By Audrey Miller, Graduate Student, WSU Vancouver
Washington State University Vancouver launched the American Democracy Project, respectfully named the VanCoug American Democracy Project (VADP), on February 20, 2013. A full-day event, the “VanCoug American Democracy Project Day,” facilitated the launch with group discussions, workshops, a keynote presentation by George Mehaffy (AASCU’s Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change), and the presentation of ADP’s William Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement to WSU Vancouver’s new chancellor, Mel Netzhammer (former Provost of Keene State College).
The all-day event brought students, staff, faculty, administration, and community members together to learn about the ways they would be interacting to build a new community focused on engagement. Designed to build excitement for VADP, the event allowed participants to discuss the possibilities of the Project on campus. Though the soft launch of the VADP in May 2012 gained traction, many still didn’t understand the mission and possibilities of the initiative. The Feb. 20 event brought the experience of ADP veterans from Keene State College to attendees who still had questions about creating a campus culture of civic engagement.
Keene State’s Kim Schmidl-Gagne leads a workshop.
Keene State College guests representing KSC’s ADP–Patrick Dolenc, Pat Hitchner, Kim Schmidl-Gagne, and Wes Martin–taught three 75-minute workshops at the event: Creating a Culture of Civic Engagement, Co-Curricular Programming for Creating Partnerships, and Curricular Issues. The focus was to thoroughly discuss the different impacts of ADP, ranging from implementing civic engagement into curriculum to the continuum of volunteerism to engaged citizen. Attendees were able to converse about changes to be expected as ADP permeates every component of campus life.
After the workshops sparked healthy conversation about campus engagement, Mehaffy gave the keynote address, “Educating Citizens: New Strategies for a New Century,” and presented the Plater Award to Netzhammer. Mehaffy’s keynote focused on the struggles higher education will face engaging students as information becomes more accessible through advancements in technology. Mehaffy told the audience that when you want to do something, don’t wait around to discuss it to death–just do it, just go for it, make ideas come to life.
George Mehaffy delivers keynote address at “VanCoug American Democracy Project Day.”
The Plater Award was presented to the WSU Vancouver Chancellor, Netzhammer, for his work as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Keene State College. Netzhammer brought ADP to Keene State College and worked for five years to develop a student experience featuring civic engagement.
The William Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement recognizes a chief academic officer’s commitment to advancing the civic mission of a campus through circular reform, public advocacy, accountability for institutional citizenship, faculty development and recruitment, and partnerships with community organizations. As mentioned by Mehaffy, the William Plater award is the only one of its kind nationally recognizing excellence in a chief academic officer or provost.
WSUV Chancellor Mel Netzhammer accepts the Plater Award.
Attendees at the presentation of the Plater Award were invigorated seeing Netzhammer receive the award. Knowing that Netzhammer was presented the prestigious award for his successful work at Keene State College inspired confidence that he would bring the same level of success with ADP to WSU Vancouver.
WSUV Student Leaders
The student leads of the VADP assisted in planning the VADP Day over a period of two months. Audrey Miller, Jayme Shoun, and Monica Santos came together to work as student leads with VADP due to their shared backgrounds in struggling to engage a seemingly apathetic student body. Miller served as the Associated Students of Washington State University Vancouver President from 2011-2012, Santos has been the Office of Student Involvement Programming intern for the past two years, and Shoun served as the Chair of the ASWSUV Elections Board in 2012. WSU Vancouver does not have student housing and has an average student age of 26. Dubbed a “commuter campus,” students enrolled at WSU Vancouver attend classes and then leave for off campus commitments and responsibilities. Engaging the already engaged is the struggle student leaders face at WSU Vancouver.
The VADP Day presented each of the student leads the opportunity to connect with visiting workshop presenters from Keene State College, as well as Mehaffy, to learn about the hurdles and rewards in engaging a student body.
To learn more about VCDP, you can visit the Facebook page here.
Photos by Laura Envancich, Marketing and Communications at WSU Vancouver.
Audrey Miller is a graduate student at WSU Vancouver in the Master’s of Public Affairs Program focusing on environmental policy. She is a student lead on the VanCoug American Democracy Project (VADP) and the current Editor-in-chief of The VanCougar student newspaper. As the former Associated Students of Washington State University Vancouver President in 2011-2012, she dealt with a great deal of apathy and resistance toward on campus engagement. The challenges she faced and continue to face as a student leader on campus inspired her to became involved with VADP and work with fellow student leads to defeat apathy and create a culture of civic engagement.