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Campus Spotlight: Student Driven Engagement at Northern Kentucky University

By Lauren Mohr, American Democracy Project Student Club President and Communication Studies Major, Northern Kentucky University

Northern Kentucky University prides itself on the ability to instill a sense of duty to the community within its students. I shouldn’t have been surprised that my introduction to service learning and civic engagement travel opportunities would lead me to the Presidency of NKU’s student chapter of The American Democracy Project Club. In January of 2010, Northern Kentucky University’s Honors Program was given the opportunity to send seven students and three professors to New Orleans for a service-learning trip expense free. Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, NKU’s own organization that connects the campus to the community through citizenship and stewardship, provided the funds needed for our 10 researchers to travel and stay in New Orleans for a week’s time. The goal of the trip was to engage within a community similar to Cincinnati, but different enough to take students out of their comfort zone in order to view the connections colleges and communities can make with one another. The week was spent touring non-profit organizations, communicating with local working class citizens and experiencing daily life on the Bayou.

The trip focused on the ability of families to reintegrate their children into the schooling system once they returned to the city post-Katrina. It was an emotional experience to discover that most families didn’t return to their hometown because there were no longer schools to send their children to. The instability of education was apparent even five years after the tragedy. Our group took the opportunity to relate these student misfortunes to our own community.

The question once our class returned to NKU was how to successfully translate our experience into a community engagement project in Cincinnati. We found that most students, including myself, were moved by the instability of education for K-12 inner city children affected by Katrina. The concern was not about the lack of quality education, but the lack of involvement the children had with their education. Through these discoveries, an ADP student club was created on NKU’s campus as a way to encourage involvement with the educational process. The American Democracy Project was selected as our choice group because of the initiatives already in place on our campus. Mark Neikirk, the Executive Director of Scripps Howard suggested ADP as a club that our students could begin in an effort to encourage mindful community engagement. A few noteworthy initiatives the Scripps Howard Center has started are the Mayerson Student Philanthropy Project, Democracy Square and the 6 at 6 Lecture Series.

The ADP club, as a student organization, is involved in raising awareness about those programs on campus. NKU’s American Democracy Project Club differs from the typical civic engagement process however by directing its efforts toward a younger subset of the community. Our faculty members that are involved with ADP encourage citizenship and stewardship within the college community, but our student-run club encourages community involvement within the K-12 community. We have found that students who become more active within their community thrive academically. The students who we have worked with have become more engaged within the classroom as well as more aware of their community because of our example. We are dedicated to our mission of commitment to informed, meaningful civic engagement in the community through volunteerism and advocacy. We currently work with students, ages 10-12, encouraging their involvement and understanding of their community and how they can affect their surroundings. We raise money through on campus initiatives and we direct all funding to the school through books, supplies and community-enrichment field trips for the students.

About Guest Blogger Lauren Mohr:

Lauren Mohr is an undergraduate student currently working on her degree in Communication Studies and Theatre at Northern Kentucky University. As a member of the Honors Program, Lauren became involved with many programs, including the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, which later extended its efforts to a student organization, The American Democracy Club of which Lauren is the student founder and current President.

Lauren Mohr striking a pose in front of the Riverwalk Fountain in New Orleans

Lauren is also highly involved in other organizations on campus including Greek life, Presidential Ambassadors, New Student Orientation, Best Buddies and Order of Omega. Through her involvement on campus, Lauren has developed a reputation as a student committed to leadership development, community engagement, and diversity awareness.

She is currently working on her undergraduate thesis that explores the effects of negative discourse on communities with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Her free time is spent with her Kappa Delta sorority sisters, listening to music, and exploring social media. She hopes to continue her engagement after college through a non-profit program directed towards student excellence.

Public Engagement Grants: NIFI Announces Taylor L. Willingham Legacy Fund Grants Program

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

The National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI), an ADP partner organization, announced today a new grants program. The Taylor L. Willingham Legacy Fund Grants are intended to assist individuals in developing a better understanding of public engagement and/or to plan and launch deliberative forums in their communities. Grants are for use in 2012 and are anticipated to be between $500 and $1,000.

Taylor L. Willingham was a pioneer in the public engagement field and in National Issues Forums (NIF) work and served as a National Issues Forums Institute (NIFI) director. She died on Monday, September 5, 2011 at her home in Salado, Texas, after a year-long battle with kidney cancer. NIFI’s new grants program honors Taylor and her legacy and will help others continue the important work of strengthening our democracy.

I encourage ADP faculty, staff, students, and community partners to apply for grants to aid you in your tireless efforts to educate yourselves and others about public issues and to foster deliberative dialogue on your campuses and in your communities. Details about the Taylor L. Willingham Legacy Fund Grants Program are below.


Taylor L. Willingham (1957-2011)


Applications are currently being accepted for a grant from the National Issues Forums Institute to enable an individual to develop an understanding of deliberative democracy and to launch one or more deliberative forums in their communities or organizations.  Grants are expected to be in the range of $500-1,000.

The application should consist of: (1) a resume describing your experience and education; (2) a cover letter that explains why you are interested in becoming involved in the deliberative democracy movement and what specific course of action you propose to become familiar with this work and how and where you would implement forums; and (3) a budget indicating how the grant would be spent.

Applications are welcomed from any U.S. Resident, with special consideration given to residents of Texas. The application should be received on or before December 1, 2011 and e-mailed to or mailed to:
National Issues Forums Institute
100 Commons Road
Dayton, Ohio 45459

Grants will be made by February 1, 2012 and will be for use during 2012.  A report on activities will be required on or before November 30, 2012.

Click here for more information about Taylor L. Willingham and her work.

Donations to the fund are welcome and can be made securely online.  All donated money will go toward grant awards.

Theater and Global Change

Below is an opportunity for faculty and staff and other friends of the American Democracy Project to experience a continuing education course offered through our partners the University of Minnesota Duluth and The New York Times Knowledge Network. Seven Revolutions Scholars William Payne of the University of Minnesota Duluth has put together a dynamic Theater and Global Change course based on the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ 7 Revolutions content. This course is a great example of in the incorporation of 7 Revolutions content into course within a specific discipline. Here’s your chance to experience the 7 Revolutions being taught by one of our 7 Revolutions Scholars!

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

Theater and Global Change Course

By Bill Payne, 7 Revolutions Scholar and Interim Dean of Fine Arts, University of Minnesota Duluth

The American Democracy Project’s Seven Revolutions Initiative has reached thousands of students over the past four years. The need to educate globally competent citizens is being met by Seven Revolution Scholars across AASCU institutions thanks to this initiative.

You might have heard about or experienced the 7Revolutions movement at the ADP national meeting in Orlando last summer. Right now you can see what the buzz is all about by enrolling in Theater and Global Change Part II on the New York Times Knowledge Network.

This course, designed and delivered by Seven Revolutions Scholar William Payne of the University of Minnesota Duluth, inspects the seven major global trends covered by the 7R curriculum through the study of dramatic literature. Theater and Global Change Part II includes a review of the first four revolutions (Population, Resource Management, Technology, and Information Flow) and a guided experience with Economic Integration through the play Fences by August Wilson, Conflict/Security via Othello by William Shakespeare, and Governance by way of Antigone by Sophocles. The course features live web sessions with Dr. Willie Redmond, Seven Revolutions Scholar from Southeast Missouri State, George Mehaffey from AASCU and the American Democracy Project, and the Chief Theater Critic of The New York Times, Ben Brantley.

The online course is now open, with the first live web session happening next Tuesday, October 18th. The whole experience lasts about three weeks, ending November 10, 2011. Part I of the course, offered in May and June of 2011, had participants from Europe, Africa, South America, Asia, and around the United States. Please join this global community and inspect the major trends that are shaping our future.

For more information about the Theater and Global Change course, click here.

For more information about ADP’s 7 Revolutions Initiative, click here.

New College Rate for New York Times Digital Subscriptions

The New York Times is a founding partner, along with AASCU, of the American Democracy Project. ADP nationally, as well as all of our efforts on our 240 college and university campuses, has benefited from our special relationship with The New York Times — from Campus Readership programs, to Times Talks, to speakers and support for our national meetings. Our friends at The New York Times are now offering a special college rate for New York Times digital subscriptions. We wanted to make sure to share this offer with all of you.

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

NYTimes Logo

Become a New York Times Digital Subscriber and save 50% on unlimited access to and the NYTimes apps for your smartphone or tablet.* Get rates as low as $1.88 per week. This special offer is available only to eligible college faculty, staff members and college students, so act now to enjoy unlimited access to The Times as well as exclusive savings.
You will be entitled to keep your digital subscription at the college rate as long as you continue to be a college faculty or staff member.

Visit to see all digital subscription options and to sign up at our new college rate. Share the savings: Share this offer with other students, faculty, and staff.

*Mobile apps are not supported on all devices. Does not include e-reader editions, Premium Crosswords or The New York Times Crosswords apps. Prices are subject to change. Other restrictions and taxes may apply. To qualify for this special college rate, you must be a current college or university student, faculty member, staff or administrator with a valid college or university e-mail address, which usually ends in .edu.

Democratic Excellences in Colleges and Universities

By Harry C. Boyte, Director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College

Robin Wilson’s October 3, 2011, article, “Syracuse’s Slide,” in The Chronicle of Higher Education surfaces controversies about the purposes of higher education and the nature of excellence which go well beyond one university. Indeed, there was a statewide debate on precisely these issues in 2001, the 150th anniversary of the University of Minnesota. The debate is likely to quicken in 2012, the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act signed by President Lincoln in 1862, establishing land grant colleges and universities.

One side of the argument is unabashedly meritocratic and elitist. Thus Syracuse history professor David H. Bennett fears that “the university is moving away from selective to inclusive,” a view echoed by the editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Orange, who worries that “rise in the acceptance rate could devalue the diploma.”

The supposed tradeoff is between “excellence” and “access.” A Minnesota Public Radio statewide discussion framed the forced choice about the future of the University of Minnesota precisely this way in Minnesota in 2001. More broadly, this supposed choice is today’s conventional wisdom, at the heart of college rankings such as US News and World Report’s, or, on a global level, the “Shanghai Ranking” of the purportedly top 100 universities in the world.

But there is another side to the argument. Land grant institutions like the University of Minnesota — founded a decade before the Morrill Act — were once called “democracy colleges.” The designation came from the conviction at the heart of America’s educational faith that diverse, inclusive student bodies, faculty members who educate them, and colleges and universities deeply engaged in the affairs of their communities and the larger world are wellsprings of democratic excellences far more dynamic and inspiriting than attributes of any exclusive club.

Lotus Coffman, president of the University of Minnesota from 1921 to 1938, eloquently voiced a democratic view of higher education in his inaugural address, May 13, 1921, entitled “The University and the Commonwealth.” Vowing to resist those who would locate the university on “some Mount Olympus” far above the world, he declared that “The truly educated American… believes that his institutions are social in origin and in nature, not the product of any individual nor of any special group of individuals, that they represent the soul hunger and the spiritual expressions of the common people…that a generous education for himself and a better one for his children is the only safeguard of democracy.”  One can’t romanticize earlier years in higher education, freighted with exclusions of their own. But Coffman’s vision – and dimensions of earlier land grant practice – represent understandings of public purpose and democratic mission crucial to update for the new century.

Today, state colleges and universities revive this vision of democratic excellences in the American Democracy Project, community colleges continue it in the new Democracy Commitment, and small and medium private colleges like Augsburg are taking leadership in this vein as well in the liberal arts world. In a time when it is far more important to re-dedicate ourselves to developing the democratic excellences of the broad citizenry than to cultivate a breed apart, Syracuse University’s President Nancy Cantor is a great democratic pioneer in the tradition of Lotus Coffman on the private research university side, helping to bring the democratic spirit of the old land grants to all of higher education.

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