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The linkage between liberal arts education and democracy is unmistakable. A renewed and strengthened national commitment to accessible and inclusive liberal arts education opportunities will not only permit members of our society to live more meaningful and productive lives, but will also allow our nation to resist authoritarian impulses and embrace the openness of mind and spirit that are essential for a self-governing people in a democratic society.

In the 1930s, the turmoil of the Great Depression uncovered “old poverty”—largely invisible privation and suffering experienced by millions of Americans. This was among the most important—and the most heartbreaking—discoveries during that dark time in our history. Today, the Covid-19 pandemic is casting light onto similar kinds of deeply rooted structural inequalities in America and in higher education—especially for community college students.

COVID-19 and the transition to online-only or hybrid forms of learning and engagement have made navigating voter engagement opportunities extremely difficult, even with months left on the clock. And now, to make student voter engagement feel even more daunting, we’re only a week away from Election Day. You might be asking yourself: “What can I possibly do today that would still make an impact?” Well, we are here to help.

We now know that living with the Covid-19 pandemic means that much of the teaching and learning at colleges and universities that have been at least partially virtual in fall 2020 will continue into winter and spring 2021, affecting millions of students. As virtual learning is increasingly part of the fabric of higher education, what does this mean for how we view quality, and especially what counts as evidence of what students learn? And, what does this mean for accreditation, still the primary means of assuring quality to which thousands of institutions and programs turn?

In my role as a vice president for institutional effectiveness, I was fortunate to lead “Think in Ink,” an institution-wide program to foster students’ analysis, argumentation, and synthesis skills demonstrated through effective writing within various majors. I witnessed how internal partnerships and collaboration among faculty and support staff across campus contributed to deep, meaningful integration of teaching, assessment, and learning.

College and university faculty don’t just teach subjects; we teach people. Our role is not only to present content and test recall in our areas of expertise. Although the study of civics and government has definite disciplinary connections to fields like political science, participation in democracy belongs to us all. We cannot expect our political science colleagues alone to elicit the learning that leads to productive civic behaviors. Helping students make connections between our disciplines and our functions as citizens is a part of a holistic education, and a task that we all collectively share as teachers.

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