Archive for February, 2012

Vote for St. Cloud State (Minn.) Student in White House Contest

St. Cloud State University student Kurtis Neu needs your vote to make it to the White House.

Kurt Neu, a senior anthropology major, is one of 15 finalists chosen in the 2011 White House Campus “Champions of Change” Challenge, which invited college and university students from across the country to demonstrate how their student-led project is improving their campus community and helping America win the future.

After reviewing a record number of entries, 15 finalists were named, including Neu’s which is titled “Our Promise: Building a Better Community Together.”

Neu’s project was put into action last summer providing bagged lunches for children in a multi-ethnic, low-income neighborhood who would normally qualify for lunch assistance during the academic year at a local elementary school. After receiving a grant from the campus food supplier, Neu and his team began making bagged lunches in the campus cafeteria every morning Monday through Friday. College students and volunteers from the community worked together to prepare meals which students then distributed to children in the neighborhood. What started as only a few hundred meals and a handful of volunteers grew to nearly 1000 meals and dozens of volunteers as awareness of the lunch program spread. Delivering the meals to various locations throughout the neighborhood made it possible for students and residents to meet face-to-face and to have purposeful conversations and to work towards establishing relationships based on trust, compassion and a general concern for the well-being of all community members.

Via email, Kurt indicated that the “Our Promise” project represents the collective efforts of “a fantastic group of individuals who are committed to improving the community.” He views St. Cloud State University as “an exceptional place to earn a degree and to discover how to see the world in a different light” and hopes that his project encourages other students to “make the best of their time in college and truly have a positive impact on campus and in the community.”

Go here to learn more and to vote.

The top five winners will largely be selected based on voting and named Campus Champions of Change and will be invited to a culminating event at the White House. The Challenge winners, in addition to the concluding event, will be highlighted by mtvU and MTV Act and also host an episode of mtvU’s signature program, “The Dean’s List.”

The deadline to cast your vote is Saturday, March 3.

Best of luck to you, Kurt, and to St. Cloud State University!

Student Spotlight: Liz Bowling’s Lesson in Basic Economics

I had the opportunity to talk with Liz Bowling, a new-traditional (read, not  18-22 years-old) undergraduate student at Emporia State University in Kansas, recently about her experiences in Rob Cattlet’s fall Economics 101: Basic Economics course.

- Jen Domagal-Goldman, National Manager, American Democracy Project

By Liz Bowling, Emporia State University (Kan.)

City of Emporia Clean-Up & Recycling Days

On Saturday October 1st of last year, I had the privilege of participating in the City of Emporia’s Clean-Up & Recycling Days.  I worked alongside other volunteers from Emporia State University, local businesses, organizations and individuals from Emporia at the temporary transfer station and recycling center in Santa Fe Park.

After slipping into my gloves and safety vest, I made my way around to the different containers designated for tires, wood, metals, cleaners, chemicals, paints, T.V.s, computers and computer parts, and trash, which would have been headed for the landfill if we were not here.  There were a couple of volunteers who offered their trucks and fuel to take several loads of usable items to area thrift stores.  With more people using their intellectual and physical talents, along with more dumpsters there would have been even less items going to the landfill.

This was a wonderful life-transforming experience!  In return for giving five hours from my Saturday, I have gained a personal accountability to a higher standard of activism.  From now on I will no longer be able to plead ignorance, or sit back and let others do all the work.

I thought that it was enough that as a recycle artist I have created entire shows from utilizing 95 percent refuse that I took from local business trash bins and other recycled materials.  This is good; however, it is simply not enough!

After my experience on Saturday, I am committed to doing more through volunteering, educating, and/or donating money and supplies.  I will become an engaged citizen. I have several ideas about ways in which to educate the public, campaign for changes, and fund-raise and ideas about ways to involve the youth and our school systems. I am dedicated to researching, manifesting, and implementing these ideas. I believe that other citizens of Emporia, like me, would be interested in opportunities to assist in solution-changing-events such as Clean Sweep II.  However, they have to be given the opportunity to become aware of the enormity of the situation and the long-term ramifications of the problems that we are facing personally, environmentally, economically, and globally.


About Elizabet (Liz) L. Bowling

Liz Bowling

Liz has been “a creative” her entire life; it is what sustains, supports and nourishes her mind, body and spirit.  She has been a professional artist for the past 22 years.  Liz began at Sterling College (Kan.) and then ventured to UCLA. Since then she has been at IUPUI, Baker University (Kan.), the University of Oklahoma and is currently a student at Emporia State University (Kan.) where she is taking a class in economics that has extensive civic engagement elements as part of the American Democracy Project.

Art and writing have always been a big part of Liz’s  creative life.  She is currently working on several book projects. By nature she is a self-proclaimed assemblage artist. Her eclectic and unusual palette includes: clay, wood, wire, fibers/cloth, bone and recycled materials, found objects, cardboard, paint, and anything discarded (e.g., trash) that can be utilized and revitalized.

Being an assemblage artist for many years, she has utilized found objects and the art of recycling through out my career; however, what began as a necessity has become a dedication to living life with integrity and personal accountability. She believes that we live in a world where a large number of people live with the “disposable society” mentality. Too quickly, we throw away. We throw away useful items; we fill our landfills with materials that can be recycled and put to good use.  Many in our society tend to quickly throw away their values, their relationships, family, children, friendships, the elderly and disabled in the quest to obtain more, bigger, better, more improved things.

As an educated individual, Liz is dedicated to helping to make this world a better place. Educating myself about the application of non-toxic and environmentally safe products in partnership to recycling is a foundational part of my creative process. As a spiritual being, Liz has committed her life to that of seeking knowledge, growth, accountability, personal and professional integrity, and unfolding naturally into authenticity. Her entire life is about building bridges and using her creative talent to connect and inspire others.

Raising Recycling Awareness & Voter Participation at MTSU

Guest Blog Post by Victoria Womack, Student, Middle Tennessee State University

Raising Recycling Awareness and Voter Participation

American Democracy Project seeks to solve problems within our local community and on campus, and during 2011 and on into this year, we the students of American Democracy Project at Middle Tennessee State University identified  two major problems affecting MTSU that we wanted to try to begin to tackle on our campus.

MTSU Students (from L to R): L to R: Carlin Stinson, Matthew Foriest, Victoria Womack & Brandon Loso

One problem has been a lack of awareness about campus recycling.  We saw the recycling bins often getting underused, while at the same time the trash bins seemed to pile up and overflow!  So we brainstormed, talked to a lot of facilities people on campus and to other campus organizations, and decided on a few tactics we wanted to undertake toward improving the current situation.

The new student orientation program that MTSU hosts every spring and summer for incoming freshmen and transfer students is called CUSTOMS on our campus, during which new students are given tours of campus and are treated to presentations about every aspect of how the campus operates.  Of course the students leave orientation loaded with brochures and handouts about organizations, programs, and student services.  ADP decided to create a brochure to go in the CUSTOMS packets that will be given to all new students this coming summer that will inform them about MTSU’s recycling services.  We wanted to stress to the new students the importance of recycling; to work toward building a healthier campus culture by starting early with our incoming students; and also to simply provide new students with basic, introductory recycling information that they all need to know.  We wanted to supply answers to straightforward questions.  Do all the dorms have bins?  Does every floor?  Does every academic hall and classroom?  How often are the bins collected?  Where is the main campus recycling center? Where are hazardous waste and electronic equipment recycled?  What does Facilities Services collect on campus, v. what does each individual student need to transport personally to the larger campus recycling center?  Questions like that.

We hope our new brochure will be a good addition to help students start off on the right foot here.  We were not provided that sort of information when we arrived at MTSU, and we think we should have been.  So we’re handling it ourselves because it’s something we care about.

The other problem we are taking on is a serious attempt to increase the student voting base at MTSU in preparation for the 2012 presidential election.  Due to the lack of heavy student participation in the fall 2010 elections, during which election cycle Tennessee selected our current governor, we were discouraged by the general apathy toward voting by many of our students.  We have read the national data on this issue, as have you, about poor voter turnout among our age group, but we are interpreting some of the disengagement on our campus, and maybe much of it, in part to the lack of prepared registration:  to students generally being uninformed about registration.  We hope that receiving information about how to register will increase the numbers of students getting registered, to be ready to vote November 6th!

We are using a multi-pronged approach in dealing with this issue in the months ahead.  Just one of our approaches is an attempt at tackling the problem in a similar way in which we are dealing with recycling:  we have decided to also include an informational flyer in the CUSTOMS packets this summer about voter registration.  We compiled a list of the recurring questions that were asked of us throughout the past year when we had voter registration tables set up on campus.  We set out to answer those questions in the best, most efficient ways we can, writing down our tips in simple responses for our freshmen, most of whom will be first time voters this coming fall.  We want to show them that registering to vote is easy.  We want them to be sure they know that registration is the required first step in being able to participate in the election to put forth their voice in the political arena.  We want to help them get registered – and then get to the polls.

Information is power. We respect our fellow students and presume they genuinely want to do the right thing.  They just need to be encouraged.  We think information about a subject leads to action.  Ideally we would love for everyone on campus to participate in voting this fall.  We know the sheer act of flipping the levers in the voting booth can be life changing.  Voting makes a citizen of even the very cynical.  If we can raise the voter participation numbers among our campus population by the slightest percentage come fall 2012, we’ll have accomplished a lot.  But even if we’re able to facilitate just one more MTSU student becoming a participatory citizen, we’ll feel good about our efforts and know that our goal has been accomplished!  We’re working on it, and we hope we’re modeling civic agency and civic action in the process.


Victoria Womack

Victoria Womack is a soldier in the Tennessee National Guard and a full time student at Middle Tennessee State University. She is majoring in Digital Animation and hopes to one day start her own company.  She became involved in civic engagement through her experiences in the military as well as her involvement with the American Democracy Project.  She hopes to promote the importance of voting as well as staying actively involved with government issues.

ADP in the News | February 16, 2012 Edition

I will be sharing brief updates about American Democracy Project activities at ADP colleges and universities in a semi-weekly news roundup. If you have an ADP event you’d like posted in this format, please email me at

- Jen Domagal-Goldman, National Manager, American Democracy Project

Georgia College hosts symposium on Global Citizenship

ADP Campus Coordinator Gregg Kaufman helped organize Georgia College & State University’s annual Global Citizenship Symposium on February 6-8, 2012. Entitled “Personal and Global Health: My Role, Our Challenges,” the symposium focused on the United Nations’ Millennium Development goals. Read more here.

Read more about Georgia College’s ADP here.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­


ADP Faculty at Illinois State Secure $50k Grant
Steve Hunt and Lance Lippert, faculty members at Illinois State University in the School of Communication have been awarded a $50,000 grant from the McCormick Foundation. Hunt is the co-chair of ISU’s ADP. Lippert directs the Civic Engagement Minor. The grant “will allow the ADP to significantly expand [ISU’s] efforts to embed civic engagement into the curriculum at Illinois State,” according to Hunt.  Read more here.

Learn more about ADP at ISU here.


UW Oshkosh hosts Senator Ron Johnson

UW Oshkosh will host Senator Johnson as part of its American Democracy Project lecture series, on February 22, 2012 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Reeve Memorial Union Ballroom. Senator Johnson was originally scheduled to speak on campus as part of fall Constitution Day celebrations, but needed to reschedule his appearance due to Congressional deliberations. ADP campus co-chairs Carleen Vande Zande, the Assistant Vice Chancellor for Curricular Affairs and Student Academic Achievement, and David Siemers, Professor and Political Science Chair are excited about the event. Read more here.

Learn more about UW Oshkosh’s ADP here.


SUNY Fredonia holds Stewardship of Public Lands summer course inYellowstone

Professors William Brown of the biology department and Christina Jarvis of the English department will be offering a new, interdisciplinary, six-credit course at Yellowstone National Park this summer, July 17 through 27. Read more here.


MTSU hosts Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

Middle Tennesee State University hosted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor as part of its annual Windham Lecture Series. The Feb. 8 lecture was sponsored, in part, by the American Democracy Project. Read more here.

Learn more about MTSU’s ADP here.


NSU Volunteers for MLK Day

The American Democracy Project at Northeastern State University (Olka.) co-sponsored a MLK Day of Service event in local K-12 schools. ADP chair and instructor of educational foundations and leadership, Barbara Fuller, helped coordinate the effort. Read more here.


RIC Students Tweet during NH Primary Season

Students in Valerie Endress’ political campaign course at Rhode Island College traveled through New Hampshire in early January during the New Hampshire Primary. As part  of the course, students tweeted observations and political commentary from the political events and rallies they attended. RIC’s local NBC affiliate, NBC 10, partnered with RIC for campaign coverage during the NH Primary. The trip was sponsored by RIC’s American Democracy Project. Read more here.

Learn more about RIC’s ADP here.


FHSU Discusses Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Fort Hays State University (Kan.) screened the new documentary “A Little Town of Bethlehem” in January. The screening, as well as the accompanying panel and discussion, was sponsored by the American Democracy Project. Read more here.

Learn more about ADP at FHSU here.

Partner Spotlight: NYTimes has a great new college rate for Digital Subscriptions!

ADP’s founding partner, The New York Times, has a new college rate for digital subscriptions. Now you can read The Times on your smartphone, tablet or computer at a lower, college rate!

- Jen Domagal-Goldman, National Manager, American Democracy Project

NYT In College

Get a New York Times Digital Subscription at our new college rate!

Just 99 cents for your first 4 weeks, then 50% off the regular rate thereafter.

We invite you to take advantage of this new rate, available exclusively to college educators and students.  Get a Digital Subscription to The New York Times, bringing you the world’s finest journalism, and you’ll pay only 99c for your first 4 weeks and, at 50% off, as little as $1.88 per week thereafter.*

You’ll be entitled to your special low rate as long as you continue to have a college affiliation as a faculty or staff member.


Home Delivery subscriptions are also available at 50% off for the college community and include FREE All Digital Access.   Just visit or call (888)698-2655.

Share the savings: Share this offer with other students, faculty, and staff.

*Does not include e-reader editions, Premium Crosswords or The New York Times Crosswords apps. All subscriptions will automatically renew and the credit card will be charged in advance of each billing period unless canceled. If the subscription is canceled, refunds and termination of access will follow the Terms of Sale policy. Prices are subject to change. Other restrictions and taxes may apply. K-12 educators are eligible for a discounted rate and may visit or call (888)698-2655.

At the Forefront of Change: The Work of Building Democracy Colleges

Note: The American Democracy Project is a partner in the new American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP).

By Harry C. Boyte, American Commonwealth Partnership National Coordinator

At the forefront of change will be a monthly online newsletter about activities and developments in the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP). ACP is an alliance of colleges and universities, schools and others dedicated to the democracy college ideal for all higher education. Democracy colleges have a signature identity of strong connection to their communities, where students learn skills of working across differences on public problems and discover the democratic possibilities of America.

I’ve just come back from San Antonio. Blase Scarnati, director of the First Year Seminar at Northern Arizona University, and I did a featured session on the American Commonwealth Partnership at the Academic Affairs meeting of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). This biannual meeting once simply involved provosts, but in the last several years larger teams have come to help facilitate change in their institutions.

We had intense conversations about ACP, within our session as well as before and after. Overall, the weekend underlined both challenges and opportunities for the sustained work of “building democracy colleges.”

We reported on results from field testing and focus groups organized by the National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI), ACP’s partner in launching a national discussion on higher education’s role in America’s future. The discussions in communities and on campuses will begin in April and continue through the year. The Department of Education has suggested several ways in which they might help.

Research last year on public views toward higher education and the first tests of the framework to be used in the discussions have generated important findings.

The draft framework presents several alternative roles for people to consider and discuss: higher education as an engine of economic growth; as a path to the middle class for those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and as a contributor to communities and the democracy. People want to integrate all three, not choose among them.

But most people also seem unaware of ways in which colleges and universities can play this third role. Since the last two decades have seen significant civic engagement work in higher education, this finding suggests a communications challenge, also highlighted by sympathetic participants from outside of higher education at the White House gathering, who commented that phrases commonly used to describe engagement – civic mission, civic engagement, and others – would not be easily understood by broader publics.

When the third option is illustrated with examples of higher education’s helping students and faculty learn skills and habits of collaborative work across differences on public problems, it generates surprise and animated discussions. Few people are aware that colleges or universities can play any role in teaching such skills. But across many differences, Americans are worried that “we are less and less able to work across differences to get anything done,” and fear for the future of the nation. Citizens are alarmed by Congress, but see polarization, inflammatory rhetoric and gridlock extending to every level of society and to all sorts of issues, from local zoning changes to reconstruction of the nation’s electrical grid.

Powerful forces feed the polarizing dynamic, including the formula, with roots in 1970s activism, which dominates most civic and political campaigns: identify an enemy; define issues as good versus bad; and use inflammatory language to shut down critical thought. Talk radio, cable news and the internet are potent operationalizing tools.

At San Antonio, there were strong examples of developing capacities for collaborative work that push back against such polarization. Blase Scarnati described the curricular innovations at NAU which involve hundreds of students in interdisciplinary Action Research Teams as part of the First Year Seminar. Students undertake public work projects on issues – immigration, weatherization, school bullying and others – in ways designed to teach such skills and build public relationships with diverse groups, connected to interdisciplinary learning.  Over supper one evening I heard a rich account from Dayna Seelig, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Morehead State University in Kentucky, about her own work over many years in teaching such skills and habits to students, faculty and staff of the university.

But such stories are rarely told in describing engagement efforts, and I believe that most examples of teaching and learning collaborative public work remain invisible. There is a need to shine a spotlight on education for such efforts. There are also strong institutional incentives for doing so in a time of public alarm about the fraying of American society and ebbing public support for higher education.  The initiatives of ACP (deliberative dialogues, student organizing, Citizen Alum, civic science, pedagogies of engagement, community civic health, public scholarship, and policy) all help to foster education for collaborative public problem solving. But it will take sustained effort to make such teaching and learning central to institutional identity.

What might a “Democracy College Morrill Class” look like dedicated to this task? We suggested the possibility of a cohort of colleges and universities that make an explicit commitment for sustained collaborative learning to deepen curricular and co-curricular engagement in civic work. It is now only the seed of an idea, but even without detail there was considerable interest. Several administrators said that their institutions would definitely like to be involved.

Find more information about ACP here.

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