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Press Room

For Immediate Release

Contact:
Debra Humphreys, Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs
202-387-3760, ext. 422
Humphreys@aacu.org

AAC&U To Help Develop National Action Plan for Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement in College

Project Led by Global Perspective Institute Will Advise U.S. Department of Education on Advancing Higher Education’s Leadership in Promoting Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement as Central Aims of Higher Education

Washington, D.C.—October 20, 2010—The Association of American Colleges and Universities announced today that it has been named as a subject expert to work with the Global Perspective Institute (GPI) on a civic initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.  Through a sub-contract from GPI, AAC&U will help develop – through national dialogues and a guiding Coordinating Committee – a set of recommendations for a national action plan to increase the visibility and impact of higher education’s efforts to advance students’ civic learning and democratic engagement.

The initiative will involve a broad array of educators, leaders, and organizations that already are active in fostering civic engagement and learning, at home and abroad. Taking stock of where civic and democratic learning stands today, GPI will explore the kinds of learning that provide a strong twenty-first century foundation for knowledgeable and responsible citizenship in a diverse and interdependent world.

“I am pleased to be a part of this initiative sponsored by the Department of Education,” said Larry Braskamp, president of the Global Perspective Institute.  “Civic learning and democratic engagements are integral parts of holistic student development, especially since students today will increasingly be living in a pluralistic and global society.   As a senior fellow at AAC&U for the past five years, I have been deeply impressed with AAC&U’s leadership and ability to redefine liberal education to meet the needs of our increasingly complex world and to connect with all types of colleges and universities in making liberal education a worthy goal for all of our students.” 

”AAC&U’s interest in this initiative builds from the association’s long-standing work on civic engagement and liberal education and the vision for twenty-first-century college learning developed as part of the Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) initiative and the preceding work on U.S. diversity and democracy, and on global citizenship,” said Ronald Crutcher, president of Wheaton College and cochair of the LEAP National Leadership Council (NLC).

In its 2007 signature national report, College Learning for the New Global Century, the NLC, guiding the LEAP initiative, described a broad set of learning outcomes essential for work and citizenship in the twenty-first century.  Council members noted that, “the [LEAP] essential learning outcomes…are important to the economy.  But they are even more important to American democracy.”

“When we launched our LEAP initiative, AAC&U reasserted the central role that higher education plays in preparing students for democratic citizenship and called for the nation to reclaim the historic connections between liberal education and democratic freedom,” said AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider.  “In 2007, we reminded the nation that ‘freedom is not self-perpetuating.  Democracy may be a birthright, but citizens need to be educated about what is involved in sustaining that birthright.’ In calling for extending the advantages of a liberal education to all college students, AAC&U is also calling on the nation’s educational and policy leaders to invest resources and make public their commitments to making educational excellence—including the full scope of liberal education outcomes—more inclusive.  This national dialogue will amplify those efforts and move the national dialogue forward.”

The yearlong project will include

  • publication of a policy paper on the state of civic learning and democratic engagements in U.S. colleges and universities;
  • publication of a literature review of existing resources on civic learning and democratic engagements in higher education;
  • establishment of a Coordinating Committee of national leaders on civic learning to guide the planning effort, and, in dialogue with the higher education community, develop a set of recommendations for national action;
  • convening of five national roundtables that will bring together diverse stakeholders to discuss the role of higher education in advancing civic learning and democratic engagements now and in the future; and
  • a website to reflect the national dialogue about civic learning.

“Even as many national leaders are focused on the important role that higher education plays in educating more college graduates who can help fuel America’s economic recovery, it remains essential that colleges and universities also recommit themselves to their other core purpose of preparing students for responsible and active citizenship, both locally and globally,” said AAC&U Senior Vice President Caryn McTighe Musil.  “This project will be a crucial first step in advancing a more robust national conversation about the multiple dimensions of civic learning that students will need to investigate and practice while in college.  Without deepening such knowledge and skills, they will be ill prepared to address the complex issues of this global age or to invest in insuring America’s democracy is vibrant.”

For information about the initiative, see www.civiclearning.org.


The mission of the Department of Education is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access. The Department of Education is funding this project to support a national dialogue that will culminate in the development of an action plan that would inform federal efforts.


About the Global Perspective Institute

The Global Perspective Institute Inc. was established in 2008 to study and promote global holistic human development, especially among college students.  The GPI administers, with assistance from Central College, the Global Perspective Inventory, a self-report survey that is now being used in over 70 colleges, universities, and third party study aboard organizations.  Dr. Braskamp, president of GPI, has held administrative positions at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign and at Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, and CHEA, and is the co-author of several books, including Putting students first:  How colleges develop students purposefully and numerous scholarly articles and reports. He currently is also a Senior Scientist at The Gallup Organization as well as a Senior Fellow at AAC&U, and serves on the Board of Trustees of Elmhurst College. 

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. Its members are committed to extending the advantages of a liberal education to all students, regardless of academic specialization or intended career. Founded in 1915, AAC&U now comprises 1,200 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges and universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, and faculty members who are engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Its mission is to reinforce the collective commitment to liberal education at both the national and local levels and to help individual institutions keep the quality of student learning at the core of their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.

Information about AAC&U membership, programs, and publications can be found at www.aacu.org.

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