Annual Meeting 2012

2012 Pre-Meeting Symposium

Reversing a Civic Recession: What Higher Education Can Do

January 25, 2012
Washington, DC / Grand Hyatt Hotel
1000 H St NW
Washington, DC 20001

“The first and most essential charge upon higher education is that at all levels and in all fields of specialization, it shall be the carrier of democratic values, ideals, and processes.”

The Truman Commission, Higher Education for American Democracy, 1947

“We can emerge from this civic recession, but to do so will require a full-scale national investment from every level of government and every sector of society to ensure that our citizens understand their government and participate fully in it.”

Charles N. Quigley, “Statement on the Nation’s Report Card:NAEP 2010 Civics,” 2011

In response to widespread concern about the nation’s anemic civic health and the learning needed for a global century inflected with contention and interdependency, a newly released civic report, A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future, calls for investing in higher education’s capacity to help renew our nation’s social, intellectual, and civic capital.  The report calls on higher education and many partners in education, government, and public life to advance a 21st century conception of civic learning and democratic engagement as an expected part of every student’s college education.  This symposium seeks to mobilize educational and civic leaders to expand on how colleges and universities can serve as a defining site for learning and practicing democratic and civic responsibilities.

With support from the US Department of Education, AAC&U partnered with the Global Perspective Institute (GPI), Inc. to lead the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) project and appointed a National Task Force to oversee the initiative. A Crucible Moment represents the collective analyses and recommendations of the National Task Force and participants in a series of five national roundtables held between December 2010 and March 2011 that involved 134 people representing wide constituencies at two- and four-year colleges and universities, civic organizations, private and government funding agencies, higher education associations, disciplinary societies, and community leaders. 

As the report asserts, “A socially cohesive and economically vibrant US democracy and a viable, just global community require informed, engaged, open-minded, and socially responsible people committed to the common good and practiced in ‘doing’ democracy.”  This symposium seeks to serve as a working meeting to advance the next-level development of education for democracy.  A Crucible Moment challenges higher education to create civic-minded institutions in which a civic ethos governs campus life, civic perspectives are integrated within majors and general education, civic literacy is a goal for every graduate, and civic agency becomes a lifelong practice fostered through college-level study and engagement in addressing stubborn, real world issues. As John Dewey said, “Democracy needs to be born anew every generation, and education is the midwife.”    

This working symposium therefore seeks an action agenda that:

  • Offers a more capacious understanding of the dimensions of civic learning for a diverse and global age;
  • Explores emerging models of how to integrate civic learning and powerful democratic pedagogies across general education, disciplines, and degree programs;
  • Charts more transformative campus/community partnerships to address real-world problems;
  • Illuminates research about practices that foster civic capabilities and how these practices connect to retention and workforce preparation goals;
  • Maps how students, student affairs professionals, faculty, and administrators can cultivate a campus-wide civic ethos; and
  • Moves civic learning from the sidelines to the center of expected learning for all students


Opening Plenary


Martha Kanter, Undersecretary of Education
US Department of Education

Civic Learning for Democracy’s Future


Keynote Luncheon


Scott S. Cowen, President
Tulane University

Taking the Civic Mission of Higher Education Seriously: Addressing Pressing Issues of the Day


8:30-10:00 a.m.


*Carol Geary Schneider, President, AAC&U

Opening Address:
Martha J. Kanter, Under Secretary of Education, US Department of Education

Robert Hackett, President, The Bonner Foundation; George Mehaffy, Vice President, Academic Leadership and Change, American Association of State Colleges and Universities; **Caryn McTighe Musil, Senior Vice President, AAC&U

**Larry A. Braskamp, President, Global Perspective Institute, Inc.



10:00-10:45 a.m.

Roundtable Action Dialogues: Civic Learning for a Diverse and Global Age


11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Breakout Sessions
Moving the Needle: Implementing the Next-Generation of Civic Learning

Civic Inquiry and Problem Solving Across General Education and the Major
Discussion Leaders:
Gail Robinson, Director of Service Learning, American Association of Community Colleges; Amy Koritz, Director, Center for Civic Engagement, Drew University; Paul Schadewald, Associate Director, Civic Engagement Center, Macalester College

Defining the Public Purposes of Faculty Scholarship and Teaching
Discussion Leaders:
Elizabeth Minnich, Senior Scholar, AAC&U, and Julie Ellison, Professor of American Culture, English, and Art and Design, University of Michigan

Investing in Transformative Democratic Campus/Community Partnerships
Discussion Leader:
Katherine Lambert-Pennington, 2011 NERCHE Winner of the Ernest A. Lynton Award for the Scholarship of Engagement for Early Career Faculty, University of Memphis



12:00-1:30 p.m.

Keynote Luncheon:
Taking the Civic Mission of Higher Education Seriously: Engaging Students and the Academy in Pressing Issues of the Day

Scott S. Cowen, President, Tulane University

Judith Ramaley, President, Winona State University


1:30-2:30 p.m.  

What the Research Reveals: Experiences that Matter

*Sylvia Hurtado, Professor and Director of the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI), University of California, Los Angeles; Charles Blaich, Director of Inquiries, Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts, Wabash College

Nancy O’Neill, Director of Integrative Programs, AAC&U



2:30-3:30 p.m.

Cultivating a Civic Ethos on Campus

Gwendolyn Jordan Dungy, Executive Director, NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education; Neesha A. Tambe, graduate of De Anza College, student, Georgetown University; Donald W. Harward, Director, Bringing Theory to Practice Project

*Eboo Patel, Founder and Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Core



3:30-4:00 p.m.

Roundtable Action Dialogues: Levers to Increase Civic Ethos on Campus


4:00-4:30 p.m.

Next Steps in Mobilizing Wide-Scale Investment
*Brian Murphy, President, De Anza College


* Member, The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement

** Co-directors, Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Project


More information about the AAC&U/GPI partnership is at the Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Resource Center.

Suggested reading: The Fall 2011 issue of AAC&U's Diversity & Democracy, "Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement."