• Campus Highlights

    November 2021

    Metropolitan State University (Minn.) submitted by Katie Peacock, associate director for academic community engagement at the Institute for Community Engagement and Scholarship

    Metropolitan State University is celebrating 20 years of Project SHINE—Students Helping In the Naturalization of Elders. The project originated at Temple University in 1997 to assist elders in refugee and immigrant communities learn English and obtain U.S. citizenship. After securing a grant to allow the project to be replicated at universities nationwide, Metropolitan State was among the first to get on board. Today, Metropolitan State’s Project SHINE is a wide-ranging program partnering hundreds of Metropolitan State students from community-engaged courses with organizations across the Twin Cities and a diverse community of thousands of adult immigrant learners. The mutually beneficial partnership builds intergenerational and intercultural relationships, strengthens students’ civic identities and skills, brings academic work to life, and supports our shared democracy. Please explore our Project SHINE infographic for more information. The photo below is an archive image of Project SHINE participants circa 2001; photo credit is given to Jonathan Chapman.

    Metropolitan State University (Minn.)

    October 2021

    Lander University (S.C.), submitted by Lucas McMillan, dean and professor of political science

    Lander University hosted  Index-Journal newspaper editor Richard Whiting on September 16 for a conversation (pictured below) about the U.S. Constitution, freedom of the press, and information literary. Political scientists Ashley Woodiwiss and Lucas McMillan engaged Whiting on how the press seeks to keep government accountable, the ways in which family-owned newspapers support the communities they serve, and how the public views the media. Whiting told the audience about his own career and the changing ways that newspapers interact with readers. Responding to questions, Whiting provided examples of the Index-Journal’s investigative journalism (the “Uncovered” series with The Post & Courier of Charleston), and the centrality of the first amendment in American democracy. Finally, the audience was reminded about the ways that Lander and the Index-Journal have partnered on civic engagement initiatives. For more information, read Lander's  news release of the event.

    Lander University

    Missouri State University, submitted by Stacey Trewatha-Bach, Public Affairs Support special programs coordinator and ADP coordinator

    Missouri State University is proud to recognize its newest student-led civic engagement initiative,  Paws to the Polls. The aim of this non-partisan group of students is to create a voting-literate campus by weaving civic engagement into academic curriculum and outreach efforts. In the past year, the group distributed over 2,600 voter educational booklets across campus; conducted 46 classroom presentations; and led 20 days of tabling, voter registration, and educational events (pictures below). Along with their faculty advisor, student members developed five interactive curricular modules which are now optional content within Missouri State’s first-year experience courses. These dedicated students help their fellow students become comfortable with the voting day process, obtain unbiased information for ballot issues and candidates, as well as provide avenues and resources to continue political engagement beyond election days. 

    To commemorate Constitution Day, Missouri State also conducted its traditional three-day voter registration drive, hosted a U.S. Naturalization Ceremony and held its annual Public Affairs Conference Bridging the Divide with attendance reaching nearly 7,000 students, campus, and community members.   

    Missouri State University

    September 2021

    Western Carolina University (N.C.), submitted by Lane Perry, executive director of the College of Education and Allied Professions, Human Services

    Our Constitution Day program was organized by the WCU Student Democracy Coalition and brought students together to increase awareness that September 17 is Constitution Day and to reflect, even if only briefly, on our U.S. Constitution. This included a Constitution quiz whereby students had to answer at least two of three questions correct before they were allowed to pick a screen printed “WHEE THE PEOPLE” shirt. We distributed over 60 shirts between 11 am – 1 pm and had nearly 100 students stop by to learn more. Students were also given candy and a pocket Constitution to commemorate the day. Junior and organizer, Gretchen Thomas [pictured in the lower right photo] reflected, “Constitution day was a massive success that gave our Catamount community a chance to show their knowledge on a cornerstone of legislative literature that has shaped their understanding of American politics today. Each student amazed us with their ability to celebrate, understand, and represent their constitutional rights".

    Western Carolina University (N.C.),

    All four photos demonstrate the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CCESL) and the Student Democracy Coalition (SDC) Constitution Day event at Western Carolina University. Photo credits: Lane Perry, Jennifer Cooper, and Amanda Hanson

    State University of New York at Fredonia, submitted by Angela McGowan-Kirsch, assistant professor of communication and campus ADP coordinator

    Jennifer Wilson, deputy director for the League of Women Voters of New York State, delivered the keynote Constitution Day address, “ Your Map Matters: How Redistricting Impacts Everything in Your Life and How to Use Your Voice to Change It,” via Zoom for SUNY Fredonia. Redistricting is vital to us having a voice – it determines who appears on our ballots, where we vote, and equal representation.

    Given Jennifer's professional experience with the League of Women Voters New York State and educational background in public administration, she was well positioned to speak with the Fredonia campus community about redistricting. To emphasize the importance of redistricting on everyone's lives, Jennifer shared an example of redistricting's impact on a community of interest and taught those in attendance how to analyze our district lines. A highlight of the presentation was explaining how students can write and present an effective public comment. During this part of the presentation, students learned about a handy guide for giving testimony. 

    August 2021

    From Pat Stephens Williams, professor of human dimensions of natural resources at Stephen F. Austin State University (Texas)

    August 2021 Yellowstone

    Tonight, I am just inside of the Yellowstone arch, watching visitors point in awe at the elk grazing on the lawn of Mammoth Lodge. I cannot help but reflect on what has influenced me to be here, in this place, for yet another experience to recharge my teaching before yet another fall semester begins. My first experience with the Stewardship of Public Lands program was in 2005, and it was a transformational experience. The opportunity to discover and discuss the issues surrounding Yellowstone with local stakeholders and colleagues led me to reimagine my thinking, teaching, and learning of how my students might explore these same types of issues and solutions—not only of Yellowstone, but of all public lands and natural resources, regardless of agency affiliation or cultural or social differences.

    Since that first adventure, I have attended several times—learning more, absorbing new ideas. Much of my research has come out of those seminars and involves undergraduate and graduate students. Some years, we bring them out here, and other years, we do the work virtually. We have learned to tie the exploration of public lands to both humanities and natural science in ways that our students can take ownership of the guided discussions, research, and solutions. Each and every student in our program walks the process of thinking about issues, solutions, conflict management and how those may change over time, politics, and perspectives. That first trip with AASCU has led me to come back to this place once again and to give hundreds of students the opportunity to explore and understand how we are connected to and stewards of our public lands. 

    July 2021

    From Julie Lester, professor of political science at Middle Georgia State University

    July 2021 Yellowstone

    Participating in the Stewardship of Public Lands seminar at Yellowstone provided me with an opportunity to see the park from the lens of a teacher and scholar, not just a tourist. Prior to the seminar, I was familiar with many of the issues in the park and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem but didn’t fully understand their complex nature in a local context. Learning from scientists, naturalists, and other stakeholders in the classroom as well as through field experiences, the seminar fostered a deeper understanding that has enhanced my teaching and informed my research interests. In addition, the seminar provided a valuable opportunity to learn alongside faculty from a variety of academic disciplines at AASCU campuses nationwide. The Stewardship of Public Lands seminar has been one of the most rewarding (and fun!) professional development activities in my career.

    May 2021

    Submitted by Ashish Vaidya, president of Northern Kentucky University

    Springtime in Kentucky usually means March Madness and Derby days. However, we had something refreshingly new this spring—a bipartisan effort to expand voting rights. Last month, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed into law House Bill 574—which dramatically expands voting rights in what is still one of the most restrictive states in the United States. 

    As president of one of Kentucky’s public universities, I was delighted to see the commonwealth work in a bipartisan manner to reform its election laws. The bill passed 91-3 in the Kentucky State House of Representatives and 33-3 in the Kentucky State Senate before going to the governor’s desk. Given the legislative makeup in Kentucky, this meant that Republicans took the lead and Democrats, including the governor, supported the effort. 

    Aside from the importance of the legislation, the bill was also a breath of fresh air during a time of great division and quite the contrast to the partisan election reforms we are seeing in other states. In fact, this bill was developed by legislative sponsors in partnership with the bipartisan State Board of Elections; the bipartisan Kentucky County Clerks Association; and the Republican Secretary of State, Michael G. Adams.

    Voting is a right and a privilege we have as Americans, and not every place in the world has that option. I believe that democracy as a system of government has produced more desirable results for nations than any other form of government. This bill is an important step in solidifying that right for all and includes several important provisions such as no-excuse early voting for the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before the election. It also creates a permanent online portal to request absentee ballots and to track ballots once they have been submitted.

    Since 2002, Northern Kentucky University (NKU), through the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement, has been preparing the next generation of informed and engaged citizens for our democracy. Our “I Count Because I Vote” campaign provides an online guide for students on voting. We welcomed our freshmen to campus last fall with masks that said “VOTE”—a reminder of their right as 18-year-olds. Thanks to these efforts, NKU students register and vote at higher rates than our peer institutions. 

    Because we believe this cause is a priority in the community as well as on campus, NKU is an active partner in the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s “Get Out the Vote” initiative, which aims to make Northern Kentucky the top region in the state for voter turnout. And we are a partner with the public library districts in Boone, Campbell, and Kenton counties to host the Northern Kentucky Forum, designed to connect our community through public discourse on local issues. Many of our faculty and staff participate in Kids Voting Northern Kentucky, which encourages parents to bring their children with them to the polling place. There, the kids can vote in a mock election as their parents vote in the real one. Each election cycle, NKU history majors volunteer to tabulate the Kids Voting results.

    We are part of this cause nationally, too, through AASCU’s American Democracy Project and the Campus Election Engagement Project, two networks with a combined membership of more than 600 colleges and universities. Together, those represent a current and continuing commitment to civic education, and it is that commitment that deepens our celebration of HB 574.

    While much work remains, Kentucky’s bill represents great progress for the commonwealth and an example that bipartisanship is indeed possible in these fractious times. It is my hope that our state and all others continue the effort to expand and solidify voting rights for all citizens in the months and years ahead.

    April 2021

    Gordon State College (Ga.), submitted by Jessica Traylor, assistant professor of psychology

    At Gordon State College, we are taking a broad approach to preparing our students to be engaged citizens. We joined ADP in fall 2020 through the Global Civic Literacy project. The ADP resources, including World 101, Times Talks, and the Deliberative Dialogue Institute, have helped to strengthen and expand our efforts to provide our students with a unique experience. At Gordon, we seek to align these new resources within the framework of the Highlander EDGE, which provides our students with opportunities to become engaged innovators, dedicated scholars, gifted communicators, and ethical leaders.  

    During the fall semester, we expanded International Education Week by adding virtual options for engagement, including a faculty information session on World 101. Our students continued to learn about various cultures through a renewed focus on international virtual exchange, the exploration of domestic virtual exchange, and the incorporation of World 101 resources in several courses. We participated in several Times Talks and joined the ALL In Challenge. As a small college, it was wonderful to partner with other state colleges and universities through ADP and AASCU and to provide our students with additional engagement opportunities. 

    As the spring semester began, we implemented more ideas that developed from the initial fall engagement. Students from Gordon participated in a domestic virtual exchange assignment with students from York College. This collaboration involved four faculty members and nine courses across the two colleges. Because of the new engagement opportunities available to our students, some classes instituted a Civic & Community Engagement requirement, where students were expected to attend and reflect on several events outside of class. As part of this effort, we started a bimonthly campuswide discussion based on Flip Side News, which was modeled after the Times Talks. We also joined the Georgia ADP Caucus, Together Beyond November, and the Deliberative Dialogue Institute. To this date, we have held two deliberative dialogue sessions using issue guides from the National Issues Forums and plan to create our own issue guide in collaboration with our local African American Male Initiative.  

    While Gordon is a small college, we have taken advantage of the additional resources provided to us through our association with ADP. Our students benefit from the collective effort and wisdom of this group.

    March 2021

    Weber State University (Utah), submitted by Leah Murray, Brady Presidential Distinguished Professor in the Department of Political Science and Philosophy

    This year, the work of the American Democracy Project at Weber State University was moved into the Walker Institute of Politics & Public Service. With this new organizational structure, the work of civic engagement was institutionalized in a way that had not been seen on campus before, and the campus definitely improved its civic learning and engagement. 

    For the first time, even with a moratorium on face-to-face voter mobilization, we registered more than 1,100 students to vote in 21 states, 731 ballots were dropped in our on-campus ballot box, and dozens of student athletes volunteered with the local County Clerk's office to help them manage COVID-compliant in-person voting on Election Day. We had dozens of students and community members watching three debates—presidential, vice presidential, and Utah Congressional District 1—in virtual Debate Watches, using a Slack workspace for conversation. We hosted virtual events during National Voter Education Week, drawing dozens of students to learn about vote-by-mail in the state of Utah, voting for judicial retention, and how democracies solve collective problems.

    This spring semester, we had 95 community members sign up to take a weekly course called Citizen Academy, in which we learned about the role of government from each level: municipal, county, state, and federal. We also launched the Walker Civics Symposium, which tackles monthly issues of civics, including how Hill Air Force Base is important, Utah's economy, and how to rewrite the Weber State University Student Association Constitution.

    The American Democracy Project student leadership team has worked to promote civics, including getting local news coverage for our ballot box on campus and posting Instagram stories three times a week about women in politics for Women's History Month. Even though this year was hard, with 90% of our classes in virtual space, it was a very successful year for civic engagement on our campus.

    February 2021

    Tarleton State University (Member of the Texas A&M University System), submitted by Eric Morrow, dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts 

    Tarleton State began its ADP initiatives in 2016 after a visit to the Town Hall and Great Debate models at California State University, Chico. While adapting these models to our campus setting, we implemented additional ADP initiatives including Sense of Place, Digital Polarization, and Public Land Stewardship. Tarleton Town Hall is now in its fifth year, and Texan Debate is its fourth year. Combined with the other initiatives, approximately 2500 to 3000 students are in courses with a civic learning and democratic engagement focus. 

    Our most successful program to date has been our Tarleton Town Hall. Students enroll in federal and Texas government courses, each course having a capacity of 300 students. The program has been successful on a number of levels. Student completion rates with a C or higher have been 80–90% for four years. The major impact has been on retention. Data from the 2016 First Time In College (FTIC) cohort shows a 69.9% persistence to graduation in four years or retention into the fifth spring semester for Town Hall students compared to 45% for non-Town Hall. When comparing third spring retention across our 2016, 2017, and 2018 FTIC cohorts, the numbers are high: 75%, 68%, and 68%, compared to non-Town Hall retention at 45%, 47%, and 48%. This consistency is also visible in data on Hispanic/Latino students and first generation students. 

    This success is attributed to the civic learning and democratic engagement focus of the courses, which equips students to be engaged related to their degree and vocational plans, as well as on campus and with issues in their communities and beyond. In addition, the format of each week of the courses, emphasizes research, communication, peer engagement and learning, writing, and other academic soft skills that help students be more successful in advanced courses. With this consistency and the impact on retention and potentially on six-year graduation rates, Tarleton will scale up the Town Hall to 900 students in fall 2021 and 1,200 in spring 2021! 

    Georgia College, submitted by Steven Elliott-Gower, associate professor of political science

    Georgia College’s Honors Global Civic Literacy Residential Learning Community (RLC) began fall 2020 with 40 honors students, enrolled in two honors sections of Global Challenges First Year (GC1Y). These were first-semester students housed in the Honors Residential Hall (Bell Hall). The Housing and Advising offices were essential partners in identifying and enrolling students in this class.

    Our principal learning goals were to develop students’ critical thinking skills and advance their understanding of the world’s major regions and their knowledge of major global challenges. Our guide on this journey was Richard Haass’ The World: A Brief Introduction and the Council on Foreign Relations’ World 101 website. In our pre-COVID planning for this class, we included face-to-face (f2f) co-curricular activities in Bell Hall, including documentary films, role-playing simulations, and discussions of contemporary international events—all related to class content. It was going to be a lot of learning and perhaps a lot of fun.

    COVID, however, forced the class online in the fall and, along with it, the co-curricular activities. We ended up providing students a list of about 20 documentary films and asked them to write short reflection papers on four for course credit. While the co-curricular component was not all that we had wanted, our pre-/post-test results were encouraging: students scored 59% and 57% on the pre-test, and 83% and 86% on the post-test.

    Georgia College is discouraging f2f co- and extracurricular campus activities this semester. We are though continuing the Honors Global Civic Literacy RLC through Zoom “International Times Talks,” discussing student-selected New York Times articles related to previous course content. We shall restart this curricular and co-curricular cycle (hopefully f2f) in the fall but will add a section of  Global Challenges Second Year (GC2Y) in the spring, in which we will build the “civic” component of Global Civic Literacy upon a firm foundation of global literacy.

    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.