Heather Williams, Assistant Director for Leadership and Civic Engagement, Dalton State College
December 26, 2018
Being civic minded and democratically engaged is not something that happens instantaneously. The ideologies and concepts of democratic values are learned throughout a lifetime. These lessons can come through standing in line with your parents at the polls, watching presidential debates, discussing politics over dinner with a group of friends, or volunteering to serve meals at the homeless shelter over the Holidays. However, it is often hard for students to connect the dots and understand how these experiences intersect. It can also be difficult for students to understand the power, influence, and impact they have in their communities.
The question I would like to pose to our NASPA Community is how are your institutions intentionally aligning campus programming and initiatives to help students connect the dots and effectively infuse democratic values into their regular routines?
This year, our campus hosted a week of programming over Constitution Day themed around Voter Rights and Responsibilities. We intentionally stacked and layered programs so that they would build upon one another – helping to connect the dots. Three key programs included:
Pairing all of these events closely together created buzz on campus and served as a conversation starter for lots of students about the candidates and issues appearing on the ballots. Due to increased notification about the elections being distributed campus wide, we had a higher volume of students stopping by our office to ask questions about voter registration deadlines, asking for sample ballots, or wanting to discuss issues on the ballots for better understanding.
The primary lesson we have learned in the process of creating our campus’ inaugural Campus Action Plan and executing the Constitution Week programs is that it takes a village.
Coming from a one-person office responsible for way more than civic learning and democratic engagement programming, I cannot do this work on my own and you shouldn’t either. Building relationships with community partners and faculty from across campus has been invaluable to our efforts. These partnerships may be:
Faculty Members. Creating partnerships with faculty can be very rewarding. They understand their curriculum better than anyone and have the ability to infuse democratic values and concepts into that curriculum. They can also serve as advocates encouraging their students to attend events outside of the classroom. Examples of successful faculty partnerships include:
Community Agencies. How many times in a year do you receive calls form community agencies who want to setup a table on campus to connect with your students? Work with these agencies to build relationships and get their support to help make a larger impact when it really matters. Examples of successful community partnerships include:
As we reflect on all the things we have done over the past couple of months to increase civic learning and democratic engagement, we cannot help but wonder if it was enough. Could we have done more? Did we do enough to adequately prepare students? Did the programs we host make the impact we had hoped for?
We may not know the true impact of the work we are doing for months to come, but as we all continue to navigate and implement our institutional Campus Action Plans know that your hard work and dedication to this initiative is greatly appreciated and much needed.
Now it is time for each of you to share best practices and thoughts as you wrap up the semester. How are your institutions intentionally aligning campus programming and initiatives to help students connect the dots and effectively infuse democratic values into their regular routines?
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