where people all around the world can pledge to take action and change their profile pictures to take part in the One Planet Day digital mosaic to promote sustainable living.

Other highlights of One Planet Day at WKU will include a DIY fair on South Lawn; photography competition and silent auction; Tree Campus USA Flag Raising with President Gary Ransdell; an Earth Day speech by Dr. Bob Hatfield, Executive Faculty MBA Coordinator; a campus garbology project and a recycled materials fashion show. One Planet Day will conclude with a celebration of cultural diversity at the annual International Night in Downing University Center’s fourth floor.

One Planet Day is a project of Campus Conscience, a new initiative based out of WKU that seeks to unite unique socially and environmentally conscious events, campaigns and initiatives taking place at WKU and around the world.

Check out the complete list of One Planet Day events. (Description taken from WKU News Blog.)

Middle Tennessee State University

Want to show you’re green while being true to the blue? Join MTSU’s Students for Environmental Action and the American Democracy Project Student Organization, who are sponsoring an Earth Day celebration on Thursday, April 21.

Students are circulating posters with the day’s itinerary, which includes a free document-shredding service, recycling information, music, special guests and vendors, all on the Keathley University Center Knoll.

Earth Day is usually observed on April 22, but MTSU organizers moved up their event date to accommodate the Good Friday holiday and ensure that more people can participate.

“Raiders Recycle” T-shirts and tote bags, in bright spring colors and in tie-dye, will be for sale on the Knoll on April 21. The celebration is scheduled for 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., and events include:

  • free shredding and recycling of documents by MaxShred of Murfreesboro, 10 a.m.-noon;
  • acoustic music and a poetry slam, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.;
  • entertainment by DJ B. Roll, 2-4 p.m.; and
  • a yard sale by Young Americans for Liberty.

Special guests include representatives from Rover, Murfreesboro’s public transportation system; The Nature Conservancy; Procycling Bicycle Repair; the Center for Environmental Education; the Murfreesboro Electric Department; Origins beauty products; Scott Atkins for Kangen; and Drs. Cliff Ricketts, Charles Perry and Ngee Sing Chong , who will bring the latest green inventions.

For drive-through and drop-off of materials for shredding at MTSU’s Earth Day event, recyclers should enter campus from East Main Street onto North Baird Lane, turn right onto Alumni Drive and then left on Friendship Street to circle through the Davis Science Building parking lot. Students will unload papers there for shredding by MaxShred.

For more details, visit the SEA website at or email

Pre-Conference Workshop Line-Up for the ADP National Meeting – Thursday, June 2, 2011

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

This is by far the richest, most dynamic program we’ve had since the beginning of the project in 2003. I hope you will plan to take part in one of the six (6) incredible pre-conference workshops that we have planned.

RSVP is required for all workshops.

To RSVP, simply send me an email and let me know which Pre-Conference Workshop you would like to attend. Five (5) of the workshops are free to registrants of the ADP Meeting and one (1) pre-conference workshop requires an additional $40 registration fee. See below for additional details.

To register for the ADP National Meeting, please visit this website.

All Pre-Conference Workshops will take place on Thursday, June 2, 2011.

9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Educating Globally Competent Citizens: Strategies and Resources for Teaching 7 Revolutions ($40 Registration and RSVP required – lunch included)This day-long institute introduces participants to numerous tools for educating globally competent citizens. Representatives from six AASCU campuses describe how they have integrated and infused the Seven Revolutions framework (population, resources, technology, information, economic integration, conflict, and governance) and content on their campuses for introductory, first year, major and honors courses. Institute leaders demonstrate the teaching materials and resources they have found most valuable in the courses they teach and will guide participants in anticipating how these same tools could be used effectively on their home campuses.Presenters: Steven Elliott-Gower, Director, Honors and Scholars Program, Georgia College, Darrell A. Hamlin, Senior Fellow, Center for Civic Leadership and Brett Whitaker, Instructor, Leadership Studies, Fort Hays State University, William E. Payne, Interim Dean, School of Fine Arts, University of Minnesota Duluth, Dennis Falk, Professor, Department of Social Work, University of Minnesota Duluth, Nathan Phelps, Faculty, Honors College, Western Kentucky University, Martin S. Shapiro, Associate Professor of Psychology and 7 Revolutions Scholar, California State University Fresno, and Blase S. Scarnati, Director, First Year Seminar Program and Global Learning, Northern Arizona University, Keisha L. Hoerrner, Chair, First-Year Programs, Kennesaw State University, GeorgiaTo learn more about the 7 Revolutions, visit this website.
9:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. An Introduction to Deliberative Polling® (Free and open to all registrants)The Center for Deliberative Democracy at Stanford University is devoted to research on democracy and public opinion through Deliberative Polling® – an innovative method of public consultation. The Deliberative Polling process reveals the conclusions the public would reach, if people had opportunity to become more informed, engage with others, and consider the viewpoints from all sides. Join this workshop to learn how to use Deliberative Polling or conduct deliberative experiments on your campus, in your communities, state or nationally.Facilitators:  Sean Westwood and Nuri Kim, Doctoral Students, Center for Deliberative Democracy , Stanford University, CaliforniaTo learn more about Deliberative Polling, visit this website.
1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Effective Strategies for Telling Your Story (Free and open to all registrants)Too often, good works go unnoticed even as universities and colleges conceive and execute creative programming in civic engagement. So how can you get the word out? The first part of the workshop identifies the goals of communication, the target audiences, and the communication options.  Presenters then share a technique for incorporating message, audience, and medium into a single strategic plan for publicizing civic engagement work. The second part of the workshop focuses on specific ideas for publicizing an initiative. What works? What doesn’t? How do you stretch a limited budget?Presenters:  Mark Neikirk, Executive Director, Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement and Carole Beere, Associate Provost for Outreach (retired), Northern Kentucky University
1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Political Engagement Project Institute: Getting Started with the Political Engagement Project (Free and open to all registrants)The Political Engagement Project (PEP) has the goal of developing a sense of political efficacy and duty on the part of undergraduates as well as a set of political skills that students will need as they engage with the political world. To do this, PEP campuses have infused political education and engagement tactics into a variety of disciplines and courses on campus and have made the tenants of political engagement central to the institutional framework of their campuses.This workshop explores the goals and pedagogies of the participating courses and programs, students’ perspectives on their experiences in the program, and the impact of these experiences on key dimensions of political development such as knowledge and understanding, active involvement, sense of political efficacy and identity, and skills of democratic participation. Learn how to launch PEP on your campus in this informative workshop.Presenters: David L. Carr, Professor of Political Science and Senior Fellow, William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy and Marilyn E. Vito, Associate Professor of Business Studies, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Ralph J. Rascati, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Kennesaw State University, Georgia, Stephen K. Hunt, Professor and Joseph Zompetti, Associate Professor, School of Communication, Illinois State University

For more information about PEP, please visit this website.

1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Introduction to the Informed Citizen Project  (Free and open to all registrants)One key component tocivic engagement is critical consumption and analysis of information. The Informed Citizen Project focuses on media and information literacy efforts and strategies for building civic engagement.  Our pre-conference workshop establishes a plan for the first year’s efforts.Presenters:  Chapman Rackaway, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Fort Hays State University, and Lance Lippert, Associate Professor, School of Communication, Illinois State University
12:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Game of Politics Simulation Sponsored by The New York Times(Free and open to all registrants)

The Game of Politics Simulation is set 4-6 years in the future.  Participants are assigned roles in the Presidency, Congress, the Supreme Court (including lawyers), and the media. Then they work on legislative, budgetary and judicial issues while facing multiple and multi-session story lines that cover:

1) lobbying efforts (regarding legislative and budgetary matters);

2) emerging domestic and foreign policy issues;

3) constituency service matters;

4) legislative and executive wildcards; and,

5) plain old distractions.

Come to this session to experience the simulation and learn how to run a Game of Politics Simulation on your own campus!

Facilitator:  Don Jansiewicz, Creator, Game of Politics

To learn more about the Game of Politics, visit this website.

CiviliNation’s Online Community Managers Survey

By Andrea Weckerle, Founder, CiviliNation

Online community managers are at the front lines of action and carry enormous responsibility for the success of their communities, yet often aren’t sufficiently recognized for the challenges that are inherently a part of their work. It is often inevitable that community conflicts occur, and not shying away from tackling the sometimes uncomfortable issues that arise within communities can be the sign of a healthy, robust group. Yet if not managed properly, conflicts can also tear a community apart. Unfortunately organizations often expect community managers to “learn as they go,” not realizing the tenuous position they therefore place these groups.

One of CiviliNation’s goals is to help educate and train online community managers in the conflict resolution skills they need to succeed. CiviliNation has therefore created a survey to determine community manager’s level of expertise in this area and what their specific and most pressing challenges are. The survey’s aim is to poll community managers from a diverse range of communities and serve as a foundation on which to create a customized conflict management training program. The results of the survey will published online in a free, comprehensive report. As a thank you for taking the 10-minute online survey, participants are also entered to win a $25 Amazon gift certificate or a $25 donation to their favorite charity, whichever they prefer.

CiviliNation is a global, 501(c)(3) non-profit education and research organization focused on advancing the full capability of individuals to communicate and engage in cyberspace in a responsible and accountable way.  CiviliNation is a strong supporter of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and believes that by fostering an online culture in which individuals can fully engage and contribute without fear or threat of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment, or lies, the core ideals of democracy are upheld.

Are you an online community manager? If so, please take a moment to fill out this brief survey. For more information about CiviliNation, please visit this website.

Theatre and Global Change Course

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

Have you ever wondered how theater arts might be used to advance the civic engagement movement?

I am pleased to announce that one of our 7 Revolutions Scholars, William Payne of the University of Minnesota Duluth, will co-teach an online course with The New York Times leading theater critic, Ben Brantley. The course is called Theatre and Global Change and will explore the diverse ways theater can help us understand and interact with the significant global changes happening today.

A live filming of the course will take place as part of the opening events of the ADP National Meeting in Orlando on Thursday, June 2 at 6:00 pm.

I hope many of you will register for this exciting course and attend the living filming that is part of the ADP National Meeting. Please see below for additional information.

Theatre & Global Change

Through the study of classic and contemporary dramatic literature and the exploration of the Seven Revolutions taking place today (changes in Population, Resource Management, Technology, Information Flow, Economic Integration, Conflict, and Governance) students will generate awareness and action leading to an appreciation of the role that artistic creation can and does play in our changing world.


Focusing on the first four Revolutions (Population, Resource Management, Technology and Information Flow), this course will include:

  • Ancient and modern classic plays by William Shakespeare, Sophocles, David Mamet, Tony Kuschner, August Wilson, and Carel Kapek are the texts used to explore the various ways theatre can and does express the world we live in.
  • A wide spectrum of material from the Knowledge Network, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and various other web sources help from the Seven Revolutions – global trends that will fundamentally change how we live.
  • Weekly live online sessions with special guests like New York Times Theater Critic Ben Brantley and Theatre director and activist Margarita Espada of Teatro Yerbabruja.

Target Audience
This course is for students wanting to learn more about theatre, about global change, and about ways artistic creation can help us understand and respond to the changes occurring in our present and future worlds.

  1. People interested in learning about global change.
  2. People interested in theatre.
  3. People interested in new ways to respond to the challenges of the present and the future.

In addition to the daily self-paced lessons, online discussion forums and resources, there will be a weekly live online session with the instructor. Live sessions will be archived for future viewing. There will be five live sessions for this course: 

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Instructor: Bill Payne

Thursday, May 19, 2011
Instructor: Bill Payne
Guest: Margarita Espada

Thursday, May 26, 2011
Instructor: Bill Payne

Thursday, June 2, 2011
Instructor: Bill Payne
Guest: a Seven Revolutions Scholar

Monday, June 6, 2011
Instructor: Bill Payne
Guest: Ben Brantley

To read more about Bill and Ben and to register for the course, please visit The New York Times Knowledge Network website. To register for the ADP National Meeting in Orlando, June 2-4, 2011, please visit this website.

We the People Interview Series: Interview with Jason Lowry

As part of the Civic Agency initiative, we are conducting a special “We the People” interview series. In this series, we interview intriguing people with different perspectives on the “We the People” phase of our work in ADP. This is the third of many interviews that will be included in this series.

Jason Lowry is a Master’s student in the Sustainable Communities Program at Northern Arizona University (NAU). For the past two years, he has been a Public Achievement coach and the coordinator of Public Achievement at NAU, a leader of the weatherization and community building action team and an apprentice organizer in the Northern Arizona Interfaith Council. During his graduate studies he is researching strategies for integrating Public Achievement and community organizing into schools.

During this time of great political unrest in the state of Arizona, Public Achievement and Civic Agency have helped provide citizens in Flagstaff and beyond with the hope that they can work together despite political and ideology differences to solve community-based problems and create cultures of civic agency and engagement. What follows is a synopsis of his inspiring story as well as advice for faculty and students about how they might use a “We the People” ethos to create positive change in their own communities.

Cecilia M. Orphan (CMO): Students at Northern Arizona University have been working to make “We the People” a reality. How are they doing this?

Jason Lowry (JL): NAU is seeing a huge surge in its student engagement throughout campus. Students I work with are at the forefront of organizing in the Flagstaff and NAU communities around immigration work, Public Achievement (the student democratic engagement and leadership initiative) in two different elementary schools, and as well as extensive student and community organizing around energy efficiency and renewable energy.

I am also engaged – and have been engaged for a couple of years now – in Public Achievement and the energy efficiency organizing. These two pieces have been some of the most powerful and empowering experience for me and the other students I work with. We have worked with elementary schoolers on food drives, community gardens, new books for their old library, and community health programs. We have also organized to build support and energy for the creation of a $2.7 million dollar energy efficiency revolving loan fund for the Flagstaff area!

CMO: Have you noticed any changes in the students you are working with? Do they conceive of themselves and their communities any differently after engaging in public work?  

JL: I feel a difference in the students. They come in with wide eyes yet they leave seeing possibility. Many of the students I work with are now assuming leadership roles within the project and creating innovative organizing strategies on their own. At first this was a slow process that required gently nudging the students forward. Now I can stand back as they take projects by the horns. For many students, organizing on the ground and seeing tangible results has helped them feel that they can and are making a difference. Subsequently, many are planning to stay engaged in their communities for years to come.

These students are reviving my hopes for Arizonan democracy by stepping up to the plate and asserting their leadership in a democratic way. Even though the situation is grim with budget cuts to the universities, attacks on immigrants, and a continued reliance on unsustainable energy sources, students are embodying the idea of ‘We the People’ and making their community their own. They are tired of waiting and are finding meaningful ways to get engaged and seeing possibility for change in places I would not have ever looked.

CMO: Have you noticed any changes in yourself because of this work? If so, what kind of changes?

JL: Wow, I absolutely have. First and foremost, I have a renewed faith in people and our communities. After seeing so many people come together to work for humane ends and understanding that they are the ones that will make it happen, it has rekindled my belief that people, when they work together for a common goal, can and do accomplish great ends.

I have also begun to see many seeming crises as opportunities for engagement. Where I once saw the issues at hand as limiting, I know see them as opportunities and I understand at some level how to work to make the change.

CMO: How might we communicate the “We the People” spirit to students around the nation?

JL: Students are tired of politics as usual. They are tired of being written off as disengaged and apathetic. It seems as though many of them just don’t know where or how to begin. The spirit of “We the People” has to be talked about as it relates to possible opportunities for organizing or what is already going on.

The message is simple. What we have won’t work. We need something new and we can’t wait for others to fix it. Let’s organize and make something happen understanding this is a lifelong endeavor, not a onetime fix.

CMO: How might we use social media tools to help build the “We the People” movement?

JL: Hmm… social media is not my forte. However, I know it can be a very powerful tool to augment the work we are doing on the ground. Too often people see social networking tools and technology as the cure-all for the problems we are facing. I would caution that the use of social media tools need to be connected with that relationship and community building that face-to-face organizing provides. One without the other is greatly limiting. But social media can make organizing efforts more united and broader in scope as we share information of what is going on in our own communities and quicker to react.

Social media tools can also create powerful public stages by translating local organizing efforts into a larger context of what’s going on in our states, country, and the world. I believe that these tools will play a key role  in helping the “We the People” movement gain ground and will also help local organizing efforts find energy and a sense of possibility.

CMO: What advice would you give faculty members who are hoping to awaken this same civic spirit in their own students?

For me, this type of student civic spirit comes from a few places. First, find student leaders on your campus. John Paul Lederach[1] writes about critical yeast; those people that are able to expand energy and engagement throughout their communities and spaces. Find these students and mentor them in the art of democratic engagement and public work.

Second, give them the reigns and let them take charge. One of the main differences I have seen between those groups that are really engaged and those that are not is that successful faculty provide guidance but let the students run the show. I think the Industrial Areas Foundation’s Iron Rule is important here: Never do for others what they can do for themselves.

Lastly, help them find possibility and the skills to make things happen. If we don’t help them form a broader vision, our efforts may lead to a continuation of the status quo. Don’t push them that way, just sew the seeds of possibility and try to nurture them the best you can!

CMO: What advice would you give students?

JL: Find a mentor. Get to know someone, preferably many people that are passionate about something similar to your own interests and invest time and energy in creating a solid relationship. My own work has mostly turned into mentoring students through individual meetings, visioning, and strategy sessions. I believe mentoring relationships are so important because I know the effect they had on me personally.

Also, laugh a bit. Make fun of the hard times we’re in. Humor might provide a light of possibility that seriousness would otherwise snuff out.

[1] Lederach, J. P. (2005). The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. Oxford University Press, USA

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