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New Political and Civic Engagement Minor at Middle Tennessee State University

By: Stephen Morris, Chair, Department of Political Science, MTSU

The Department of Political Science at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) recently created a new minor in “Political and Civic Engagement.” Open to students from all majors, this eighteen credit minor will provide students an active experiential program focused on effective and sustained community engagement.

The new minor is the latest step in MTSU’s deepening commitment to civic engagement and community partnerships. MTSU has a very successful experiential education program led by Dr. Jill Austin, a vibrant American Democracy Project under the leadership of Dr. Mary Evins, and is active in the eCitizenship Initiative. The new minor takes us a step further in promoting civic engagement on campus. It provides a mechanism to guide student’s opportunities for civic engagement, as well as link classroom learning with community experience.

Students choosing the new minor will complete a new classroom course on “Democratic Participation and Civic Advocacy” to lay a solid foundation for meaningful civic engagement. The course will be offered at the start by Dr. Sekou Franklin, a member of the Political Science Department with years of research, teaching, and practical hands-on experience working with community groups. The course will focus on theories of democratic participation, the role and importance of participation in a democracy, and practical organizational skills for issue advocacy.

The great majority of the new minor, however, will be experiential. Students will design a program that mixes experiences in four areas:

-1- A Community-Based Research Practicum, in which students will plan and carry out an applied research program in partnership with local civic, non-profit, and public organizations.

-2- Internships, working in the Tennessee General Assembly, in Washington, and in a wide range of political campaigns, public agencies, and non-profits.

-3- Study Abroad, with an emphasis on community and service learning, rather than just college coursework in another country.

-4- Skills and Simulation Courses, including Moot Court, Mediation Procedures, Mock Trial, Model U.N., and the Tennessee Inter-Collegiate State Legislature.

The Political and Civic Engagement minor will launch with its first students this coming fall semester; many students have already expressed a keen interest in pursuing the minor. The minor will compliment classroom learning in many fields, and will make graduates more appealing to employers, law schools, and graduate schools. Most importantly, we hope it will lay the basis for a life-long commitment to deep and meaningful citizenship.

East Stroudsburg University Meet with Supreme Court Justice Thomas

Re-posted from this website.

WASHINGTON – Three East Stroudsburg University students recently

Justice Thomas, left, and Brooks

accompanied History Professor, Dr. Christopher Brooks to Washington, D.C., on an educational excursion to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The students were David Colarusso, a senior political science major, from East Stroudsburg; Nick Costanzo, a sophomore sec. ed. major, from Stroudsburg; and Alex Gilewicz, a senior history major, from Roxbury, N.J.

Highlighting the visit was a lecture presented through the Supreme Court Historical Society 2010 Leon Silverman Lecture Series on the topic of the Eleventh Amendment which addresses whether states can be sued.  The lecture was presented by Professor John Orth, of the UNC Law School.

Professor Brooks is also the university’s Co-coordinator of the American Democracy Project.

Civic Engagement at the 2010 Central States Communication Association Convention

By Steven Hunt, President, Central States Communication Association

The theme for the 2010 convention of the Central States Communication Association (CSCA) was Communication and Civic Engagement: Challenge, Engage, and Change. The 2010 conference program showcased the ways civic and political engagement issues transcend all of CSCA’s interest groups, caucuses, and sections. In addition, the program planners reached out to scholars, community leaders, and others outside of the discipline to bring new audiences to our convention.

George Mehaffy, AASCU and Felice Nudelman, New York Times, talk with Convention participants.

One of my goals as the primary conference planner was to recruit the most important and recognizable leaders in the national civic engagement movement to make the case for civic engagement to CSCA’s membership. I am extraordinarily grateful to George Mehaffy, Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and Felice Nudelman, Executive Director of education for The New York Times for their time, support, and commitment to civic engagement and the discipline of communication.

Felice Nudelman, New York Times

As founding members of the American Democracy Project, George and Felice came to the conference with the ethos required to persuade educators and scholars in the communication discipline to adopt civic and political engagement as a goal of higher education.

George’s keynote, delivered to a crowd of 300 administrators, faculty, and students, focused on the unique role of the communication discipline in advancing the civic engagement movement. It likely comes as no surprise to readers that George’s speech was very well received—his PowerPoint presentation is available on the Previous Convention Highlights section of the CSCA website.

Felice also delivered an exceptional presentation regarding the need for communication educators to embrace civic engagement as part of a breakfast attended by over 250 conference participants. Later that day, George and Felice joined together to host a well-attended session about opportunities for involvement in the ADP. Taken together, George and Felice had an impressive impact on our conference, persuading numerous communication educators from across the country that civic engagement has a very important role to play in higher education.

In summary, our 2010 conference brought numerous educators, scholars, community organizers, higher education administrators, and other leaders together around the theme of civic engagement in a way that reduced barriers within our discipline and between communication and other disciplines. These conversations also demonstrated how communication theory and scholarship can be brought to bear on some of the most difficult problems we face in our communities.

Another ADP Faculty Member is Recognized with an Award: Educating Illinois in Action Award

Re-posted from this website.

Dr. Stephen Hunt, Associate Professor, School of Communication

Stephen Hunt, associate professor in the School of Communication, has been named the first recipient of the “Educating Illinois in Action” honor. The honor, presented by the Educating Illinois Coordinating Team, recognizes individuals, offices or programs that exemplify the goals and strategies of the Educating Illinois 2008-2014 strategic plan.
Hunt has been honored for his commitment to student-centered teaching and for his service to both the University and the local community.  As a faculty member in the School of Communication, Hunt has been the co-director of the basic communication course (COM 110) since 1998.  In that position he is responsible for training graduate assistants who teach many of the COM 110 sections in the University’s general education program.  His style of giving personal attention and actively involving students in the learning process has earned him a number of teaching awards including the Outstanding University Teacher Award (2007), Stan and Sandy Rives Excellence in Undergraduate Education Award (2007), Dean’s Award for Outstanding Teaching (2006) and the University Teaching Initiative Award (2002).
In conjunction with his teaching role, Hunt has also served as the co-chair for Illinois State’s American Democracy Project, an initiative that promotes a broader sense of civic engagement among undergraduate students.  Getting students actively involved in community activities and social issues is a theme that runs through much of Hunt’s work.  He and colleagues in the School of Communication have actively incorporated civic engagement elements into their classroom teaching in order to connect students with real world issues.
In 2007, Hunt was named a Political Engagement Scholar by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.   The honor was given in recognition of his leadership role in the University’s Political Engagement Project, a special initiative of the American Democracy Project that promotes increased student participation in the political process.   As a Political Engagement Scholar, Hunt has helped faculty across campus incorporate political awareness and engagement activities into the University’s general education curriculum.
“He is the role model of an outstanding departmental citizen,” said Gary A. Olson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “He teaches others how to develop their teaching, he shares his expertise via service to many professional organizations in the discipline and he makes a significant contribution to the College and University. For these reasons, it is clear that Dr. Hunt is a model of our core values in action.”
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