Recap of the AAC&U Annual Meeting

This year's AAC&U (Association of American Colleges and Universities) meeting featured a full-day pre-meeting symposium on Civic Engagement as well as three days of rich discussions on issues related to liberal education for the public good, excellence that is inclusive of all students, assessment of learning outcomes, and preparing students for rich personal, professional and civic lives. A few highlights and resources worth sharing:

National Study on Student Voter Turnout

A presentation by researchers from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement on "student voter turnout and the implications for higher education's role in strengthening democracy."

  • The study is hosted at Tufts University's Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, whose staff are committed to making the findings of the research free and accessible to all institutions who participate. GW was included in the study.
  • Through follow-up case studies at institutions where student voter turnout was high or experienced sharp increases in the last election, researchers concluded that campus-hosted "get out the vote" events are helpful but a much bigger predictor of student voter turnout is the institutions' on-going ethos and culture around democratic engagement. 
  • Resources and additional information

Randy Stoecker on Liberating Service Learning

In a plenary session, Dr. Stoecker described his recent senior sociology capstone course to illustrate his case that community-engaged course-design should be driven by the needs of the community through identification of the knowledge-gap that students can address.

A local community arts center voiced that hiphop artists were not able to book venues due to assumptions that this music attracted violence and the need for increased police presence. Stoecker's students identified and analyzed multiple sources of data including police department records and reported that many other forms of evening entertainment resulted in a higher frequency of violence problems than did hiphop. Students and community arts center staff were able to advocate at many music venues in the city to provide hiphop artists a venue for their work. 

This course is a good example of community-engaged scholarship values, including:

  • Co-creation of the initiative with the community.
    • "Reciprocity is not as good as co-creation." - Stoecker. 
  • Mutual respect for the knowledge of multiple communities.
    • Stoecker is a self-described "old White professor" and had a lot to learn about hiphop music, culture, and the diversity of musical forms it represents. His awareness of his own need to learn from the community youth and his own students was a foundation for the trust-building the project entailed.
  • Scholarly work as a contribution to the public good and a driver of social change.
    • “Finding, making, speaking, and amplifying knowledge is the best form of service.” - Stoecker.


Advancing Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement in Higher Education

The AAC&U's own Caryn McTighe Musil led this discussion session on her work with the AASCU's American Democracy Project, The Democracy Commitment, and NASPA's Lead Initiative. From their work, a new theoretical framework is emerging, which builds on 2012's A Crucible Moment, focusing on how campuses develop a civic ethos, civic literacy and skill building, civic inquiry and civic action. We are watching this space for more as this discussion continues.

Supporting the Alignment of Faculty Academic and Civic Work

GW's own Emily Morrison and Wendy Wagner co-presented this panel session with colleagues from IUPUI and Cornell. Their recent research revealing a typology that represents a variety of faculty perspectives on the community-engaged scholarship informs emerging approaches to faculty development and support that calls for not only professional development on best practices but also the need to create strong faculty networks in order to build social capital for a larger movement toward institutionalization and campus culture to support the value of higher education for the public good. Through our Faculty Learning Communities (FLCs) at GW we are building new networks for faculty you can check them out here

AAC&U Resources

If you are new to the AAC&U, it is worth your time to click over and explore the many resources available. Below are a few recent publications worth noting: