The Unique Nature of Our CLDE Meeting

Craig Berger Assistant Director, Community Engaged Learning, Kent State University

May 23, 2019

As we approach our gathering in Fort Lauderdale, I am thinking about the unique nature of our CLDE meeting and the aspects of the conference that make CLDE noteworthy and valuable for educators and organizations.

Here are a few I have compiled:

  • CLDE harnesses the potential energy that accompanies the convening of like-minded people. The excitement of reconnecting with old friends and visiting new places can often lead us to miss the inherent power in the very act of simultaneously gathering in the same place for several days. Whether it takes the form of engaging in a public deliberation during a plenary session or finding time work in smaller groups to advance various initiatives, I value that the CLDE meeting takes advantage of the obvious yet overlooked benefit of conferences. While attendees do treasure the opportunity to catch up with each other, I do notice an urgency to CLDE discussions, recognizing the considerable task of moving our institutions toward the thriving democracy we seek.
  • CLDE convenes an increasingly diverse set of institutional roles. Each year, faculty, student affairs professionals, senior campus administrators, students, and community partners share experiences and insights, engage in valuable discussions, and strategize how to strengthen our work over the next year, both nationally and at our home institutions and communities. The wide array of roles present at CLDE underscores the call made in A Crucible Moment (2012) to “[construct] environments where education for democracy and civic responsibility is pervasive, not partial; central, not peripheral.”[1] Having so many different roles represented at the gathering makes for substantive, insightful, and realistic conference conversations, and, for those institutions who bring multi-role delegations, it provides opportunities for invaluable team-building and rapport-building that travels home following the meeting.
  • CLDE incorporates a broad collection of work. Not only do attendees hold different institutional roles, but the work discussed at the conference is similarly disparate, spanning from voter engagement initiatives to community engaged scholarship, and from democratic organizing and culture-building to deliberative dialogues. As we work to build a thriving democracy, each of these platforms plays an important role. The breadth of work represented at CLDE not only allows for many attendees to identify an entry-point in the conversation, but it also provides for a fantastic learning experience and generates new insights that can shape the upcoming year’s work.

As we find ourselves in difficult times for our democracy, I hope you will join us in Florida next month. We will gather together as people possessing different institutional roles, focusing on different aspects of civic learning and democratic engagement, but also as people who share a passion for co-creating our institutions and communities. Join the conversation and action as we redouble our efforts to build a future in which we all can thrive.

[1] The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. 2012. A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities, p. 2. 

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