American Democracy Project
Incorporating themes of civic citizenship and civic engagement in the
first college year.
- How can themes of citizenship and civic engagement
be built into orientation programs for first year college students?
Our group considered "orientation programs" to include summer orientation,
pre-semester orientation, and/or first semester freshmen seminars.
Students involved in such programs could:
How can a summer reading program be incorporated
into and strengthen the academic experience of first year students?
- Tour village/town civic buildings and attend local government
- Bring in student government representatives to talk to freshmen
- Offer a "freshman council" with representation elected from each
freshman seminar course
The most profound impact occurs when classroom instructors weave
the theme(s) of the summer reading throughout course curricula. However,
our group also felt that this was the most complex. One way to maximize
chances for success would be to utilize a campus learning/teaching
organization to offer opportunities for faculty to study best practices
and to brainstorm specific strategies for incorporating the reading.
Other suggestions included:
How can first year students' course schedules be linked
to create learning communities that focus on themes of citizenship
and civic engagement?
- Lectures throughout the semester.
- Freshman seminar instructors link book to some of the topics they
- Writing award for first-year student essays on the book.
- Author appearing on campus for lecture and book signing.
- Cultural events connected with book theme.
- Critiques from faculty included in academic literature sent to
freshmen prior to first semester.
- Student and faculty reactions to book in student newspaper.
- Selections and themes from book included in locally developed
How can faculty who teach first year students be assisted
in infusing themes of citizenship and civic engagement in courses
for first year students?
- Learning community's courses focused on particular themes - students
choose the theme that suits them.
- Integrating seminars.
- Summer readings.
- Mock conventions.
- Campus reflections on presidential debates.
How can residence life and other student affairs
professionals be teamed with faculty to strengthen the experience
of first year students?
- Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (or campus equivalent)
could hold workshops on ways to incorporate themes into their classes.
- Orientation for new faculty could include information on infusing
- Campuses could set up a reward system for faculty who effectively
incorporated these themes.
How can extra-classroom events (speakers, arts and
cultural events, etc.) be developed to reinforce and complement themes
of citizenship and civic engagement during the first college year?
- Faculty-in-residence programs.
- Broad campus representation on committees dedicated to the needs
of first year students.
- First year column in student newspaper.
- Cultural events tied to summer reading.
- Art faculty develop ways to reinforce themes.
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Incorporating themes of citizenship and civic engagement in General
- Representatives from various SUNY institutions were present for
the discussion, including faculty from Brockport, Buffalo State, Geneseo,
Participants reviewed the SUNY Trustees' student learning outcomes
for General Education in: Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences,
American History, Western Civilization, Other World Civilizations, Humanities,
Arts, Foreign Languages, Written and Oral Communication, Critical Thinking,
and Information Management.
- What student learning outcomes
concerning citizenship and civic engagement are most appropriately
sought via a General Education program?
The participants felt that the Project's concern for American democracy
and civic engagement fit naturally into courses in American History,
Western Civilization and Other Civilizations, and could be included
as well in courses in other areas that attempt to teach critical thinking
skills. It was felt there should no new "Civic Engagement" requirement
as such; instead the focus should be suffused within existing coursework
across the curriculum (as we do with writing, critical thinking, etc.).
It was noted that some disciplines have a service component that
must be met for departmental accreditation. This might be a
more useful way to address civic engagement concerns than by adding
a new general education requirement.
Some participants expressed a concern that civic engagement is a
set of dispositions (not just skills and knowledge sets). This places
faculty in the unusual position of assessing the moral attitudes of
students. Others felt that, on the contrary, we already promote certain
moral values (e.g., honesty, doing one's one work, etc.). Furthermore,
all we can judge is the outward manifestations of knowledge and skills.
It is possible that students may engage in activities or submit papers
that give professors what the students think the faculty are seeking
and still be civically disengaged when they graduate. One can never
judge a student's disposition, but one can assess how the student
analyzes issues and how actively engaged the student is when here.
Participants agreed that an approach across the curriculum was more
likely to be successful than a one-time requirement that they could
"get out of the way." Use of the SUNY Learning Network (SLN) was
suggested as one tool to encourage engagement with students.
SLN can be used to further discussion on many issues in a variety
of disciplines, but for some students technology-enabled discussion
can be less threatening than putting oneself forward in a classroom.
By analogy this would also apply to ANGEL-based discussions.
- Do themes of citizenship and civic engagement "compete"
with other goals and objectives of the General Education program?
If themes of citizenship and civic engagement are
embedded in General Education programs, how can these themes be carried
over into the major and minor?
- Not discussed due to time constraints.
Where would a focus on themes of citizenship and civic
engagement "fit" within SUNY Trustees student learning outcomes for
General Education programs?
- Not discussed due to time constraints.
How could student learning outcomes on citizenship
and civic engagement within a General Education Program be most effectively
- Not discussed due to time constraints.
Much discussion centered on the impact on students' lives. Curricular
issues and service opportunities should not be shaped by faculty expectations,
but by students' own attitudes and experiences. For example, many
of our students are older, divorced or single parents. Many may be
civically engaged now or have been in the past. Their experiences
with church/mosque/synagogue activities, service organizations, community
organizations, etc. should be taken into account. New service opportunities
should be realistic, not imposing undue burdens.
It was also felt that curricular discussions and service opportunities
should be part of a whole package. Where do the civic engagement opportunities
connect with the student's own educational goals and future ambitions?
All should be integrated.
The final discussion topic centered on how the concern for civic
engagement impacted Brockport faculty. The argument was made that
some faculty might not be promoted from Associate Professor to Full
Professor if they are known to be civically engaged. If the College
is serious in its support for these values, it should eliminate
systemic disincentives for faculty who themselves are civically engaged
(i.e., the value of civic engagement must be a positive component
in promotion and tenure).
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Professional development programs, recognition and rewards to foster
faculty interest and involvement in the goals of the American Democracy
- With numerous and competing demands on faculty
time, how can we encourage and recruit faculty involvement in the
work of the American Democracy Project?
- The majority of the discussion was centered on a question that
had been raised earlier in the day. That is, how does a department
chair or other administrator respond to a faculty member who, when
asked to incorporate the goals of the American Democracy Project
into his/her teaching, scholarship, service, etc., asks what he/she
should give up to do so. There are only 24 hours in a day, and most
faculty already have those 24 hours well filled. What are they expected
to give up to take on this new commitment/responsibility?
- Implicit in such a question is the assumption that a commitment
to the American Democracy Project will require time and effort above
and beyond the time and effort already being invested in one's professional
life. Most of the issues discussed can be described in one of two
categories, those for which this assumption was accepted as correct,
and those for which this assumption was substantially rejected.
- If the assumption is accepted as correct, it was generally agreed
that faculty would not be likely to incorporate the goals of the
project unless significant rewards were provided. These do not have
to be financial rewards, although they certainly could be. Many
of the rewards for which faculty strive are less tangible. For example,
in some disciplines faculty scholarship could be directed toward
the project, with the concomitant rewards being publication, scholarly
prestige, etc. The integration of project goals into the classroom
could lead to recognition for innovative teaching. Public service
activities could be given weight equal to or greater than university
and departmental service in annual reviews of performance (as well
as in consideration for the more tangible rewards connected with
discretionary salary increases). Opportunities to work with students,
colleagues from other departments, members of the community, etc.
can in themselves be rewarding and pleasurable social experiences.
- Still, the fact remains that there are only 24 hours in a day,
and many faculty may feel that they simply do not have the additional
time or energy necessary to commit significantly to project goals.
In some cases, it may be necessary for the institution to provide
release time for course development, service project development,
etc., especially in cases where such activities consume large amounts
of time and effort. And, of course, there must be sufficient infrastructure
(e.g., through the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching)
to provide necessary support for such projects.
- A more productive route may be to reject, in whole or at least
in part, the assumption that commitment to the American Democracy
Project necessarily requires the investment of significant additional
time and/or energy. That is, faculty can be encouraged to embed,
within activities in which they already engage, activities and experiences
that are consistent with the goals of the project.
- For example, course revision, updating, reorganization, etc.,
are activities in which any good instructor engages routinely. If
some of those revisions involve activities, ideas, etc. that are
consistent with the project, the effort they would require would
be redirected effort rather than additional effort. With
a little imagination it should be possible to find ways to incorporate
project goals into just about any course, from fine arts to physics.
Instructors who assign readings from journals, newspapers, books
other than textbooks, etc., could consider making a few of those
assignments consistent with project goals. Faculty who require student
projects might consider making some of those projects consistent
with project goals. That does not imply that major course changes
would be necessary, or that major portions of a course should be
devoted to such goals (although they could be if that were the desire
of the instructor). The success of the project is more likely to
result from an accretion of small contributions than an avalanche
of large ones. Indeed, in many cases faculty may discover that they
already are engaging in classroom and other activities consistent
with the goals of the American Democracy Project, activities that
they can expand, or at least highlight, in their everyday work.
- The notion of embedding project goals in what one already does
is not limited, of course, to the classroom. A similar mindset can
apply to scholarly activities, general service activities (within
and outside the institution), etc.
- Of the two points of view described above, the first assuming
that commitment to the project will require significant extra effort,
and the second rejecting this assumption, the latter seems more
likely to be effective in convincing faculty to become involved.
The following questions were not discussed due to time constraints
although elements of them are addressed above:
What are the most effective strategies to
inform faculty about the work of the American Democracy Project and
to encourage their active involvement?
In what ways would a multi-campus collaboration
contribute to faculty interest and involvement, or does this add a
layer of complexity that discourages faculty?
What role should a faculty development center
(e.g., Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching) play in fostering
faculty involvement in the campus ADP program? Are there more effective
organizational locations for this work? (e.g., existing offices of
service learning, outreach, social responsibility centers, or others).
What are the most meaningful ways to recognize,
celebrate and reward faculty who energetically and effectively provide
leadership for this effort as well as those who directly contribute
to fostering themes of citizenship and civic engagement among students?
How is the concept of scholarship changing
in ways that encourage greater engagement with the local community?
How might the role of service by faculty
be re-conceptualized to include community service?
A few additional points emerged in the course of the discussion:
- There was concern expressed that some faculty may not themselves
be sufficiently informed about politics, government, community needs,
etc. (or be personally sufficiently committed to them) to be effective
at advancing these goals among students.
- Consistent with the above concern was the conviction that most
faculty do not currently know very much about the American Democracy
Project. It seems clear that convincing them to support the project
at any level will require that they be fully informed about it.
- Adjunct faculty members must somehow be included in the project,
and faculty development activities for them may well be significantly
different from those directed toward full-time faculty.
- There must be no attempt to force any faculty member to participate
in this project. Such not only would increase the likelihood that
faculty efforts would be mechanical and false, but probably would
be antithetical to the underlying philosophy and values of the American
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The 2004 presidential election and citizenship education.
- How can we capitalize on the 2004 national election
to focus students' attention on citizenship and civic engagement?
What steps should be taken to insure that a focus
on the election remains nonpartisan, balanced and fair?
- Great opportunity to educate students regarding the importance
of participation and the nature of the political process.
- Begin by collecting data regarding our students and their levels
of participation through the annual student opinion survey, the
NSSE and a special look at asking a series of questions that would
parallel those in the recent Pew Foundation report. The latter identified
specific issues and established national norms against which our
students could be measured.
- Through pieces in the Stylus and panels, we could address
these issues using political partisans (representatives of the parties),
faculty and other students.
- Use Angel as a repository of position papers provided by the political
parties on a series of issues.
- Construct at least one panel of students who would look to the
issues that most concern them, as opposed to the issues identified
by the political process.
- Use service learning opportunities in the political process for
After November 2, how can the election continue to
be used to education students about themes of citizenship and engagement?
- Not every piece needs fit the definition, for the nature of American
politics is partisan, unbalanced and anything but fair. But, the
goal of the campus effort is education about both the process of
participatory politics and the positions contemporary politicians
- Hence, the program as a whole should be balanced and fair, representing
the various positions honestly.
What special events could be developed to foster voter
interest and understanding?
- Beginning on election night, have faculty at a number of locations
on campus to watch the election results with students, providing
context as the returns come in and results are tracked.
- Post election analysis (a panel?) that examined the issues that
dominated the election, especially in comparison to the issues that
18 - 21 year olds most cared about. In other words, "Did the candidates
care about you?"
How can civil discourse and civil listening be developed?
- See panels, speeches, etc. above.
What are the best voter education/registration strategies?
- The panels will themselves be intentional models of civil discourse,
rather than the current tendency on mass media toward competing
- Present in smaller groups, in residence halls, and in more informal
settings, such as the Fireside Lounge, with relaxed moderator controlling
- See above for education. For registration, use the Student Union
this spring to ensure that students are aware of the process of
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The Campus culture, citizenship and civic engagement.
- What are the most direct "signs" that a campus values
citizenship and civic engagement? Where are these signs to be found?
What role and activities should the College president,
provost, and others play to reinforce and encourage the campus focus
on themes of citizenship and civic engagement?
- Student and faculty leadership ceremonies and awards. There is
a new SUNY Chancellor's Award for Service. Noted that we should
emphasis more than just service - should be expanded to recognizing
What events or public gatherings best reinforce the
themes of citizenship and civic engagement of the American Democracy
How can themes of citizenship and civic engagement
be integrated in the college's student recruitment, marketing and
public relations strategies?
- Suggested the SUNY Chancellor should make this a priority also
with campuses. Visibility is important - for example there is a
person at Systems Administration responsible for International Education.
To prioritize civic engagement similar visibility is important.
- President on each campus is central to communicating the importance
of the issue.
What rewards and recognitions could be developed
or redesigned to emphasize civic engagement?
- We have traditionally emphasized value of higher education by
focusing on the monetary reward in future careers. We should broaden/shift
this to also focus on preparing students to be good citizens and
what that means. Noted that a local private college (St. John Fisher)
has successfully developed such a marketing campaign.
- We are fighting a culture that emphasizes isolation and independence.
We must acknowledge that and address it. Remember that many of our
incoming students have already participated in service learning
activities in high school but this has not extended to true civic
engagement. Our task to take them to the next step.
- Many of our students are inherently altruistic as evidenced by
the fact that many go into service professions such as teaching,
social work, criminal justice, nursing, etc. that are not high paying
but are of significant importance to society. We need to connect
this with civic engagement and then they can also train those the
- See response to a. above. Same as in number one as to honors and
- Important to broaden the concept of how faculty can be involved
by appealing to faculty intellectually. Not all faculty are interested
in service learning. SUNY Plattsburgh has a FISPE grant that is
effectively doing this with only a modest investment of approximately
$20,000 a year. They provide a 2-course release per year for 3 faculty
who develop courses with civic engagement infused in them. This
has been going on for a few years and now they have approximately
30 faculty who have done this. Creates a broad impact for a modest
- SUNY Oneonta has a Center for Social Responsibility that employs
3 works study students a year who also are learning first-hand about
civic engagement and transmitting that information to their peers.
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Assessment of learning and progress in citizenship and civic engagement.
- How can a campus American Democracy Project planning
committee approach the issue of assessing outcomes?
What are the appropriate and relevant goals of campus
involvement in the American Democracy Project? Are these goals for
the institution or for its students?
How are the outcomes of the American Democracy Project
on any individual campus measurable? Are these academic outcomes or
What might constitute observable benchmarks that
can be used to chart progress in the American Democracy Project? At
what point can a campus decide whether its involvement in the American
Democracy Project has been a 'success'? What is a realistic timeframe
for a campus's involvement in the work of the American Democracy Project?
What effects' of a college's focus on the themes
of citizenship and civic engagement might be expected to produce 'results'
in student during the undergraduate years, or after graduation? What
measures of alumni activity would indicate continuing 'success' of
What existing assessment measures are available to
evaluate civic engagement? What new assessment mechanisms could be
used or developed for campuses?
- The impact of the American Democracy Project, like all assessment,
must begin with carefully defined learning outcomes related to skills,
knowledge, and values. The ADP has many possible outcomes. Dr. Mehaffy’s
plenary presentation included a rather inclusive list of potential
outcomes of the project. Institutions need a process for selecting
the outcomes for ADP that are most important and relavent to the
- Standard methods such as surveys both local and national, focus
groups, and course-embedded assessments are only a few types of
assessments that can be employed to evaluate the success of the
- The assessment discussion group generated a number of issues that
merit further discussion as the ADP proceeds – questions of quantity
vs. quality, short-term vs. long-term effects, changes in attitudes
vs. changes in behaviors.
- Assessment of ADP requires the development of a systemic assessment
structure that can deal with issues such as choosing outcomes, assessment
methods, and assigns responsibility for carrying out the chosen
assessments and analyzing the data.
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Service learning and civic engagement.
- Where are the opportunities for service learning in
the curriculum? In the co-curriculum? In student organizations and
What is the optimal structure for service learning
to assure the service, learning, and civic reflection each occur?
- Our group felt that service learning could really encompass all
aspects of campus life. The comment made was why aren't there opportunities
for service learning? One concerned expressed was the false perception
that service learning was additional work for faculty and staff.
In reality, service learning is a natural fit with almost any course,
club and Greek organization.
What are the best resources that can be utilized to
increase an understanding of service learning in the disciplines?
- Service learning to be successful must be integrated throughout
the institution and supported by the administration. In addition,
having a central resource person or office to train faculty members
(similar to CELT) would be beneficial. The majority of our group
felt that service learning should not be mandatory with the exception
as a requirement in individual courses. Given the importance of
the relationships with community agencies and members mandating
service could backfire and jeopardize the College's external relationships.
What assessment strategies can be used in service
learning to assure a connection to civic engagement outcomes?
- Long-term relationships (existing or ones that are developed
through service learning) with agencies are the best resource for
service learning. For example, by tapping into the relationships
of agencies that currently utilize field placements or internships
through social work, nursing, education, recreation and other departments
we can increase an understanding of service learning.
- Learning outcomes, meeting real community needs, feedback from
the community were all discussed as potential assessment strategies.
Also, one person noted that she looks for an impact or change within
the individual student and their relationships / participation in
society. Everyone agreed that reflective journaling and group discussions
were key components to the assessment of learning strategies. Last,
one faculty member shared her assessment questions that students
answer after participating in a service learning experience. They
- What are the legal, ethical, political issues for a community?
- What are the legal, ethical, political issues for an individual?
- What did you learn from the experience (highs and lows)?
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Incorporating themes of citizenship and civic engagement in co-curricular
activities and programs.
- How can a campus's student newspaper and student
government contribute to and reinforce the themes of citizenship and
How can campus life programming be integrated with
the themes of citizenship and civic engagement?
- Student newspapers provide information for 2004 election on "getting
out to vote" and related issues.
- Sponsoring speakers.
- Sponsoring debates - having faculty assign to students as part
of class. Having faculty assist in production.
- Offering participation in or attendance at events as for credit.
- Needs to a continual effort - not just a one time deal - make
ties with community.
- Should we have a civic engagement "competency"?
- How do we change the mindset and institute long-term change? Cultural
change? What role does the advisor play? The institution?
- Institution needs to project the values inherent in civic engagement.
Incorporating engagement in curriculum. Connecting the issues -
connecting historical piece with contemporary. Lecture is passive
engagement - should do active engagement.
How can the college's arts and cultural affairs events
program be integrated with the themes of citizenship and civic engagement?
- Bringing in speakers - e.g., take advantage of Election Year.
- Developing opportunities to discuss important ideas "Issues of
- Issues propel activism: civic engagement.
- Incorporating civic engagement opportunities into certain already
existing opportunities (e.g., SUNY Brockport's Oh, the Places We
- Component of requiring participation - at least in the beginning.
What roles can residence halls play in advancing the
themes of citizenship and civic engagement?
What roles can the athletics program as well as Greek
and non-Greek student organizations play in advancing the themes of
citizenship and civic engagement?
- Importance of making connections between why students, faculty,
staff should attend programs: Opportunities to discuss the importance
of programs they are attending and what was gotten out of them.
- Requirements in/on syllabus.
- Bringing in artists and forming partnerships with community members
- offering internships, class credit.
- College sponsored competition that could envelope different issues.
(Essay contest with summer reading - free competition.)
- Must develop a deliberate strategic plan and organizational structure.
Civic engagement activity should be part of Academic Convocation.
- Interest is not so much in the product…as in the process.
- Need to flood these values in all elements of the campus. Need
to get/keep students involved in the civic engagement mindset. Faculty,
staff, and students would lead by example.
- Assisting a community service project idea (e.g., game/event a
portion of the proceeds goes to a community service project or idea).
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Incorporating themes of citizenship and civic engagement through working
in/with the community.
- What role might the community play in the design
of the American Democracy Project on our campus?
What opportunities exist for engagement with the community
in this project beyond service learning (e.g., a joint voter registration
drive with the League of Women Voters)?
- This depends on the interests of the community. We would need
to have dialogue about what they want.
- Community audit of civic engagement as a way to find out what
- Identify how we can help the community.
- Build on connections to historic underpinnings.
What agencies or organizations might be campus partners
(e.g., working with Rotary International on the world wide eradication
- Connections to Community Colleges.
- Campus wide leadership for a founded cause (e.g., Special Olympics).
- Identify alumni who are connected to community agencies.
- Build bridges between faculty and community.
- Faculty service to specific community agencies. Student research
- Cinema Festival - on democratic themes.
- Speakers series about democracy - professors to schools - sense
- Donations of Time Magazine to schools - could be linked to faculty/student
involvement in schools growing out students.
What characterizes a win/win situation for the campus
and for the campus partner in a successful relationship that embraces
- Service groups - Lions Club, Rotary (on & off campus).
- Camp Good Days and Happy Times.
- Cool Kids on Campus
- Political clubs to connect to local political groups.
- Members of groups who might be involved in political action -
Migrant Education Program.
- Community Colleges
- City/County Governments
- To help get the institution's word out about core values, practices
and community interest - build a sense of partnership.
- Explore what can be done to promote a more engaged voting population?
- active citizens who care about community and national/international
- Deepen understanding of the complexity of democracy and emphasize
the safeguards that are present to assure the rights of the minority.
- Better connections between the college and community including
recognizing historical ties.
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