Civic Learning

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 education if our world is to thrive.  Currently such learning is optional for some 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. 

Under the National Endowment for the Humanities initiative, The Common Good: Humanities in the Public Square, The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and The Democracy Commitment (TDC) received one of the 21 grants awarded in 2016 to illuminate the critical and too little used role of humanities in helping the public have a fuller understanding of some of the most vexing issues in our national life.  Under the common theme, Citizenship Under Siege, the seven participating community colleges are exploring in their local contexts what it means to experience citizenship as partial, denied, or fully acknowledged.  Participating colleges presented free webinars designed 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 differences.  More on the webinars and links to the archived presentations and resources can be found here.

Civic innovations include, 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. The American Political Science Association offers a pioneering disciplinary model with its volume, Teaching Civic Engagement: From Student to Active Citizen.

Democratic engagement also requires students’ political participation, LearnEngageVote shares resources for voter registration and participation. Through projects, publications, and collaborations, AAC&U builds national awareness of civic learning and social responsibility so essential for life, work, and citizenship. 

Campus Models and Case Studies


Community-Engaged Learning Bridges Past and Future at Cornell

These days, many universities incorporate community-engaged experiences into their curricula and cocurricula. At Cornell University, working with neighboring communities is not a novel concept; in... Read More
Campus model June/July 2016

Global Opportunities for Cross-Cultural Learning at Susquehanna University

This month’s feature was written by Scott Manning , dean of global programs at Susquehanna University . It originally appeared in the spring 2016 issue of Diversity & Democracy , which focused on... Read More

Developing the Next Generation of Leaders at Women's Colleges

When Sweet Briar College announced its plans to close in March 2015, some pundits pronounced the event a long-awaited inevitability. “By many measures, today's women are flourishing in higher... Read More
Diversity & Democracy Campus Model

More than Bells without Clappers: Students Finding Voice through Civic Engagement with Big Questions

With the national conversation about college emphasizing timely degree completion and readiness for employment, how can community college educators prepare our students to tackle the big questions... Read More

Fostering Social Entrepreneurship across the University of North Carolina System

In each of the last four years, the University of North Carolina (UNC) system office has hosted an annual Social Entrepreneurship Conference, at which teams of students from each of the system’s... Read More