Posts Tagged 'Student Spotlight'

eJournal of Public Affairs logo designed by Missouri State University Student

This story is re-posted from Missouri State University’s Arts & Letters Expressions February 24, 2012 blog by Phillip George, which you can view here.

Kyle Rutherford, a design student majoring in graphic design and illustration, submitted the wordmark logo that has been chosen for the University’s new eJournal of Public Affairs. Students in Maria Michalczyk’s Advanced Typography class (DES 331) submitted a total of 18 entries, each presenting their entry to eJournal staff and the associate provost of student development and public affairs. After staff chose Rutherford’s logo, he assisted them in designing the journal’s website, consulting on issues of design choice and user-friendliness.

The eJournal of Public Affairs is a partnership between Missouri State University and the American Democracy Project. It is a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary, open-access journal published by the University to provide a nationally-refereed venue for scholarly work oriented toward public affairs. You can read articles from the first issue online.

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.

Student Spotlight: A Student Perspective on ADP at MTSU

Guest Blog Post by Raven Dohuky, Sophomore, Middle Tennessee State University

About Raven Dohuky:

Live, love, laugh is my thought on life, as a Kurdish American living in Nashville, Tennessee. I was born on March 13, 1991, in Kurdistan, Iraq.  (Did you know that there are more Kurds living in Middle Tennessee than anywhere else in the entire U.S.?) My family migrated to America shortly after I was born during the Gulf War.  We were prisoners in our own land, deprived of freedom and opportunities, and we had no choice but to flee and become refugees.  And that’s how I got my name:  Raven means “of refuge” in Kurdish, and my last name refers to the city of Dohuk where my family is from.  I am currently a sophomore and proud member of the American Democracy Project at Middle Tennessee State University, working part time as pharmacy technician at a retail pharmacy. I hope to become a pharmacist in the not-too-distant future.  As a Kurd assimilating in America, I try as much as possible to keep my heritage and culture alive.  I always have the mindset of being grateful for what I have and who I have in my life.

American Democracy Project at MTSU

At Middle Tennessee State University, the American Democracy Project has many faces, takes many forms, and operates across many layers of our university, for civic outreach and community involvement.  ADP works through both our faculty and our students, promoting democratic engagement and civic learning.  We are continually trying to do more.

ADP MTSU Students

ADP MTSU Students (from L to R): Forest Stroud, Raven Dohuky, Josh Moore & Kelsey Tellez

One way ADP is visible on our campus is through our American Democracy Project Student Organization, under the auspices of Student Affairs and the MTSU Center for Student Involvement and Leadership.  Dr. Mary Evins, who’s the campus coordinator for ADP, is our faculty advisor.  Our student organization’s  goal is to work to produce MTSU graduates who understand and are committed to engaging in meaningful actions as citizens in our democracy.  At MTSU, ADP is very active throughout campus and in all our nine colleges.  We raise awareness about what is happening across campus and our community, and we’re intentional in our commitment to help raise our fellow students’ awareness and citizenship and to excite their interest in our shared public purposes: to make good citizenship cool.  ADP is absolutely nonpartisan, so there are no party politics allowed.  We sponsor voter registration drives and candidate forums, but we do all that without any party affiliation.

Here’s how I got involved in ADP:

Right after my freshman year of college, Dr. Evins got in touch with me. She emailed me after I took a history class with her, and she asked if I might like to join the campus American Democracy Project.  At first I wasn’t too excited about it.  On further consideration I realized it would be a great opportunity for me, to participate and get involved in the community; but mainly, I must admit, I thought it would look good on a resume.  As I walked into the ADP meeting on the first day of school, I honestly had no clue what I was getting myself into.  Yet as I listened to Dr. Evins and the other ADP students, I started looking forward to what else the club might be able to accomplish.

We have indeed accomplished many goals, just in the time I’ve been involved, and we’re continuing to achieve more. There’s a recycling policy study we’re continuing from last spring; we’ve been doing voter registration drives all year; our students are trying persistently, along with our local county’s election commission, to develop a public polling place on our campus of 26,000 students; we’re making informational flyers for incoming MTSU freshmen for this summer, to inform them right away about how to get registered to vote in the November presidential election, and also to teach them about MTSU’s recycling opportunities; our ADP students cooperate with the student environmental organization on campus, particularly this year since the Tennessee legislature is reconsidering its position on mountaintop removal policy in the Smoky and Cumberland Mountains.  We were involved two years ago in tobacco-free-campus policy research that made a significant contribution toward the development of our brand new “MT Tobacco Free” university tobacco-free policy, which commenced here on January 1 of this year.  We’re pushing now for good-citizenship compliance and also for healthy enforcement of the new policy, and we’re trying to organize a campus-wide clean-up for this spring to get rid of unsightly cigarette butts on the campus grounds.

One of my first real involvements with ADP was during Constitution Week last fall.  We were honored to have Chairman James Leach of the National Endowment for the Humanities as our guest speaker during Constitution Week activities.  We worked diligently on voter registration throughout that very visible campus celebration.  It was shocking to me to see for myself how little knowledge our students have about politics, the upcoming presidential election, and even current issues that affect our daily lives. From that moment on, I was eager to become even more involved with ADP and to share the growing knowledge and enthusiasm I’ve been fast developing with my fellow students.  So lots of ideas are in the making for us, and we always love new, from-the-ground-up ideas.  The new students who join our organization every semester bring with them fresh energy, insights, creativity, and heart to our public engagement.

Just this month ADP helped host Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who came to our campus and city for a lecture and public dialogue.  She spoke about her “iCivics” initiative ( for K-12, which she’s worked on since her retirement from the Supreme Court and about which she is proud.  Our Dean of Liberal Arts, Dr. Mark Byrnes, told her at the community lecture about our own American Democracy Project initiative for civic learning.  And we were proud.  Attached is a photograph of a few of the ADP students after Justice O’Connor’s lecture at MTSU; I’m the short brunette in the front.

As I work side by side with my fellow ADP members, I absolutely realize that the public work we do through ADP is most assuredly not about “looking good on a resume,” it’s about being educated, about empowerment, and being engaged in the world in which we live.  After all, we as responsible citizens need to be aware right now of what the future holds for us and how we must impact it for good by our actions in the present.  We must understand our own individual responsibilities and know that how we live now directly affects our country, its culture, and the fast-growing environment in which we live.  We have a voice and we need to take control.

I have certainly incorporated my new skills for personal action into my own life.  I work in the pharmacy of a large national grocery store chain in Nashville, and I have just submitted to my manager a plan to expand our company’s recycling capabilities for the store.  I have learned to express myself and I am empowered to act.

One thing I hold close to my heart and would like to recommend to everyone is to educate yourself about the world around you and when you see something that needs fixing, then you fix it.  Because I am a Kurdish American who came to my new country as a political refugee, the political direction of this country, and of the world, is powerfully, personally important to me.

Read more about MTSU’s ADP here.

We the People Interview Series: UMBC’s Catie Collins

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

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 fifth of many interviews that will be included in this series.

Catie Collins is the President of the University of Maryland Baltimore County’s (UMBC’s) Student Government Association (SGA). In her spare time, she is working to complete her senior year studying Psychology, English Literature, and TED Talks.

American Democracy Project (ADP): How did you get involved in the American Democracy Project?

Catie Collins (CC): I have the incredible luck of being a part of UMBC’s flourishing legacy of civic agency work.  The idea of civic agency is really becoming embedded in both our SGA’s culture, and the culture of UMBC as a whole. Our involvement in the American Democracy Project has really been key in helping to achieve this shift. Attending the American Democracy Project Conference in June 2011 was one of my first acts in office!

ADP: Tell us how you got involved in SGA?

Catie Collins, SGA President at UMBC

CC: In my first year at UMBC, I remember feeling frustrated and powerless. I felt like a cog in the wheels of the university, helpless to change anything, expected to play my role as a student and nothing more. That turned out to be a very large assumption – and a false one – which a friend in SGA soon corrected. They challenged me to step up and create the change I wanted to see myself, rather than waiting for someone to swoop in and save the day. My curiosity was sparked – this was an SGA that didn’t just play politics, it didn’t just play the hero – it worked with students to help them create change and feel true ownership of their campus.  It’s this mission that led me to join SGA, and to eventually run for President.

ADP: What does civic agency and the “We the People” movement mean to you?

CC: Civic agency is such a tricky thing to really define – it’s something often best shared through experience. The definition that really resonates with me is this idea of really breaking down the roles we perceive ourselves to be in – professor, student, administrator – in order to really engage each other authentically. I’ve learned to engage people as partners, to really get to know them as real people, and that has led to far more effective impact than I would have ever expected.

ADP: You’re a student member of the national steering committee of the new American Commonwealth Project – a partnership among higher education institutions and associations, the White House, and federal agencies including the U.S. Department of Education, seeks to further the movement of colleges and universities as agents and architects of democracy – what role do you see yourself playing and what do you hope the project accomplishes?

CC: I’m both excited and humbled to find myself a member of the American Commonwealth Project steering committee. My hopes for both my role and the project are centered on the same goal. I would love to see this project work as a platform for a stronger student presence in the conversations surrounding civic agency. I feel that my contribution to this project will largely be work in facilitating that connection.

ADP: How do you see yourself expressing your civic agency after your graduation in spring 2012?

CC: It’s actually been my very experience with civic agency that has completely shaped my post-graduation path.  My involvement has helped me discover within myself a deep-rooted passion for education. I care so deeply about creating systems of education that promote true engagement, both in terms of the material and in terms of one’s civic engagement. I envision investing my future in exactly this kind of work.

ADP: All our best to you, Catie!

To read more about UMBC’s civic agency work, read this previous blog post, or this one.

An ADP Student Describes the Ups and Downs of Public Work

Re-posted from the By the People blog of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship.

The reflection below was written by John Fogelman about his experience coaching Public Achievement at Oak Hill Middle School  in Milledgeville, Georgia, last fall. Fogelman is a student at Georgia College and State University and is coaching Public Achievement at Oak Hill again this spring.(What is Public Achievement?)

John Fogelman coaches Public Achievement at Oak Hill Middle School in Milledgeville, Georgia

During my past semester coaching Public Achievement, I went through a variety of different feelings, emotions, expectations, and unexpected outcomes. After reading through the journal entries that I made every week after my coaching sessions, I was able to see the slow but definite progression that my group made on a weekly basis. My journals were filled with disappointments and successes, but the content spoke more to me than just successes and failures:  my journals showed me that I was making change.

I came into the Public Achievement program with a very idealistic attitude. In my mind, I was going to go into the middle school and change lives and enlighten young minds as to how the world works, proceeding to take on great amounts of public change. Little did I know that I was in for a rude awakening.

The beginning of the semester was filled with failed agendas, rowdy kids, and little visible progress. I realized that my idealistic strategy of teaching and agenda making would have to be thrown out the window.

I am much more of a people person that an active, authoritative teacher. Due to this, it was hard for me to step into a classroom and be the strict coach I thought I was supposed to be. I learned, however, that my people skills would be the most important part of being a coach. There was no way I would be able to reach the kids without getting to know them and see where their passions and understand their lives first. As I spent more time with the students at Oak Hill, I realized that what they craved more than anything was the ability to talk and be listened to, and that my friendly and relaxed personality allowed me to get on the inside and begin to understand them better.

While I was learning how to coach and relate to my team, I grew as a person. Being required to plan lessons and agendas every week helped me gain a sense of confidence in leading others. I also learned that I was good with working with a large variety of people, and with the profession I want—a small café owner—this skill is very important. This semester helped me realize that I want to be an active member in a community and be a leader at the same time. If it had not been for this class, I do not know where I would have learned these skills and recognized my abilities.

Next semester I will be taking the second part of Grassroots Community Organizing. Because of a reorganization of the program, all of the students that I have made large attempts to get close to this past semester will likely be in different groups and I will likely have a group working on a different issue. Although the reorganizing was done with the best intentions in mind, I anticipate that the time spent gaining trust and closeness with a new group will eat into quality time trying to make change.*

In all, however, I think that Grassroots Community Organizing is one of the best classes I have taken in all of my college experiences. The amount of personal, community-based, and professional leadership knowledge and experience this class has given me is irreplaceable. My journals have reflected the ups and downs of my experiences in the first class, and I cannot wait to see what they will show for the next. Change is a beautiful process, and I am eager to see the steps it will take in my life.

Editor’s note: The Georgia College and State University faculty coordinators were able to arrange for the middle school students to stay together in their Public Achievement groups spring semester even though their afterschool academic groups were rearranged.

Revitalizing Student Government at UMBC

[Re-posted with permission from the Center for Democracy and Citizenship website. ]

As a United Nations student delegate in high school, Yasmin Karimian wanted to inspire others to take action on the many problems she saw in the world. But it was a daunting task, and one she didn’t feel prepared for.

When she started college at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in 2007, Karimian joined the Student Government Association (SGA). It was an exciting time. SGA was launching an annual contest called Prove It!, which awards $50,000 “to a novel and innovative project, service, or event on the UMBC campus that makes everyone proud to be a member of the community.”

By the next year, however, SGA was falling apart, Karimian says. “People had no connections. No one wanted to do anything.”

That fall, Karimian read The Citizen Solution in a civic engagement course. Then she joined her faculty advisor and another SGA member at a conference in Minneapolis launching the Civic Agency Initiative. The Civic Agency Initiative, organized by the Center for Democracy and Citizenship and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, brings together a national cohort of more than a dozen schools working together as they explore how to better integrate democratic practice while deepening campus-community connections.

Karimian says she left the conference energized by faculty and students from across the country who wanted to do something on their campuses, and by the organizing strategies she learned, including something called “one-to-ones.”

A “one-to-one” meeting is a tool for initiating or building relationships and understanding someone’s self-interest. Although Karimian says she left the conference “not really believing in one-to-ones,” she thought it was worth giving them a try to understand why SGA members weren’t showing up for meetings.

Over spring semester, Karimian and four other SGA leaders did more than 50 one-to-ones with other members. Then they came back to the group and talked about the experience. Some members didn’t get the organizing strategy behind the meetings, she says, but at least it helped reconnect them to the association.

At the end of the year, Karimian ran for SGA president and won. She wants all SGA members to understand and use one-to-ones, and worked with other students to create a space in the SGA office for holding these meetings. It’s more than symbolic, Karimian says, “It’s used a lot.”

Over the past several months, there has been a cultural shift, too. In the past, SGA saw itself as fighting against the university on behalf of students, says Karimian. Now the organization is working with faculty on issues such as course drop dates, and telling administrators “this is how you can work with us” rather than asking permission. “It brings a lot of legitimacy to SGA,” concludes Karimian.

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