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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.

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