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Announcing the View at 30,000 Feet Series: ADP National Meeting Update

By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project

We were listening when you told us that you want more opportunities at ADP events to discuss large issues of philosophic and theoretical importance to democracy and the civic engagement movement.  That is why I am pleased to announce an innovative program feature that will launch as part of the upcoming American Democracy Project National Meeting in Orlando, June 2-4, 2011.

Over the past eight years much of the work of ADP has focused on the nuts and bolts of civic engagement. And make no mistake – this is has been intentional because it helps people “do” civic engagement on campus. But sometimes in this attention to the practical aspects of civic engagement, important discussions about the philosophy and theory of civic engagement and democracy are lost. As you well know, these discussions are indispensible to the civic engagement movement because they provide us with a philosophic framework to reference when we’re making the case for civic education. They also offer us inspiration to do the difficult, often thankless job of institutionalizing civic engagement in higher education. So at the ADP Meeting, we will spend time examining the “View at 30,000 Feet.” Facilitators will lead participants through a discussion about some of the big questions in the civic engagement movement – questions about the public purpose of higher education, the importance of incorporating the arts and humanities into our work, as well as being inclusive within the movement to underrepresented groups.

Below you will find descriptions of the five sessions that will launch “The View at 30,000 Feet” series at the upcoming ADP National Meeting.  I hope you will join us for what will be a lively discussion about where we are in the movement and where we should be going.

Don’t forget to register for the ADP National Meeting in Orlando, Florida, June 2-4, 2011. To register for the meeting, view the Schedule at a Glance, and make hotel reservations, please visit this website.


Friday, June 3

10:45 am – 12:00 pm

From Scattered Activities to Civic Identities: Revitalizing the Democratic Purposes of Colleges and Universities

In this session, the discussion leaders will engage participants in a wide ranging discussion about how themes and methods of community organizing can help to transform the cultures of our institutions, reviving state colleges, universities, and community colleges as ‘agents and architects of democracy.’

Discussion Leaders: Harry Boyte, Co-Director, Center for Democracy and Citizenship, MN and Andrew Mott, Director, Community Learning Partnerships, DC


4:00 pm – 5:15 pm

Difficult Dialogues: Innovative Practices in Teaching and Learning

To strengthen a democratically engaged society, the Difficult Dialogues movement seeks to advance innovative practices in teaching and learning that promote civil discourse on controversial topics and complex social issues, reflecting a commitment to pluralism and academic freedom. Facilitators will disseminate literature, programming for faculty, staff, and students in order to advance dialogue and institutional transformation on campuses across the country.

Discussion Leader: Roger L. Worthington, Assistant Deputy Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative, University of Missouri-Columbia


Saturday, June 4

10:30 am – 11:45 am

What is the Future of Civic Engagement in Higher Education?: Next Generation Engagement—Undergraduates, Graduate Students, and Early Career Faculty

The Next Generation Engagement Project comprises a cross-disciplinary collection of civically engaged scholars at various stages in their careers who are exploring new ways to conceptualize the development of the next generation of civic engagement leaders in higher education. The Next Generation Scholars will share their insights, interests, and challenges, and engage the participants in an exploration of strategies for advancing next generation of engaged scholars and practitioners.  Through collaborative book projects, civic seminars, and research on the arc of the career of the publicly engaged scholar, the participants have worked over the past year to embody the future of civic engagement through the development of interdisciplinary structures, mentorship for graduate students and early career faculty, development of graduate programs, and the support of early career faculty.

Discussion Leaders: Timothy K. Eatman, Director for Research, Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, & Assistant Professor, Higher Education, Syracuse University, NY, Annie Miller, Graduate Student, Political Science, University of Colorado, Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project, AASCU, DC, and Adam Bush, Founding Director of Curriculum, College Unbound, RI


1:45 pm – 3:00 pm

The View at 30,000 Feet:

Wicked Problems and the Human Creativity Deficit

Attempts to understand and address all issues – be they scientific, social, or existential – through a worldview that reifies objectivity, rationality, and instrumental, top-down application are pervasive.  Not only does such a stance disincentivize the kind of participation through which democracy and civic discourse thrive, it also restricts the kinds of knowledge, the kinds of knower, and the kinds of human and intellectual relationships that could well contribute to solving today’s multitude of crises – what Rittel and Webber (1973) call “wicked problems.” This session invites a dialogue around the unique role(s) arts, humanities, and other cultural and creative disciplines play in campus-community partnerships attempting to solve real-world issues.

Discussion Leaders: Kevin Bott, Associate Director, Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life and Timothy K. Eatman, Director for Research, Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, & Assistant Professor, Higher Education, Syracuse University


3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

Protest Poetry:  Ours and Others’  — A Participatory Session

We’ve seen in Tahrir Square and around the world, recently and throughout our lives, the power of poetry in times of political action. All are invited to bring poems important to their history, causes and engagement. Martie LaBare will present a brief overview of protest poetry, and she’ll have lots of examples for us — but the selections we bring together will be the treasure of the session. You’re welcome to come just to listen. But you’re urged to bring a poem (or more), in English and any other languages you would read aloud to us.

Discussion Leader: Martha J. LaBare, Associate Professor of English, Bloomfield College, New Jersey

Ferris State University Students Vow to Support Soldiers

“And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” – John F. Kennedy

Drew Davison, Shane Stikeleather and John Lyons meet with a Marine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center

By Cecilia M. Orphan, American Democracy Project

The sixteen students from Ferris State University were worried. They were worried about the wounded veterans of foreign wars. They were worried about how well these soldiers were being supported and they were also worried that many Americans had forgotten their sacrifices. So they decided to do something to show veterans that they are appreciated and that there are students in Big Rapids, Michigan who are grateful for their service. In January of this year, these students traveled to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC to deliver the over $10,000 they had raised to support healing veterans. More importantly, though, these students built relationships with the men and women who have given so much for our country.

The students were interviewed after returning to Big Rapids and they reported being inspired by their visits with the servicemen and women of Walter Reed. One student said his felt “duty to support the soldiers” of foreign wars had only grown after his visit to Walter Reed. The students accumulated the $10,000 donation to Walter Reed during a two-year, student-led campaign to raise awareness of and support for returning veterans. The large donation is symbolic of the level of appreciation the students feel for the service of the veterans being treated at Walter Reed. The students were inspired in one of their political science courses by their professor Christine Bailey to lead this campaign. In addition to offering friendship and financial support, the students hope to show their solidarity with returning soldiers. Additionally, the students had the opportunity to meet with Michigan senators to make the case for better support of returning veterans.

“The purpose is to show our appreciation to the soldiers of what’s been done for our country…We’re just a bunch of college students but through Professor Bailey’s help we’ve been shown that we can make a difference. The most important people to us are our wounded soldiers.” – John Lyons, Student, Ferris State

This story is illustrative of what is possible when students are empowered to engage in complex and challenging social issues. The question of how to reintegrate returning vets into society is one that continues to challenge and at times perplex governmental officials, higher education, and everyday citizens. Too often our returning soldiers are not well-integrated into society and they feel isolated and disconnected while they are attempting to heal both their visible and invisible combat wounds. Hopefully other citizens will be inspired by projects like the one led by Dr. Bailey’s students to bind together with our servicemen and women to show meaningful solidarity and support for their incredible sacrifices.

The students have received considerable local media attention and were named as the most interesting citizens of the week by their local ABC News syndicate. In fact the students were named by the local NBC station as “Persons of the Week” for their work with wounded veterans.

To read more about this project, please visit these websites:

1) Ferris students vow to support wounded military members
2) The ABC12 Persons of the Week
3) Ferris students return home after raising money for wounded

I hope more campuses in the ADP Network will consider what types of projects and initiatives they might undertake to show support of and solidarity with returning veterans. If you have any additional questions about the Ferris State project, please email Christine Bailey.

What has your campus done to support current and returning soldiers?

Walter Reed students host a bake sale to raise money to support wounded soldiers

A Capture the Flag Competition raises money for Walter Reed

Ferris State students meet with US Senator Carl Levin

Campus Spotlight: Public Achievement at Western Kentucky University


By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project

In 2008 the American Democracy Project partnered with the Center for Democracy and Citizenship (CDC) on the Civic Agency initiative. This initiative seeks to further develop and operationalize the concept of civic agency. The goal of this initiative is to produce a series of national models for developing civic agency among undergraduates and to disseminate those models broadly throughout American higher education. The project combines the strategic and leadership position of AASCU schools in civic engagement – with more than 50% of the nation’s public four year college students, a strong record of educating local and regional leaders, and a flourishing network of ADP schools – with the pioneering theoretical and practical work of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship.

As part of our work with the CDC, Public Achievement has been identified as a proven model for developing student civic agency. Public Achievement is a youth civic engagement initiative focused on the most basic concepts of citizenship, democracy and public work. Public Achievement draws on the talents and desires of ordinary people to build a better world and to create a different kind of politics. Western Kentucky University has been one of the lead ADP schools involved in Public Achievement. Below is a brief synopsis of their powerful and inspiring work.

Public Achievement at Western Kentucky University

By Lindsey Ardrey, Western Kentucky University

Our morning group at T.C. Cherry, the Bowling Green Elementary School Kids, has decided to learn about animal rights, cruelty, and how to educate the public in becoming responsible pet owners.  In the last couple of weeks this group has explored powermapping, researched the various facets of pet ownership, and developed questions pertaining to animal health care, proper pet training, and animal laws and citizen rules to ask professionals. All to prepare them in speaking with leaders of organizations like the Humane Society, RePets, PetCo, and a peer’s mother who is a veterinarian.  In the coming weeks, the students will put their research efforts into action, formulating an informed action plan to educate their peers and community about their topic.

The afternoon the T.C. Cherry group is focusing on playground litter and increasing school awareness on taking care of their school and community. Over the last seven weeks, the group aptly named 2 Kool to Litter, has brainstormed various ways to reach their peers. Just last week they were featured on the school’s news broadcast WTCC News (for only the PA story, click this link and begin at time 3:44). Following this, the group’s powermapping exercise and research will lead them to school and community leaders/experts to contact and further develop their issue.

Students at Bowling Green High School are targeting poverty in Bowling Green. They narrowed this systemic issue, and are in the beginning stages of establishing a mentoring program with another elementary school within the district. PurpCorps, or PCorps, as they have named themselves, are now taking the necessary steps (creating a mission statement, organizing a meeting with their principal, setting up a conference call with projected elementary school principal, learning to draft a meeting agenda,  etc.) to turn their idea into a reality. By the end of the academic year, PCorps hopes to have identified students within the school to build the mentoring program, formed trusting relationships with those students, and developed a clear plan of action for the following year.

As you can see, the coaches, students, and site coordinators for each group are in the business of making things happen! The true strength of Public Achievement is not displayed in the end products. It’s in the youths’ recognition of their own power to think and act as civic co-creators. Students at both the high school and elementary school level started understanding their own power once coaches and site coordinators charged them with the accountability of their own projects. At the high school, productivity dramatically increased after the coaches placed the responsibility of leading and organizing weekly group meetings into the students’ hands. While writing the video script for the WTCC news themselves, under the guidance of coaches and Mr. Norris, the 2 Kool to Litter group learned that their own voices could be heard. After asking if the coaches or other involved adults would make phone calls for them, the Bowling Green Elementary School Kids were assured that through their preparation, they would be capable and competent enough to handle project tasks.

Stewardship of Public Lands Case Study: Unexpected Common Ground in the Controversy Over Coal Ash

Description of the ADP Stewardship of Public Lands (SOPL) Initiative

By Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project

Throughout the United States, but especially in the West, the question of who will control public lands is a hotly debated topic. The public lands of the West including national parks, forests, grazing, and prairie lands are all sites of controversy. The major points of contention are over ownership and use of the land, federal and state-level interests in the land, and local citizen use of the lands. Timber, mining, oil and gas producers, developers, farmers, ranchers, hunters, business owners, recreational users, and environmentalists are all groups who assert claims to influence and use. Yet whose interests have primacy? And in a democracy, how do the interests of all of these groups get addressed and resolved?

Faculty members listen to rancher Martin Davis describe his challenges with wolf and bison management.

For the past six summers, faculty representatives from participating AASCU institutions have spent a week in Yellowstone National Park with our partner, the Yellowstone Association, studying controversies about wolves, bison, snowmobiles, and grizzlies. To date, more than 120 faculty members from more than 60 campuses have participated in the program. Each summer, the week-long program begins with study of the science and history of the controversies, listening to scientists and park rangers. Then at the end of the week, the faculty participants interview local citizens on both sides of the issues, including political activists, business people, ranchers, and ordinary citizens. Throughout the entire program, faculty are challenged to think about ways to build common ground between the various stakeholders in the local controversies of their own communities.Faculty then design programs for students, some focused on the controversies in the Yellowstone ecosystem, while others are focused on local public land and resource issues.

What follows is one faculty member’s story of how she implemented the lessons and strategies she learned during the Stewardship of Public Lands Seminar. We will have another seminar this summer. For more information about this seminar, please email me.

To purchase a copy of the Stewardship of Public Lands: A Handbook for Educators, please visit this website.

SOPL Case Study: Unexpected Common Ground in the Controversy Over Coal Ash

By Christina Jarvis, State University of New York, Fredonia

Like most people who have attended an ADP program, I know the value of listening to stakeholders when exploring an issue. Last spring after participating in the ADP Stewardship of Public Lands Seminar in Yellowstone National Park, I decided to bring together employees from our local coal-fired power plant and an activist fighting the use of coal ash as a traction agent on our county’s roads for a public discussion.

Although open to the public, the March 2, 2010 coal ash panel was part of my “Writing, Sustainability, and Social Change” course—a service-learning class focused on local environmental topics. The event was designed to give students and community members an opportunity to learn more about a very heated and well-publicized local issue. As you will find out if you keep reading, the panel did a lot more than raise public awareness. It helped inspire students to create a clean energy campaign on campus and also formalized a relationship between a clean energy advocacy organization and a power plant.

Diane Hofner, Founder of CROP Plus (Concerned Residents of Portland), spoke first, and in a moving speech shared her motivations for working to have coal ash classified as a hazardous waste and to have its use on roads discontinued. Carson Leikam, the General Manager for NRG Energy’s Dunkirk power plant, then discussed his plant’s operations, recent emissions reductions and the “bag house” technologies behind the reductions.

Things really got intense once the question-and-answer portion started. Ms. Hofner and audience members grilled Mr. Leikam and his colleague Robert Brombos (the plant’s Environmental Compliance Coordinator) for a solid twenty-five minutes about the composition, storage, testing, disposal, and distribution of bottom ash. I began to feel uncomfortable with the one-sided nature of the exchange, until Mr. Leikam skillfully created some common ground by noting that although his plant supplies area townships with coal ash, the company would stop if local villages decided to use other traction agents on icy roads.

This small moment of common ground turned into something larger. After the panel, I discovered that Ms. Hofner had never met these NRG employees in person. Mr. Brombos was able to share environmental compliance and testing information, and invited her to visit their coal ash storage sites. Excited by the panel, some of my students attended town board and CROP Plus meetings, while others went on a tour of the Dunkirk power plant.

Our solution as a class, though, was to promote energy conservation through a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) giveaway during Earth Week. The students distributed 1350 free CFLs, which will collectively prevent 407 tons of CO2 emissions and save consumers $87,048.00 on their electric bills over the lifetime of the bulbs. Although we didn’t settle the coal ash debate, the students felt empowered by their collective action and community engagement.

Another exciting outcome occurred last September during our tour of NRG’s Dunkirk plant. My FACE Center colleague Sherri Mason and I began a dialogue, which ultimately resulted in a $15,300 EcoNRG grant for three community sustainability projects. The first of these projects—another CFL give-away—will take place on March 26, 2011 at SUNY Fredonia’s Green Expo. NRG employees and students (many of whom attended the panel and tour) will distribute 1800 free CFLs and promote energy conservation. CROP Plus will also be at the Expo. Let the dialogue continue!

To read more about the ADP Stewardship of Public Lands initiative, please visit this website.

To purchase a copy of the Stewardship of Public Lands: A Handbook for Educators, please visit this website.

To learn more about SUNY Fredonia’s SOPL project, please see below.

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