This is the third in a series of posts addressing the emergent Theory of Change being developed by higher education institutions that participate in the annual’s Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting network, which includes a network of colleges and universities affiliated with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU) American Democracy Project, The Democracy Commitment, and NASPA LEAD Initiative.
Posts from the ‘Civic Work’ Category
By David Hoffman, Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, Stephanie King, and Verdis Robinson
Let America be the dream that dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above. …
O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
–from Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again” (written in 1935)
It has been a challenging couple of years for people in higher education working to fulfill the promise of American democracy.
Most of us have chosen our careers and commitments in part because of our profound optimism about the American experiment in self-governance. Our work with students in communities on campus and beyond reflects our belief that We, the People, appropriately oriented to our collective power, can work together across differences in background, experience, and perspective to promote the general welfare wisely and justly.
Yet today our democracy is in crisis. New hostilities and old prejudices seem to be consuming the body politic. Confidence in our collective institutions and the nation’s overall direction has fallen precipitously. Higher education is under pressure to do more with less, and to focus student learning on workforce development and career preparation, potentially at the expense of civic learning and democratic engagement.
In the face of these pressures, it is tempting to yearn for simpler times, and to direct our work toward restoring what we sense has been lost. For decades, much civic learning and democratic engagement work in higher education, even the most innovative, has embedded a subtle retrospectivity: a longing for aspects of a partly mythic collective past. Higher education’s service-learning and nonpartisan political engagement initiatives have harkened back to a time when people spent more of their lives engaged in common activities rather than consuming content, and seemingly each other, through electronic screens. They have grasped for an elusive yesteryear of communal investments in projects and people, for the public good. With considerable success, educators supporting civic learning and democratic engagement have endeavored to regenerate the sense of empathy, shared responsibility, initiative, and courage celebrated in some Norman Rockwell paintings and in tales from the freedom movements of bygone days.
The four of us also feel that tug of nostalgia. Furthermore, we know that stories of democracy and civic agency from our collective past are vital cultural resources for anyone hoping to foster civic learning and democratic engagement today. Yet like one of the narrators of Langston Hughes’ Let America Be America Again, we recognize that even in better times, the promise of American democracy has never been completely fulfilled. Too many Americans have been kept at the margins. Even people not excluded from formal civic power by discriminatory laws and practices have been reduced to consumers and spectators of democracy by cultural conventions that have defined citizens simply as voters and volunteers, but only rarely as potential community-builders, civic professionals, innovators, and problem-solvers.
We believe higher education and its partners in communities across America need a vision of civic learning and democratic engagement for our time: oriented to the thriving democracy we have not yet achieved, but can build together. The influential 2012 report A Crucible Moment expressed such a vision in its call for weaving civic learning and democratic engagement into all of higher education’s work involving students. That call conceptualizes democratic engagement as a central practice in everyday life and relationships, not a particular set of activities undertaken on special occasions. It evokes John Dewey’s (1937) framing of democracy as a way of life that must be “enacted anew in every generation, in every year and day, in the living relations of person to person in all social forms and institutions.” In a similar vein, David Hoffman’s 2015 blog post Describing Transformative Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Practices proposed that in order to transcend the paradigm of marginal, episodic, celebratory, and scripted civic engagement programs, higher education’s civic work must become more integral, relational, organic, and generative.
At the 2016 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, participants built on these insights as they imagined how people experiencing a thriving democracy in the year 2046 might look back at the intervening 30 years of progress. More recently, at the 2017 CLDE Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, participants worked together to begin developing shared answers to four central questions facing higher education’s civic learning and democratic engagement movement:
- The Vision Question: What are the key features of the thriving democracy we aspire to enact and support through our work?
- The Learning Outcomes Question: What knowledge, skills, and dispositions do people need in order to help create and contribute to a thriving democracy?
- The Pedagogy Question: How can we best foster the acquisition and development of the knowledge, skills, and dispositions necessary for a thriving democracy?
- The Strategy Question: How can we build the institutional culture, infrastructure, and relationships needed to support learning that enables a thriving democracy?
Langston Hughes concluded “Let America Be America Again” with this injunction:
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain —
All, all the stretch of these great green states —
And make America again!
We believe higher education is well-positioned to contribute to the fulfillment of this charge by extending and deepening our support for students as co-creators of a thriving democracy.
What are your thoughts and hopes for this emerging work? What issues should our networks be sure to consider as this planning process unfolds? Please share your comments.
Dewey, J. (1937). “Education and social change.” Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors 23, 6, 472–4.
Hoffman, D. (2015, July 1). “Describing transformative civic learning and democratic engagement practices.” American Democracy Project (blog).
Hughes, L. (1994). “Let America be America again.” In A. Rampersad (Ed.), The collected poems of Langston Hughes (pp. 189-191). New York: Vintage. (Original work published in 1936).
National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (2012). A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities.
Note: Read the second blog post in this series, Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement for What? Envisioning a Thriving Democracy here.
David Hoffman is Assistant Director of Student Life for Civic Agency at the University of Maryland (MD) and an architect of UMBC’s BreakingGround initiative. His work is directed at fostering civic agency and democratic engagement through courses, co-curricular experiences and cultural practices on campus. His research explores students’ development as civic agents, highlighting the crucial role of experiences, environments, and relationships students perceive as “real” rather than synthetic or scripted. David is a member of Steering Committee for the American Democracy Project and the National Advisory Board for Imagining America. He is an alum of UCLA (BA), Harvard (JD, MPP) and UMBC (PhD).
Jennifer Domagal-Goldman is the national manager of AASCU’s American Democracy Project (ADP). She earned her doctorate in higher education from the Pennsylvania State University. She received her master’s degree in higher education and student affairs administration from the University of Vermont and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester. Jennifer’s dissertation focused on how faculties learn to incorporate civic learning and engagement in their undergraduate teaching within their academic discipline. Jennifer holds an ex-officio position on the eJournal of Public Affairs’ editorial board.
Stephanie King is the Assistant Director for Knowledge Communities and Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Initiatives at NASPA where she directs the NASPA Lead Initiative. She has worked in higher education since 2009 in the areas of student activities, orientation, residence life, and civic learning and democratic engagement. Stephanie earned her Master of Arts in Psychology at Chatham University and her B.S. in Biology from Walsh University. She has served as the Coordinator for Commuter, Evening and Weekend Programs at Walsh University, Administrative Assistant to the VP and Dean of Students for the Office of Student Affairs, the Coordinator of Student Affairs, and the Assistant Director of Residence Life and Student Affairs at Chatham University.
Verdis L. Robinson is the National Director of The Democracy Commitment after serving as a tenured Assistant Professor of History and African-American Studies at Monroe Community College (NY). Professionally, Verdis is a fellow of the Aspen Institute’s Faculty Seminar on Citizenship and the American and Global Polity, and the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Faculty Seminar on Rethinking Black Freedom Studies: The Jim Crow North and West. Additionally, Verdis is the founder of the Rochester Neighborhood Oral History Project that with his service-learning students created a walking tour of the community most impacted by the 1964 Race Riots, which has engaged over 400 members of Rochester community in dialogue and learning. He holds a B.M. in Voice Performance from Boston University, a B.S. and an M.A. in History from SUNY College at Brockport, and an M.A. in African-American Studies from SUNY University at Buffalo.
By Daniel Fidalgo Tomé, ADP Chair-Elect and CLDE 2017 Planning Committee Member, Stockton University (N.J.)
Be sure to join us for the 2017 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting (#CLDE17) in Baltimore, Md. from June 7-10th. Early-bird rates end on Monday, May 1 and our group rate at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront is good through Tuesday, May 16.
- Network with civic learning experts and specialists in the field.
Throughout the conference, but especially during the opening reception on Thursday, June 8th. Be sure to check out the Campus and Friends Showcase tables as well as the research and program-centered poster session!
- Share resources and ideas at the two full-day pre-conference sessions.
Participate in either of the full day workshops on Wednesday, June 7:
- Workshop 1: Engaged Campus Inventory focused on Charting a Course on the Pathway to Civic Engagement: An Inventory and Action Plan for Engaged Campuses (or)
- Workshop 2: Assessment I & II on Civic Engagement Assessment Pre-Conference Workshops with Networking Lunch – sponsored by ETS
- Connect with both peers and professionals engaged in higher education at five pre-conference sessions.
Participate in one or more of the half-day workshops on Wednesday, June 7:
– Planning for Institution-Wide Data Collection on Civic and Community Engagement
– Measures That Matter: Regarding Engaged Scholarship In Tenure and Promotion – Dialogue and Democratic Deliberation: Moderator Training
– Measuring Civic Outcomes During College, Educating for the Democracy We Want, Not the One We Have, and
– Integrating Civic Responsibility into the Curriculum
- Student leaders from campuses are encouraged to participate in space dedicated for students’ voice.
Our CLDE student interns from ADP, TDC and NASPA campuses have planned and prepared the Student Pre-Conference Workshop on Wednesday, June 7th in the afternoon starting at 1pm. It’s free for all student registrants to attend!
- Attend all the collective Plenary Sessions – these are the most rewarding sessions for you to participate in while attending CLDE.
- Thursday, June 8th | 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
OPENING PLENARY | CivEd Talks and Our CLDE Theory of Change
- Friday, June 9th | 9:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
FRIDAY PLENARY SESSION | Dialogue and Deliberation Forum: Safety and Justice: How Should Communities Reduce Violence?
- Saturday, June 10th | 9:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
CLOSING PLENARY SESSION | The Theory of Our Work – Today and Tomorrow: What’s Next?
- Thursday, June 8th | 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
6. Experience both personal and professional growth.
Discover ways to get involved in planning for CLDE 2018. Contact Jen, Verdis or Stephanie for more information. Statement of interest and CV/resume due to Jen at email@example.com by May 16.
7. Coordinate with colleagues from across the country via NASPA, ADP, and TDC.
Break 🍞 with your colleagues on Thursday, June 8th at either the ADP, TDC or NASPA Lead Breakfast & Workshop sessions. Part of a balanced breakfast from 8:30am-11:30am.
8. Is your campus a Voter Friendly Campus? Join the Voter Friendly Campus Meeting on Saturday afternoon to learn how to best prepare your campus for upcoming midterm elections.
All campus participants who received the Voter Friendly Campus (VFC) designation are encouraged to attend; includes those interested in applying for 2019-2020.
9. Explore Baltimore and the DC area.
Participate in walking and bus tours on Wednesday, June 7th throughout Baltimore with experts from University of Maryland Baltimore County and Towson University or jump on the Metro into our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.
10. Aspire to become an agent of change in your community.
Choose from a plethora of our concurrent sessions and mini-institutes to learn from our colleagues and sponsors interested in making a difference in our professional field. Take back new skills and tools for your campuses.
We’re excited to announce our 5th and 6th ADP/TDC Engage the Election 2016 webinars powered by icitizen. These webinars are open to faculty, staff, students and friends.
Webinar 5: Student Empowerment through Civic Engagement
Thursday, July 28, 2016 | 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. Eastern
Please join us for a webinar on Student Empowerment through Civic Engagement on Thursday, July 28th, at 2 pm Eastern. During the program, John Locke, a former student body president at the University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) will introduce Walk 2 Vote, a student led, student executed, non-partisan political engagement program created by UHD students. It has grown from a local/campus-based initiative to what is now a national movement. Learn how to host a #Walk2Vote campaign on your campus. Walk 2 Vote co-founder Locke will share the key components and philosophies that are important to successfully empower students to become politically engaged. He will also lead a discussion and share details of the Walk 2 Vote model including resource packets, contests, funding leads and marketing resources, opportunities to highlight your campus achievements and connections to organizations that will support your efforts.
John Locke, former Student Body President of the University of Houston-Downtown (Texas) and Co-Founder of Walk 2 Vote
Webinar 6: Voter Registration & Campus Technology: Engaging Student Voters by the Thousands
Wednesday, August 24, 2016 | 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. EST
Offered in partnership with TurboVote, this webinar will explore the research and subsequent implementation of an innovative (yet, easy!) voter engagement strategy: integrating voter registration and resources into campus IT infrastructure. The TurboVote team and their campus partners will share success stories and their personal experiences with engaging the necessary stakeholders and turning web-based student portals and pass-throughs into “online voter registration tables.” Just in time for this fall’s election, we invite you to join us in raising the voter engagement bar and institutionalizing your registration efforts so voting can fit the way students live.
Matt Tharp and Emily Giffin, TurboVote Partner Support Leads will be joined by TurboVote Campus Partners