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Making Democracy Work: Civic Learning and Civic Engagement in Higher Education

May 28 @ 8:15 am - 3:00 pm

**This is NOT an Ohio Campus Compact event. For more information please visit the link in this post.**

About

“Democracy has to be born anew every generation,” said John Dewey just over 100 years ago, “and education is its midwife.” Given the competing priorities that pull at each of our institutions, how do we claim civic education as a core part of our academic mission? How do we build the learning opportunities—in our classrooms and in our communities—that enable students to develop the knowledge, the skills, and the dispositions and motivations they need to participate effectively in civic life? This conference—the fifth annual conference on civic learning and engagement sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education and co-sponsored for the second time by Campus Compact for Southern New England—offers faculty and staff from colleges and universities across southern New England the opportunity to explore with peers how we can cultivate in our students the habits of democracy.

For more information, please contact Dr. John Reiff, DHE Director of Civic Learning and Engagement, at jreiff {at} bhe.mass(.)edu.

Schedule

8:15 AM: Registration and Continental Breakfast

9:00 AM: Welcome

  • Richard S. Lapidus, President, Fitchburg State University
  • Matt Farley, Regional Director, Campus Compact for Southern New England
  • Pat Marshall, Deputy Commissioner for Academic Affairs and Student Success, DHE
  • State Senator Harriette Chandler (D-First Worcester)
  • Overview of the day and introduction of keynote speaker: John Reiff

9:30 AM: Keynote Presentation – Cultivating Democratic Habits for Learning, Work, and Life

Caryn McTighe Musil, Association of American Colleges and Universities

Fostering democratic habits in anti-democratic times is both risky and going against the latest tide in the US and globally. In a recent survey, only 30% of Americans born in the 1980s believe living in a democracy is essential as opposed to 72% of those born in the 1930s. However, Toni Morrison has argued that higher education should take on the mantle courageously and rigorously and be the “servant and preserver of deeper democratic practices,” “interrogator of more and more complex ethical problems,” and “guardian of wider freedoms.” Meanwhile, Massachusetts has led the nation by expecting education for civic learning and civic engagement will be an outcome of public colleges in its state. How do colleges move from embracing a set of academic expectations to fostering democratic habits that inform how students learn in and out of class, on and off the campus, as well as how they act in their personal and public lives and in their workplaces? What is meant by democratic habits anyway and how can they be fostered in a diverse and globally connected democracy like ours, especially by faculty?


10:30 AM: Break

10:40 AM: Table Discussions

Participants will discuss the question: How do the themes introduced in the keynote play out at your institution?

11:40 AM: Lunch

12:30 PM: Breakout Session I

  • A Deeper Dive into Designs for Democratic Habits (Caryn McTighe Musil, Association of American Colleges and Universities)
    This session will extend the plenary focus with time for posing questions or sharing examples about proven and emerging curricular and pedagogical designs that help students hone democratic habits for learning across differences and for life in a multicultural and still unequal world. In addition, this session will also share some disciplinary models that are being crafted as a lattice of courses and experiences across a students’ major, often culminating in a capstone experience in the major. These capstones require students to address public problems with multiple stakeholders, be an active citizen professional as part of their work identity, or apply democratic knowledge, values, and skills as public advocates for a more just democratic society.
  • Dialogue as a Practice of Democracy: Teaching Our Students (and Ourselves) to Communicate Across Difference (Kerri Leyda Nicoll, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts)
    In an increasingly divided society, the ability to engage in dialogue with people who view the world in different ways is crucial to our students’ successful participation in civic life. This workshop will introduce foundational principles of dialogue and provide resources for incorporating dialogue into curricular and co-curricular programs. Participants will practice dialogue skills and leave with a toolkit for use in a variety of campus and community settings.
  • Getting Beyond the Echo Chamber: How Students Can Engage Critically with Conflicting Sources about the Trouble We’re In and What We Need to Do (Adam Gismondi, Institute for Democracy in Higher Education, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University, and Cindy Vincent, Salem State University)
    Democracy depends on the members of society taking in the views of those who differ from them and seeking to find common ground, but many of us spend most of our time in “echo chambers” that simply amplify the views we already hold—and often those echo chambers amplify mis-information or dis-information. As teachers, how can we help our students develop a critical mindset that pulls them out of their echo chambers and into critical inquiry about pressing social issues—exploring alternate explanations for problems we face, weighing the evidence behind those explanations, and using this inquiry to decide on appropriate actions?
  • “Today’s Vote” on Campus: How Simulations Can Teach and Engage(Caroline Angel Burke, Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate) 
    Simulation programs are at the heart of civics learning and engagement at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, where participants learn about public policy topics, and the challenges of effective representation, by role playing a Senator and making decisions about current legislation. How might college campuses take these programmatic tools and apply them in curricular and co-curricular contexts? What policy topics are resonating with our students, and how can we implement role play activities to structure conversation around them? In collaboration with Campus Compact and five colleges and universities, the Kennedy Institute has spent this semester finding out. This workshop will feature an example of a Today’s Vote program, facilitated by some of the project leads from our college partners, and a discussion around how and where you can implement this program with your own students.
  • Citizen Science: Using Scientific Inquiry to Inform Public Policy-Making (Steven Winters, Holyoke Community College; Jamie Remilliard, Worcester State University; Jackie Burmeister, City of Worcester; Moderated by Mark Wagner, Worcester State University)
    How can students in the sciences use their disciplines to build democracy? This session will explore two ways that students are learning to use science to inform government about environmental issues: 1) At Holyoke Community College and Worcester State University, students and faculty together are monitoring the quality of water in the waterways that go through (or under) the campus and reporting their findings to local stakeholders and state government. 2) At Worcester State University, students and faculty are working with the City of Worcester’s first Blue Spaces Resource Director, Jacquelyn Burmeister, studying the impact of Nuisance cyanobacteria and algal blooms, both ecological and public health concerns. In both examples, students are using science to find out about the natural world—and are also learning how to use their new scientific knowledge to shape governmental decisions.

1:30 PM: Break

1:40 PM: Breakout Session II

  • Naming and Framing Democratic Engagement as a Top Priority of Community Colleges (Verdis Robinson, Campus Compact)
    Every community college holds central 3 major priorities: 1) Workforce and economic development, 2) Retention and completion, and 3) Equity. If the champions of democratic engagement in community colleges argue for it strictly on its own merits, as an expression of the historic mission of higher education to nurture democracy, it may find a place within the institution, but it will rarely be large in reach or resources—perhaps especially in a time like this, when democracy is under attack. However, if the champions of civic engagement also successfully frame it as a powerful way to reach each of those three fundamental priorities for community colleges, administrative leaders can be led to give it much more support. This session will explore how advocates of democratic engagement in community colleges can tap into the support given to these other three major priorities.
  • Dialogue as a Practice of Democracy: Teaching Our Students (and Ourselves) to Communicate Across Difference (Kerri Nicoll, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts) ***Repeat from first break-out round
    In an increasingly divided society, the ability to engage in dialogue with people who view the world in different ways is crucial to our students’ successful participation in civic life. This workshop will introduce foundational principles of dialogue and provide resources for incorporating dialogue into curricular and co-curricular programs. Participants will practice dialogue skills and leave with a toolkit for use in a variety of campus and community settings.
  • Getting Beyond the Echo Chamber: How Students Can Engage Critically with Conflicting Sources about the Trouble We’re In and What We Need to Do (Adam Gismondi, Institute for Democracy in Higher Education, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, Tufts University, and Cindy Vincent, Salem State University) ***Repeat from first break-out round
    Democracy depends on the members of society taking in the views of those who differ from them and seeking to find common ground, but many of us spend most of our time in “echo chambers” that simply amplify the views we already hold—and often those echo chambers amplify mis-information or dis-information. As teachers, how can we help our students develop a critical mindset that pulls them out of their echo chambers and into critical inquiry about pressing social issues—exploring alternate explanations for problems we face, weighing the evidence behind those explanations, and using this inquiry to decide on appropriate actions?
  • “Today’s Vote” on Campus: How Simulations Can Teach and Engage(Caroline Angel Burke, Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate) 
    Simulation programs are at the heart of civics learning and engagement at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, where participants learn about public policy topics, and the challenges of effective representation, by role playing a Senator and making decisions about current legislation. How might college campuses take these programmatic tools and apply them in curricular and co-curricular contexts? What policy topics are resonating with our students, and how can we implement role play activities to structure conversation around them? In collaboration with Campus Compact and five colleges and universities, the Kennedy Institute has spent this semester finding out. This workshop will feature an example of a Today’s Vote program, facilitated by some of the project leads from our college partners, and a discussion around how and where you can implement this program with your own students.

2:40 PM: Move to Concluding Session

2:45 PM: Concluding Session

3:00 PM: Adjourn

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