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Posts by American Democracy Project

AASCU’s Opportunities for All Campaign #Opps4all

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of AASCU’s Public Purpose magazine.

Opportunities for All: Our Work Begins.
By Don Betz

Some ideas make so much sense that we often wonder why we didn’t think and act on them before.

Such might be the case for AASCU’s new identity campaign, “Opportunities for All.”

The University of Central Oklahoma was among the handful of early participants in formulating the campaign through identifying the audiences, messages, and proof points.  Vice President for Communications Susan Chilcott and Sage Communications were astute leaders and listeners in collaborating with our institutions to frame this campaign.

We found common ground in defining ourselves to numerous critical audiences, including prospective students, their families, elected officials, and social influencers and decision-makers.

Now we are at the point of implementation, and I hope as my AASCU presidential peers you will fully join with President Howard and me in embracing this campaign.

“Opportunities for All” does an excellent job of synthesizing what state colleges and universities do better than any other category of higher education institution.  We are accessible as we provide upward mobility for our students.  We are responsible through our commitment to being “Stewards of Place” by serving our regions in close partnerships in civic engagement, service-learning, internships, and faculty consulting.  Through intimate collaborations between faculty, staff and students we provide a high quality education that prepares our graduates to live happy personal and professional lives.

We know why we come to work every day: to help our students achieve their dreams.

The proof points identified in the campaign to support these claims are distinctive to regional, public state colleges and universities. Among them are that we:

  • Place students at the heart of each school—in values, programs, facilities and community;
  • Provide a viable higher education choice for all state residents who are ready and willing to work hard to be successful;
  • Ensure a diversity of students, experiences and ideas;
  • Ensure a skilled workforce where it is needed and where our graduates make an immediate and positive impact; and
  • Create a place of public purpose—we add value and contribute to the intellectual, cultural, economic and social advancement of our community and region.

In this current environment of increased accountability, too often our success is measured primarily by retention and graduation rates. This creates false echoes on quality versus access. A diploma equates to a commodity whose value is substantially based on the return on investment through salaries at graduation.  The mere awarding of a degree becomes a proxy for being considered to be an educated person who is prepared for the workforce and life.

We know these performance assumptions are simplistic, untrue—and pervasive. To succeed as institutions in this challenging time for public higher education, we must embrace those messages and proofs that are common to all of us—and uncommon for other categories of institutions.

They can become the foundation for realizing the basics of any communication campaign:

  • Clearly define a unique message;
  • Stay on message to cut through the marketplace noise of competing ideas; and
  • Convince audiences to attend to and yield to your message.

Fortunately, AASCU institutions constitute a critical mass to accomplish this task. With 420 institutions enrolling several million students—and our recognized value to those we serve locally—we have the momentum to reshape how state colleges and universities are defined by and valued by critical decision-makers.

This won’t be an easy task. There is much lost ground to be recaptured in the current climate of mistrust for higher education institutions. Fortunately, “Opportunities for All” provides us with a great launching pad to achieve a common ground appreciation for our invaluable contributions to our students, our states and American society.

Don Betz is president of the University of Central Oklahoma. He was also one of the former AASCU provosts who helped establish AASCU’s American Democracy Project in 2003.

Professional Development Opportunity: Deliberative Dialogue “Train the Trainer” Workshop

Deliberative Dialogues “Train the Trainer” Workshop

ADP/TDC’s Economic Inequality Initiative is proud to announce a special professional development opportunity for participants interested in training in moderating deliberative dialogues. We will be hosting a Deliberative Dialogue “Train the Trainer” Workshop at Keene State College (N.H.) on Friday, October 28th. Kara Lindaman of Winona State University (Minn.)and John Theis of Lone Star College (Texas) will conduct the training from 9 am to 4 pm on the Keene State Campus. The workshop will provide moderator training for deliberative dialogues and attendees will learn how to train moderators as well.


Interested parties should contact Kimberly Schmidl-Gagne,, at Keene State College for more information and opportunities for assistance.

Citizenship Under Siege Webinar Series – RSVP today

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Clashes Over Citizenship: Promoting, Listening, Learning, and Engagement

A Webinar Series of the Citizenship Under Siege Project

The U.S. Constitution’s preamble speaks of “We the People”—but who is considered part of that sacred circle, and how has this group varied over time? When national identity is hotly contested, what does it mean to experience citizenship as partial, denied, or fully acknowledged? How can the humanities illuminate differing narratives and open up space for understanding, connections, and shared visions of the future?

The Association of American Colleges and Universities and The Democracy Commitment invite faculty, staff, students, and campus community partners to join in one or all of three FREE webinars. These events are designed to expand campus expertise on how to hold constructive conversations about contentious issues and how to institute practices in and out of the classroom that foster engagement across differences.  Register TODAY and join us!

Tomorrow’s Webinar:
Webinar #1: From Fractious Differences to Engaged Dialogues 
October 13, 2016 | 3:00–4:00 p.m. Eastern Time

How can texts and techniques from the humanities disrupt unexamined positions, put human faces to abstract ideas, and help open up spaces where dialogue and consensus might emerge on historic and contemporary questions about citizenship and who deserves it? What models exist for training dialogue facilitators who can help encourage listening and perspective taking across seemingly intractable positions?


  • Verdis Robinson, Interim National Manager, The Democracy Commitment
  • Caryn McTighe Musil, Senior Director of Civic Learning and Democracy Initiatives, Association of American Colleges and Universities
  • John Soltes, Communication Department, County College of Morris
  • Jason Zelesky, Dean of Students, Mount Wachusett Community College


Upcoming Webinars:
Webinar #2: Income Inequality and the Cost of Citizenship

October 27, 2016 | 3:00–4:00 p.m. Eastern Time

When economic disparities—often intertwined with ethnic, racial, and religious differences—impose real limitations on public participation, how can the humanities provide insights into the historic and persistent reality of differential access to full citizenship rights? Learn how several campuses have engaged their students and communities in examining this issue.


  • Steve Davis, History Department, Lone Star College, Kingwood
  • Jill A. Schennum, Chair, Anthropology, Social Sciences, and Economics, County College of Morris
  • Seth Howard, Assistant Director, Center for Civic Engagement, Lone Star College
  • Fagan Forhan, Assistant Dean of K-12 Partnerships and Civic Engagement, Mount Wachusett Community College


  • Verdis Robinson, Interim National Manager, The Democracy Commitment
  • Caryn McTighe Musil, Senior Director of Civic Learning and Democracy Initiatives, Association of American Colleges and Universities


Webinar #3:  I Want My Country Back: Immigration, Race, and Citizenship
November 3, 2016 | 3:00–4:00 p.m. Eastern Time

In the midst of sometimes-dramatic demographic and cultural shifts, how have the humanities served to illuminate felt experiences, historical contexts, and ethical issues as the rich mosaic of people in the United States fluctuates? What approaches, courses, and public events lead to shared ends rather than perpetual conflict or feelings of displacement?


  • David Kalivas, World History and Director of the Commonwealth Honors Program, Middlesex Community College
  • Helen-Margaret Nasser, Associate Director of the Honors Program, Kingsborough Community College
  • Dona Cady, Dean, Global Education, and Matthew Olson, Dean, Humanities and Social Sciences, Middlesex Community College
  • David Price, History Department, and Vilma E. Fuentes, Assistant Vice President for Academic Affairs, Santa Fe College


  • Verdis Robinson, Interim National Manager, The Democracy Commitment
  • Caryn McTighe Musil, Senior Director of Civic Learning and Democracy Initiatives, Association of American Colleges and Universities


Please Share with Any Interested Parties


Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and hosted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities & The Democracy Commitment.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations endowment for the expressed in these webinars do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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