Press Release

AAC&U Receives Grant from The Endeavor Foundation to Work with Departments to Integrate Designs for Civic Responsibility into the Major

Washington, DC—The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is pleased to announce the receipt of a grant from The Endeavor Foundation for $98,790 to sponsor three regional one-day institutes that will give departmental teams the time and space to embed civic learning across the structure, concepts, and pedagogies of undergraduate majors. Called Civic Prompts in the Major: Designs in Social Responsibility and the Public Good, the new grant is the latest in a six-year initiative that looks at the department as a unit of change and a student’s major as a site for deepening students’ knowledge, skills, values, and agency about their responsibility to the larger society.

“We are grateful to The Endeavor Foundation for their support in promoting civic engagement through the major on college and university campuses,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella. “This initiative reaffirms AAC&U’s commitment to educating for democracy as the foundation of American higher education.”

The three one-day institutes for departmental teams will allow them to explore models, pedagogies, assignments, and capstone projects as they map out their action plans for new civic designs for the major.

As Ashley Kidd, Program Director for Grants and Research at The Endeavor Foundation, explained, “We believe that faculty members having uninterrupted time to devote to working together on their designs for embedding civic learning into their major’s requirements, both in conversation with their peers from other institutions and with experienced consultants from AAC&U, will be an important catalyst for them to launch this work and be yet another vehicle that builds upon AAC&U’s previous work in bringing civically engaged learning into the final two years of students’ educations.”

One goal of the ambitious agenda set by the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement in its 2012 report, A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future, is to “redefine within departments, programs, and disciplines the public purposes of the respective fields, the civic inquiries most urgent to explore, and the best way to infuse civic learning outcomes progressively across the major.” In Civic Prompts: Making Civic Learning Routine Across the Disciplines (2015), Caryn McTighe Musil outlines a process through which departments can probe creative ways to cultivate a civic consciousness through a student’s major. As Michael B. Smith, Rebecca S. Nowacek, and Jeffrey L. Bernstein argue in Citizenship Across the Curriculum (2010), “Education for citizenship should not be crowding out the ‘real’ focus of the course; it should be a way to engage students in that work.”

“It has been exhilarating to see the creativity and discipline-specific twists faculty have employed in their designs as they scaffold civic learning and social responsibility within different majors,” said Caryn McTighe Musil, project director for the grant and leader of the initiative for the past six years. “Civic Learning in the Major by Design,” a special issue of Peer Review, offers evidence of what such designs look like across different majors, as does a set of case studies published online.

"We are convinced,” Caryn McTighe Musil said, “that AAC&U’s ‘Civic Prompts in the Major’ initiative will recast the gaze in higher education to how departmental majors can touch students’ lives in transformative intellectual and ethical ways, prepare them to be more responsible in the workplace, and help strengthen democratic values and commitment to making sure all communities thrive.”

About AAC&U

AAC&U is the leading national association dedicated to advancing the vitality and public standing of liberal education by making quality and equity the foundations for excellence in undergraduate education in service to democracy. 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 more than 1,200 member institutions—including accredited public and private colleges, community colleges, research universities, and comprehensive universities of every type and size.

AAC&U functions as a catalyst and facilitator, forging links among presidents, administrators, faculty, and staff engaged in institutional and curricular planning. Through a broad range of activities, AAC&U reinforces the collective commitment to liberal education at the national, local, and global levels. Its high-quality programs, publications, research, meetings, institutes, public outreach efforts, and campus-based projects help individual institutions ensure that the quality of student learning is central to their work as they evolve to meet new economic and social challenges.