News Release from AASCU


Contact: Jennifer Walpole (202) 478-4665


Washington, D.C.—The American Democracy Project (ADP), an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), recently honored four outstanding leaders in civic engagement during the 2015 ADP/TDC/NASPA Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting in New Orleans, La. Three ADP awards were presented: The Barbara Burch Award for Faculty Leadership in Civic Engagement; The William M. Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement; and The John Saltmarsh Award for Emerging Leaders in Civic Engagement. The awards were presented on Thursday, June 4, 2015.

“We’re thrilled to honor these outstanding individuals whose work represents the richness of civic learning and democratic engagement taking place on our campuses and in our communities,” says Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, director of AASCU’s American Democracy Project. “The 2015 civic engagement award recipients’ work reflects the efforts needed to ensure that we in higher education are preparing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens for our democracy.”

The Barbara Burch Award for Faculty Leadership in Civic Engagement was established in 2014 to honor exemplary faculty leadership in advancing the civic learning and engagement of undergraduate students and advancing the work of AASCU’s American Democracy Project. Patrick Dolenc, the 2015 recipient of this award, is a professor of economics at Keene State College (N.H.). Dolenc has been engaged in ADP at both the campus and national level, and has successfully integrated civic learning and democratic engagement into his courses and broader work. Dolenc is the faculty chair of the AASCU Economic Inequality Scholars and played an essential role in establishing the new ADP/TDC Economic Inequality Initiative, lead by teams from Keene State College and Mount Wachusett Community College (Mass.). The award’s namesake, Barbara Burch, provided extraordinary national leadership in the design, creation and ongoing development of the American Democracy Project.

Michael Vaughan, this year’s recipient of the William M. Plater Award for Leadership in Civic Engagement, is provost and vice president of academic affairs at Weber State University (Utah). Vaughan’s substantial and longstanding focus on civic engagement includes the establishment of a campus civic engagement center in 2004, which he has since expanded to include the larger Ogden, Utah community. Under Vaughan’s leadership, Weber State University fostered extensive curricular requirements around civic engagement and supported community-engaged scholars. He and Weber State have been consistently involved in ADP, both on campus and nationally. The award is named after William M. Plater, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis’ (IUPUI) chief academic officer from 1987 through 2006. During his term at IUPUI, Plater oversaw the development of civic engagement as an integral part of the campus mission and as a defining characteristic of its graduates.

The John Saltmarsh Award for Emerging Leaders in Civic Engagement was awarded this year to two recipients, Adam Bush and Lane Graves Perry. Bush is the chief academic officer of College Unbound and serves on the board of Imagining America, an ADP partner organization. Perry is director of service-learning at Western Carolina University (N.C.), where he is also an affiliate faculty member in the department of human services. “Both recipients are engaged in path-breaking civic engagement work that advances the deeply democratic purposes of higher education. We want to encourage more emerging leaders with their example,” says John Saltmarsh. The award was created in honor of John Saltmarsh, co-director of the New England Resource Center for Higher Education at the University of Massachusetts Boston, as a tribute to his dedication to nurturing the next generation of civic leaders.

The 2015 Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement conference was originally hosted by AASCU’s ADP as the American Democracy Project National Meeting.  Going forward, ADP and its partner organization for community college civic engagement, The Democracy Commitment, teamed up with NASPA – Student Affairs Professionals in Higher Education to strengthen and deepen the civic learning and engagement work that these associations are all committed to across their institutions—both public and private. Fostering academic and student affairs partnerships and collaborations across individual campuses, initiatives and associations is imperative to this mutual goal.   


AASCU is a Washington-based higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.