• Campus Highlights

    January 2021

    California State University San Marcos, submitted by Rochelle Smarr, director for service learning and civic engagement 

    At California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), we continue to provide democratic engagement opportunities for our students in our virtual campus. For the fall semester, we participated in national voter education campaigns such as National Voter Registration Day and Voter Early Day, along with hosting a poll site on campus. Additionally, the cross-campus Presidential Election and Free Speech task force coordinated biweekly virtual voter education workshops in collaboration with academic and student affairs units. We also participated in the CA Ballot Bowl, a friendly all-California college and university competition to register the most students ahead of an election. While we did not win, we did implement a campuswide communication strategy that included social media, weekly emails of upcoming events and election deadlines, and an all-in-one website with pre- and post-election resources for everyone. 
    Building on the momentum of the fall semester and student interest in virtual civic engagement, CSUSM’s Department of Civic Engagement, the host of the American Democracy Project, will continue to facilitate conversations about democratic engagement through the series Speaking of Democracy. The virtual workshops will be led by a combination of faculty experts, student leaders, and community leaders on topics to discuss virtual engagement, local government accountability, and what to expect during the first 100 days of a presidency. We are also considering having Civic Fridays, a drop-in chat series for students to discuss civic engagement matters and learn of opportunities seeking volunteers. 

    December 2020

    Illinois State University, submitted by Harriet Steinbach, assistant director for the Center for Civic Engagement

    Illinois State University (ISU) usually hosts a large in-person inauguration viewing event of some kind, but 2021 will be a little different. Soon after the election, the Dean of Students Office reached out to the Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) expressing a desire to partner for the inauguration. While it would be a no-frills event (i.e., no food, lower numbers of students on-campus), the two offices decided to host an inauguration watch event in the student center.

    They booked as many rooms as were available because COVID-19 mitigation standards limit gatherings to 25 people. Rooms would be arranged with chairs six feet apart. CCE staff wanted to find some ways to make this event a little more exciting. They decided they would give away pocket constitutions and laptop stickers that read “Democracy is not a spectator sport #RedbirdImpact.” Third-year social work graduate student and Civic Education and Political Engagement Graduate Assistant Katelyn Hill also designed two activities students could do while attending the inauguration watch. One activity is a matching game with facts about the inauguration and the other activity is an eye spy of things to look for while watching. 

    Illinois mitigation standards were tightened due to increased COVID-19 cases, meaning rental venues (including the student center) were not able to rent space. However, the campus pivoted to offer a virtual viewing. They encouraged students through social media and via faculty outreach to watch the inauguration ceremony on their own and via ADP’s Discord Inauguration Watch Party. They posted the activities on their website and encouraged students to participate. They also walked around campus the day before and the morning of the inauguration, passing out those constitutions, laptop stickers, and activities to inform students that the inauguration was happening and encouraging students to watch. 

    October 2020

    Emporia State University (Kan.), submitted by Rob Catlett, associate professor of mathematics and economics and director of Center for Economic Education:

    We are honored to have Emporia State University in the top 40 of the 157 public and private colleges and universities that were honored in Washington Monthly’s 2020 Best Colleges for Student Voting Honor Roll. The list is ordered by voter registration rates, and we would rank even higher if our actual voting rate was a key metric. We would not be nearly as effective without partners such as the All-In Democracy Challenge; League of Women Voters; Loud Light; Lyon County Election officials; and, most importantly, our amazing students.  

    Winona State University (Minn.), submitted by Kara Lindaman, professor of political science/public administration and campus coordinator of the American Democracy Project 

    In fall 2020, Winona State joined its partners in higher education—the National Issues Forum Institute, the American Democracy Project, and a dozen others—to launch the initiative “With the People.” which supports deliberation on college campuses and in communities. Building on the work to develop issue guides for deliberation with NASPA and others, Winona State used the opportunity of the disrupted landscape during Constitution Week to hold 10 deliberative forums with the system office of Minnesota State colleges and universities on the issues of free speech, policing, and voting. 

    This work to engage and empower students through remote delivery—Zoom and/or Common Ground for Action (CGA)—complemented work on campus for student learning, recruitment, retention, and workforce development. This led to opportunities to work with additional partners through the delivery of webinars and resources supported through AASCU’s American Democracy Project networks. 

    Work in deliberative practice complemented the election semester. As a commitment campus with the “Ask Every Student to Vote,” Winona State’s President Scott Olson committed to the ALL IN Challenge and the Warriors Vote initiative for voter registration, voter education, and voter turnout. A team of students created and coordinated a student-driven campaign to encourage students voices to be heard. 

    The development and implementation of a multi-faceted campaign is a true testament to Winona State’s record in student-voter engagement and its lived civic mission of “a community of learners improving the world.” These efforts to engage and empower students wherever they are during these uncertain times were supported additionally through Winona State’s participation in the presidential debates and the National Times Talks.  

    August 2020

    Indiana University Southeast, submitted by Jean Abshire, associate professor of political science and international studies coordinator of the International Studies Program:

    On Aug. 19, Indiana University Southeast’s Global Civic Literacy Initiative hosted a Campus Summit on Global Civic Literacy. For the first time, this summit brought together faculty and staff from Academic Affairs and Student Affairs in a collective professional development event to build bridges for collaboration and spark new ideas for enhancing global learning and global civic engagement on the campus. 

    The summit opened with a keynote address by Charles Hopkins, director of teaching and learning at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), about the importance of global learning as well as the CFR’s World 101 modules, which provide ready-made materials for immediate use for virtual or in-person learning. Following the keynote, nine faculty and student affairs professionals presented breakout sessions with strategies for incorporating global learning into a variety of curricular and extracurricular contexts, including biology, graphic design, strategic communications, political theory, and science and technology education. The summit also featured a World Café activity and community connections through an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony, international business etiquette, and things people should know about our international student population. The summit concluded with a virtual speed-dating activity in which participants brainstormed ideas about cross-unit collaboration for enhancing global civic literacy among students. This summit was part of a national pilot project sponsored by the American Democracy Project and the CFR. Links to watch the recorded summit will be available on the ADP website. 

    University of Central Arkansas, submitted by Lesley Graybeal, director of service-learning and volunteerism: 

    The University of Central Arkansas (UCA) is commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which made it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of sex when voting, with a range of virtual and on-campus events focused on using the arts for democratic engagement. Public activities for the Suffrage Centennial project, "Shall Not Be Denied," will take place on the UCA campus in Conway, Arkansas, and at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The project is funded in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and will include multidisciplinary collaborations on and around two new site-specific public art installations located on UCA's campus. 

    In addition to commemorating the historic anniversary, discriminatory practices within the suffrage movement and continued barriers to voting for people of color will be explored through a wide range of artistic media and voter engagement and education programming. Arts programming will include a temporary sculpture installation by artist-in-residence Sharon Louden, with assistance from student apprentices; a suffrage dance performance by Core Dance; spoken word suffrage speeches by The Writeous Poets; a community suffrage singalong with lyrics by local artists; a ceramic floor mosaic installation by Liz Smith and project partners in the community; “Threads Through Time” art exhibit at the UCA Baum Gallery, curated by Brian Young and Sue Bennett; suffrage swag by art student Lillie Wren; zine-making workshops and a virtual zinefest with campus and community partners; and more. 

    University of Alaska Anchorage, submitted by Donna Aguiniga, associate professor in the School of Social Work: 

    In 2018, faculty members Donna Aguiniga, associate professor in the School of Social Work, and Marsha Olson, term instructor in the Department of Communication, came back from that year’s Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting motivated to create an annual weeklong event to explore diverse perspectives about the role of democracy and civic engagement in the United States. Under the auspices of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s (UAA) Center for Community Engagement & Learning, they worked with departments, programs, and organizations across campus who presented activities to engage participants in reflecting on their rights and responsibilities that are fundamental to creating a civil society. 

    Events that have quickly become annual favorites include Read a Line, Get a Vine, which has students read their favorite line from the U.S. Constitution and receive a Red Vine licorice and their own copy of the U.S. Constitution; a debate by the nationally-recognized Seawolf Debate Program; an essay contest organized by Dr. Jackie Cason (Professor of Writing) for Anchorage School District high school and UAA students; and a Civics Fair held at the Loussac Public Library in partnership with the municipality’s Welcoming Week Anchorage programming.   

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Democracy & Civic Action Week 2020 will be held online. An ePortfolio is being created to host the week’s schedule, recordings of live events, and a virtual civics fair, again held in partnership with Welcoming Week Anchorage, where local organizations can share a brief video about their mission, services, and volunteer opportunities. 

    Some of this year’s events include a debate provided by Seawolf Debate Program, a lecture by Dr. Ian Hartman (Associate Professor of History) on civil disobedience movements in American history, and a panel presentation with local journalists on the role of local journalism and social media hosted by the Department of Journalism and Public Communications. All Democracy & Civic Action Week events are free and open to the public.    

    July 2020

    James Madison University (Va.), submitted by Carah Ong Whaley, associate director, JMU Civic:  

    JMU Civic at James Madison University (JMU) is including "justice" as a central tenant to conversations about the future of democracy. Its goal is to use how people define and live "justice" to create a sense of shared responsibility that links us together in a common pursuit of ensuring every individual thrives. Its virtual discussions of “Ending Systemic Racism & Creating an Inclusive Society” and “Athletics and Social Justice” brought diverse voices to work to create a more just and inclusive society and democracy; its antiracism and social justice work continues to expand.  

    JMU has been deeply involved in working at the local, state, and national levels to ensure a complete count in the 2020 Census. This past spring, JMU Civic created an interdisciplinary course to educate students in the critical efforts to build a more just and inclusive democracy through census engagement efforts. Students focused on educating about the importance of the census and facilitating get-out-the-count initiatives in hard-to-reach communities.

    Working with students as co-educators and co-creators, JMU emphasizes the value of voting to exercise agency and as means of full participation in democracy. Initiatives through the James Madison Center for Civic Engagement in partnership with students, faculty and staff across the university work not only to register students to vote and apply for absentee ballots, but also to deliberate about major issues such as racism and social justice, the economy, the public health crisis, the environment and immigration, just to name a few. At JMU Civic, student-led efforts lean into politics through learning-centered, action-oriented dialogues in public spaces on campus and virtually while physically distanced. In classroom visits by trained undergraduate volunteers, in new and transfer student orientation, and even at the campus gym, students also have opportunities to learn about why voting matters for the issues they care about and how to register and vote.

    With support from JMU Civic and Political Science faculty, students also produce a nonpartisan voter education guide that is distributed throughout the campus and the community. Prior to voter registration deadlines, students facilitate a traveling town hall with political candidates to residence halls to literally meet students where they are. On Election Day, with support from the Center for Inclusive Music Engagement, Music Education students contribute their talents by playing at the campus precinct to build a culture that celebrates democracy. Election night features live coverage of returns by student media organizations from an Election Night Watch Party. Post-election, students and faculty participate in a panel to analyze and discuss what results mean for governance. Read JMU’s full 2020-21 Voter Engagement Plan

    Illinois State University, submitted by Stephen Hunt, professor in the School of Communication: 

    Illinois State University’s Department of Psychology and School of Communication partnered to livestream a presentation titled “What Should Empathy Be in This Moment of Historical Reckoning? Reconciling Black Trauma, Whiteness, and the Historical Structures of Racism Since 1619” on Saturday, June 20. The video is available on the School of Communication’s Facebook page.  

    The presentation was led by Byron Craig, assistant professor in the School of Communication at Illinois State University, and Stephen Rahko, lecturer in the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. Craig and Rahko discussed what empathy should look like in this moment of historical reckoning in the aftermath of the untimely deaths of deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and Rayshard Brooks. According to Craig and Rahko, “A renewed discourse of social justice around the historical legacy of structures of systemic racism has started to blossom. We seek to discuss this dilemma in the context of the moral responsibilities Black and white communities owe to each other.”  

    Faculty in the Department of Psychology at Illinois State University initiated the Extending Empathy Project in the fall of 2018 as a way to project a positive, empathic message into the university community and the public at large. Treating others with compassion, particularly children, victims, members of minority groups, and refugees, is a basic human decency. Psychologists are well-versed in the value of extending empathy. To date, they have sponsored 15 colloquia, organized public viewings of social justice documentaries, and worked with high school culture councils to advise them in their social justice efforts. 

    Please enjoy this story (produced through NPR from Illinois State University) written about the event.   

    June 2020

    Stockton University (N.J.), submitted by Tina Zappile, associate professor of Political Science, and Claire Abernathy, assistant professor of Political Science: 

    The American Democracy Project (ADP) committee at Stockton University provides programming on timely political and policy issues that is designed to increase political awareness and engagement for its campus community and support the university’s mission of developing “engaged and effective citizens.” Its ADP committee is comprised of more than a dozen active faculty, staff, students, and administrators. Committee members regularly partner with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy on campus and work closely with the provost’s and president’s offices to host large-scale events, including the Constitution Day series that has featured Sandra Day O’Connor and Anita Hill, among other distinguished speakers. With representatives from both Academic Affairs and Student Affairs on its ADP committee and through partnerships with other offices across the university, staff are able to bridge common gaps and generate long-term institutional support and buy-in from different stakeholders. The committee membership structure has supported continuity during periods of transition in administrative leadership as well.  

    In recent years, programming has also come to reflect diverse disciplinary perspectives. This shift was a direct result of assessing the impact of prior work and realizing that events had been largely reaching students in the social sciences. In an effort to expand the reach of its programming and to support the university’s commitment to interdisciplinarity, the ADP committee reoriented its focus, creating new programming that considers how politics and policy intersect with other disciplines. Its goal was to reach more students and involve more academic schools and programs. For example, in three events focused on the opioid epidemic, the committee brought together faculty from Biology, Health Science, Exercise Science, Physical Therapy, and Social Work for interdisciplinary panel discussions about how opioids affect the body, what alternative treatment options are available, the broader causes and effects of the opioid crisis, and what policies can help address it. Panels were built with an interactive deliberative dialogue, facilitating student discussions about the opioid crisis. At these dialogue sessions, participants were asked to share their own perspective on several proposed policy solutions to address the opioid epidemic and to engage with a small group of their peers in an in-depth discussion about the benefits, costs, and trade-offs inherent in different policies. Another example was the lecture series on climate change and the Green New Deal, featuring faculty in Sociology, Sustainability, and Biology as well as leaders from a local community organization for panels about the proposal, its scientific feasibility, and its environmental justice approach.  

    To further strengthen its relationships across campus, the committee also collaborated with other programs or student clubs to co-sponsor interdisciplinary events. For example, it worked with the Model United Nations and Amnesty International student clubs to host a film screening of “The Prosecutors,” followed by a panel featuring faculty and students from Political Science, Communications, Women Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Holocaust and Genocide Studies. It also worked with the Model UN to host a campuswide series for classes to attend the Council on Foreign Relations Academic Conference Call series. And it partnered with the School of Education and the interdisciplinary Migration Studies Minor to host a speaker on child detention in the U.S. These interdisciplinary events and partnerships on campus have allowed the committee to reach a new and more diverse student audience and to help students across campus see the relevance of civic and political engagement in their own fields of study. 

    Stockton was also a participating institution in AASCU’s multi-campus Global Engagement Initiative. On campus, it partnered with the Provost Office to make available a free four-credit online course titled "Go Global!" to more than 100 incoming first-year students each summer, and all merit scholars are invited to join regardless of major. This program is now in its seventh year and today, its students use the new digital Global Challenges curriculum developed from the same AASCU initiative. Assessment of the Go Global class reveals an average of a two-point higher retention rate in the first and second year, and students are also more likely to graduate earlier. These interdisciplinary events, partnerships, and programs have allowed Stockton to reach a new and more diverse student audience and to help students across campus see the relevance of civic and political engagement in their own fields of study. 

    Sam Houston State University (Texas), submitted by Steven Koether, Foundations of Science coordinator/instructor: 

    In 2016, George Mehaffy, then the vice president for Academic Leadership and Change at AASCU and now senior advisor at Sova Solutions LLC, toured Sam Houston State University (SHSU). One of SHSU’s courses, the “Foundations of Science,” was featured as a way to improve student critical thinking and science literacy skills. Its novel approach included the use of case studies (many from National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science) to distinguish science from pseudoscience. It engaged non-science majors in the philosophy of science—something rarely taught outside of science graduate program. Part of the reasoning for the course was that citizens must understand how scientists think and obtain scientific knowledge. Mehaffy saw this as a model for what others could do across the country to improve democratic participation and thinking. He included the course as part of the Teagle-funded National Blended Course Consortium. Koether was asked to work with faculty from other universities, AASCU, and SmartSparrow to reenvision it as a hybrid course with an at-home interactive, engaging, differentiating component. The new course was called “Science for Citizens” and sold through SmartSparrow, Inspark. The Science for Citizens team is now working with the Center for Education Through eXploration at Arizona State University to offer it as an Open Educational Resource. 

    In working with AASCU on Science for Citizens, Koether met many wonderful ADP friends and colleagues, locally and nationally. He was asked to work on various AASCU and ADP-related projects at SHSU, including Re-imagining the First Year (RFY), leading deliberative dialogues, evaluating the campus political learning and engagement, and leading the campus ADP committee. Work with the RFY committee led to more thorough professional development for graduate/undergraduate instructors and instructional assistants, or the Graduate/Undergraduate Instructor Academy (GUIA). GUIA hosts 300–500 student employees each semester and continually grows. This demographic easily has the largest number of contact hours with students. They are on the front lines when it comes to support, resource recommendations, and diversity/equity/inclusion endeavors.

    The Critical Thinking through Deliberative Dialogues (CT-DD) scholarship events originally derived from Foundations of Science programming. The event grew and required greater funding and support. The SHSU ADP committee offered to aid in running the events and SHSU’s Common Reader Program offered space, food, and publicity. The SHSU CT-DD events are modeled after the National Issues Forum dialogues and the Center for Assessment and Improvement of Learning CAT Applications. Topics discussed include immigration, universities as businesses, and GMO foods as a solution for food insecurity. The event began with 25 individuals and can now include more than 100 participants. 

    In 2018, Mary Robbins, now retired vice provost, nominated Koether to work with AASCU and the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education to assess and improve political learning and engagement on campus. SHSU, along with 12 other institutions, created a large and diverse coalition to engage in this endeavor. The valuable work aided SHSU in highlighting its successes and uncovering some uncomfortable truths. The university is now positioned to engage in the difficult work of addressing findings from this rewarding and rigorous effort. The results have encouraged many campus areas to improve transparency, shared governance, and diversity/equity/inclusion efforts.