In this turbulent and dynamic century, our nation’s diverse democracy and interdependent global community require a more informed, engaged, and socially responsible citizenry. Both educators and employers agree that personal and social responsibility should be core elements of a 21st century college education if our world is to thrive. Currently such learning is optional for some college students rather than expected of all. A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future (2012) describes what a civic-minded institution looks like, how campuses can advance this vision across domains, and what pathways have already been forged by pioneering campuses. Civic Prompts (2015) shows how every discipline can do its part.
With funding from the Endeavor Foundation, AAC&U has launched a new project, Civic Prompts: Civic Learning in the Major by Design to highlight different departmental and disciplinary designs that incorporate learning for civic and social responsibility into the requirements and pedagogy of a student’s major or area of specialized study. With a broad invitation to colleges and universities, AAC&U is asking colleges and universities to submit exemplary departments that illustrate how the practice of applying a civic lens can be embedded as a routine way of preparing students in their majors. Ten to fifteen institutions will be featured in a special theme-focused issue of Peer Review and others will be designated as resources on AAC&U’s website. The American Political Science Association offers a pioneering disciplinary model with its volume, Teaching Civic Engagement: From Student to Active Citizen.
Through a National Endowment for the Humanities initiative, AAC&U partnered with The Democracy Commitment on a project called Citizenship Under Siege. In that grant seven participating community colleges explored in their local contexts what it means to experience citizenship as partial, denied, or fully acknowledged. To expand campus expertise on how to hold constructive conversations about contentious issues and how to institute practices in and out of the classroom that foster engagement across difference, the project produced three webinars called Clashes Over Citizenship: Promoting Listening, Learning, and Engagement. More on the webinars and links to the archived presentations and resources can be found here. Featuring the efforts of project participants and educators engaged in similar work, the Citizenship Under Siege Humanities in the Public Square issue of Diversity & Democracy illustrates the potential of the humanities to illuminate issues of identity and belonging.
Deepening civic and social responsibility can be fostered by community-based service and research, civic pedagogies and collective civic problem-solving, global learning focused on real-world challenges, diversity programs that promote learning across differences, integration of student and academic affairs, and advancing collaborative, generative partnerships that teach students how systems work and can be changed.
Democratic engagement also requires students’ political participation as the special issue of Diversity & Democracy suggests in Student and Institutional Engagement in Political Life. Through projects, publications, and collaborations, AAC&U builds national awareness of civic learning and social responsibility so essential for life, work, and citizenship.