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Q & A with the #CLDE17 Student Interns

By Amber Austin, Christina Melecio and Tyler Ferrari, #CLDE17 Student Interns

Hello readers! We are the 2017 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting student interns, and we are happy to be working with the planning committee this year to create the wonderful #CLDE17 conference. In addition to helping with the ideas for the conference as a whole, we are also tasked with planning a student symposium where we will be discussing important and relevant topics with the student attendees. Before this happens, however, we would like all attendees to get to know us better, so we created a Q&A between the three of us where you get to learn more about our views on civic and community engagement. We hope you enjoy it!

Amber Austin, Sophomore, Tarrant County College (Texas)
Christina Melecio, Sophomore, Winona State University (Minn.)
Tyler Ferrari, Sophomore, Chapman University (Calif.)

2017.04.28 CLDE Student Intern Blog Photo 2

Amber Austin

What do you do for campus involvement?

Amber: For campus involvement, I am a member of eight clubs, for which I am the president of two and an officer in several others.

Tyler: I plan and moderate deliberative dialogues on important issues ranging from homelessness to gun control.

Christina: I am fairly involved with my campus. I hold a position in Student Senate where I sit on several committees that make decisions that affect the university. I am also the president of Political Science Association, and the treasurer of College Democrats.

How did you get involved in TDC/ADP/NASPA?

Amber: I became involved in The Democracy Commitment because of two of my professors during my freshman year. My professors asked me to help them with a “Know Your Candidate” project and it blossomed from there.

Tyler: My supervisor had me apply for this position, and many of our programs are modeled after NASPA programs!

Christina: One of my friends was the intern for ADP on my campus and often needed volunteers at events he organized. I was able to volunteer and then got to know the professor who runs ADP on my campus.

What are you looking forward to most at this year’s conference?

Amber: At this year’s CLDE conference, I am looking forward to our student symposium the most. That is our chance, as student interns, to hear the other students’ voices on universal issues, as well as to get to know the students that are attending the conference.

Tyler: Meeting other students and gaining their knowledge on civic engagement along with their experience.

Christina: I am so excited to get a diverse perspective from students that attend the conference. I am also excited for the moderating that will take place.

What has been your most enjoyable moment in the planning process for the 2017

2017.04.28 CLDE Student Intern Blog Photo 4

Christina Melecio

CLDE conference?

Amber: The most enjoyable moments I have had during the planning process of this year’s conference are the conference calls with the other two interns. Being an intern for this event is very enjoyable especially since I can share it with two other people.

Tyler: Working with the rest of the committee, especially my fellow interns! They have been great and easy to work with.

Christina: Meeting other people who have a passion who being involved, and getting others involved. I have especially enjoyed the time with the other two interns, and the topics we have been able to discuss.

In your opinion, what is the most important aspect of civic engagement involvement? What is your experience in this type of engagement?

Amber: I believe the most important aspect of civic engagement involvement is the impact working in the community makes. Working to make a difference in civic life is important in itself, but the impact is what counts. My experience includes, know your candidate campaigns, student voter registration programs, and campus/community trash clean-ups.  

Tyler: Getting people interested in local issues is the most important. I’ve worked on campaigns before and I really enjoyed telling people about the issues our campaign focuses on. It was always rewarding to have people involved in the community.

Christina: I think that the most important aspect of civic engagement has to deal with education. Educating people on the issues, so they do not blindly support one way or the other without much thought or background knowledge.

What is your favorite thing about engaging in your community politically, socially, etc?

Amber: My favorite thing about engaging in my community is meeting and communicating with new people to understand their situations, as well as, their thought process regarding social and political issues.

Tyler: Meeting the different people and talking about their experiences. Especially in a state like California, there are so many diverse viewpoints and learning about as many as I can is very rewarding and helps me shape my view of the world.

Christina: My favorite part of becoming engaged in my community, whichever way, is the people who I connect with. Each person has a different perspective, or background, and being able to hear and understand them is what makes me excited.

What is one thing you wish you could change about our political climate?

Amber: Due to the previous presidential election, our political climate is scattered. Many are angry and many have given up. If I could change anything with the political climate, I would bring the divided back together, so we can make a change as a unit.

Tyler: Discourse must me more civil, without the civility that politics normally provides, nothing useful and good for society will get accomplished. Politics has centered too much around tribalism and I think breaking that mindset is something that is important to do.

Christina: I think currently the political climate could use a few adjustments, mostly having to deal with the divided nature of society.

2017.04.28 CLDE Student Intern Blog Photo 5

Tyler Ferrari

Tell us about an experience of when you tried to engage students?

Amber: I tried to engage students in the biggest way during our last presidential election. My main focus was getting students to care about their community and realize that their vote does matter.

Tyler: Registering people to vote before the election. We worked at our school’s freshman orientation and we were able to register so many new voters!

Christina: I have done different democratic deliberations, and it is a challenge in order to get students engaged in the conversation. There are many students who don’t want to participate in the conversation, and it is a struggle to have them bring their opinions to the deliberation. More often than not, putting effort into someone they will return it.

How did you become an engaged student?

Amber: I became an engaged student because of The Democracy Commitment. Before I joined TDC, I would go to class and go straight home. They helped me realize how much of a difference one person can make in a community.

Tyler: My mom was always politically engaged and really got me involved in local politics.

Christina: I have always naturally been someone who enjoys being active in clubs, and the next step was to become engaged in other activities. Ranging from student government, or local politics, I have always wanted to participate in the life that is happening around me.

What do you think the number one issue is facing the society today?

Amber: I think the number one issue facing society today is inequality.

Tyler: The loss of social capital. People are simply not involved in their communities anymore and I think that is harming society as a whole.

Christina: I would have to say that the biggest issue facing society today is racial tensions. Most problems today seem to concentrate around this particular issue.

Thank you for reading our Q&A! We appreciate you getting to know us and we hope to see you around the conference and at our student symposium. The student symposium is a free event where students will be able to discuss many relevant political and community issues. To register for this session, click HERE, and bring an open mind and a willingness to have a dialogue with other students. The symposium is a great opportunity to relax and get to the other students at the conference, and to learn valuable insights and skills from students across the country. This is an opportunity that should not be passed up!


#CLDE17: Three Half-Day Pre-conference Workshops the Afternoon of June 7, 2017

During the 2017 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Meeting, there are a variety of pre-conference sessions providing opportunities to hone in on our civic skills. On Wednesday, June 7th, consider attending one of the afternoon pre-cons geared toward measuring civic outcomes, educating for democracy, curriculum integration of civic responsibility, and a special civic workshop solely for students.

Check out the session descriptions below and be sure to register by May 1st for our early-bird rates.

Half-day Afternoon Pre-conference Workshops
Price: $65/person
Wednesday, June 7 | 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.

  • Measuring Civic Outcomes During College

Organizers: H. Anne Weiss, Director of Assessment, Indiana Campus Compact and Assessment Specialist in Community Engagement, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis; and Ross Markle, Senior Research & Assessment Director, Global Higher Education Division, ETS

As institutions implement high impact practices across their campuses, learning outcomes, curricular and co-curricular activities, and assessment tools can often become disjointed. This workshop will guide attendees through a concentrated, cooperative process of unpacking and measuring civic outcomes such as civic identity, working with others to solve wicked problems, civic mindedness, and being an agent for social change. Ultimately, participants will articulate the alignment (and in some cases, mismatch) between outcomes, interventions, and assessment methods. Attendees should come with a specific program or course in mind and consider bringing a colleague with whom you can brainstorm transdisciplinary assessment practices. Transdisciplinary assessment means that faculty and staff from different disciplines or units on campus work jointly to develop new or innovative measurement practices from which informed decisions can be made to improve practices surrounding students’ civic learning and democratic engagement during college. Attendees will be introduced to the plethora of measurement tools that purport to assess students’ civic learning and development, such as: AAC&U VALUE Rubrics, Civic Minded Graduate Rubric 2.0, campus-wide survey instruments (ETS Civic Competency and Engagement, NSSE, CIRP Surveys, PRSI, etc.), and a host of other pre to post and retrospective pre to post scales such as social dominance orientation, belief in a just world, or the Interpersonal Reactivity Index. After this facilitated discussion, participants will have a chance to apply certain tools to student artifacts such as essays, digital stories, and eportfolios. Applying the tools to artifacts will allow for participants to evaluate and synthesize their plans for assessing student civic learning and development as it relates to participating in high impact practices during college.  

  • Educating for the Democracy We Want, Not the One We Have

Organizers: Nancy Thomas, Director, and Ishara Casellas Connors, Associate Director, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE), Jonathan M. Tisch College for Civic Life at Tufts University (Mass.)  

After a long and contentious presidential election season, the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the U.S. stunned faculty, administrators, and students. University presidents issued post-election statements calling for a wide range of responses ranging from tolerance and understanding to vigilance and the protection of democratic principles. Many academics chastised themselves for not making conservative perspectives on campus more visible prior to the election. Others felt they had not done enough to demand truth and statements about public controversies based on facts. National elections represent a teachable moment in college student learning. Over the past two years, the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University has been studying campus climates – the norms, structures, behaviors, and attitudes – for political learning and engagement in democracy. From that research, we’ve identified several attributes of campus climates that may be conducive to political learning for all students, not just a few. Using resources developed by IDHE, workshop participants will have an opportunity to examine what worked and what did not work on their campuses during the 2016 election season. Participants will also examine their political climates beyond election seasons, with particular attention to areas for growth. Participants will leave with new tools, language, and perspectives for educating the next generation of politically engaged students in the context of the current national and regional political landscape in the U.S.

  • Integrating Civic Responsibility into the Curriculum

Organizers: Gail Robinson, Education Consultant; Duane Oakes, Faculty Director, Center for Community & Civic Engagement, Mesa Community College (Ariz.); Emily Morrison, Assistant Professor, Sociology, and Director, Human Services and Social Justice Program, George Washington University (DC.); and Cathy Doyle, Director, Sarbanes Center for Public and Community Service, Anne Arundel Community College (Md.)

Community engagement and academic learning are central to higher education’s mission. Explore ways to help faculty, staff, and administrators prepare students for effective involvement in a diverse democratic society, and examine the role and obligation of higher education to produce good citizens. This interactive workshop features hands-on activities that include looking at service learning from charity and social justice perspectives; identifying appropriate reflection activities; analyzing course syllabi for elements of civic responsibility and civic engagement; reviewing syllabi from the perspectives of students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community partners; and integrating purposeful civic learning strategies into college courses.

Student Pre-Conference Workshop
For undergraduate students only and FREE!!

Organized by the 2017 CLDE Student Interns: Amber Austin, student, Tarrant County College (Texas); Tyler Ferrari, student, Chapman University (Calif.); and Christina Melecio, student, Winona State University (Minn.)  

This workshop will introduce students to #CLDEStuds17 that will provide a space to discuss issues that focus on being an active participant in the local and national communities, and will give students the tools to be effective activists in their communities. These open discussions will be held in large and small groups to effectively dissect the topics being discussed. To thoroughly accomplish our goals at the conference we hope that our peers come with open minds, and thoughtful ideas to contribute to discussions not only at this conference, but at home with their peers. There will be additional information closer to the conference for those who register. We hope to engage our attendees with new, and exciting, information that can further reach students across the nation, and actively enhance the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement initiatives.

Be sure to register by May 1st for our best rates and book your hotel room by May 16 at our special group rate!

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