The Periclean Progress E-Newsletter
Volume 8, Spring 2012
National Office News
Periclean Faculty Leaders Create 26 New Civic Engagement Courses - White Paper To Be Published This Summer
By Garret Batten
In 2010, with generous support from The Teagle Foundation and the Eugene M. Lang Foundation, Project Pericles launched the Periclean Faculty Leadership (PFL) Program™. Over the course of the 18 month program, competitively selected faculty leaders created 26 new Civic Engagement Courses (CECs) in 19 different disciplines. Faculty leaders also promoted civic engagement through lectures, town hall meetings, and public rallies and advanced public scholarship through publications and conference presentations. A White Paper detailing the PFL Program will be published this summer.
The PFL Program involved faculty leaders from a wide range of disciplines including art history, biology, economics, environmental students, sociology, and theater. Courses developed included: "Instrumental Analysis of Oil and the Gulf of Mexico Environment," "Exploring Community in Our Towns: The New Hampshire Town Meeting," "Death, Burial and the Afterlife: Historic Engagement in Urban Cemeteries," and "Community-Based Theater and Civic Engagement." The PFL program successfully created CECs across the curriculum with courses in the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and pre-professional departments such as education and social work. Topics addressed in other courses included food insecurity, colonialism and cultural survival, local government, community health, and women's rights and health.
Many courses incorporated community based learning projects. Randy Larsen's (St. Mary's College) chemistry class travelled to the Gulf of Mexico to research the impact of the 2010 Deep Horizon Oil Spill. In addition to gathering samples for study in the lab, students interviewed local residents to better understand the impact of the spill. T.J. Eatmon's (Allegheny College) "Environmental Education" course utilized an Aquaponics system that produces both fish and lettuces through a closed loop system housed in a community market. Allegheny students used the Aquaponics project to teach local middle school students about ecosystems, sustainable agriculture, and healthy eating habits.
In his "Community-Based Theater and Civic Engagement" course, Domenick Scudera's students at Ursinus College interviewed community partners, including local nursing home residents, to assess their needs. Students then developed theater projects, open to the public, to amplify community groups' perspectives.
The CECs increased students' ability to understand issues of social concern from multiple perspectives, to articulate an informed opinion, and to relate academic material to real world situations. In addition, students expressed an increased motivation and capacity to utilize these skills to take action. A student in Scudera's theater class commented that the experience "opened students to becoming more conscious about their community and instilled a desire to help others with the gifts they have." Carleton College students participating in community health research noted a newfound sense of obligation to use their skills for the betterment of the community. Carleton Biology Professor Debby Walser-Kuntz wrote, "Students began to see themselves as 'citizen scientists' recognizing that they have a responsibility as scientists to learn to communicate effectively with multiple constituencies and that they can effect change."
Periclean Faculty Leaders also served as champions of civic engagement on and off campus. Through conference presentations and publications, they educated colleagues about pedagogical methods to incorporate civic engagement in the classroom. At the 2012 AAC&U conference, Periclean Faculty Leaders discussed the innovative features of the PFL program and their own work on a panel titled, "Developing Innovative Curricula to Prepare Students for Successful Lives of Global Civic Engagement." Faculty leaders spoke about their curricular programs, described the intercampus peer review process, and shared best practices and lessons learned. Jan R. Liss, Executive Director of Project Pericles, moderated and discussed the assessment of student learning outcomes.
Periclean Faculty Leader and Associate Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College, Ben Berger, and Jan R. Liss are completing a White Paper on the PFL Program that will be published over the summer.
Garret Batten is the Assistant Director at Project Pericles.
Periclean Students Organize High Schoolers for Education Reform
By Adrienne Falcon
Carleton College students Anna Fure-Slocum and Nick Welna are organizing with local youth from Northfield, Minnesota to advocate for student-centered education reform. Fure-Slocum and Welna won the Project Pericles 2011 Debating for Democracy (D4D) Legislative Hearing for their letter proposing greater student input and influence in the classroom as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education (ESEA) Act.
Using their $3,000 award, Fure-Slocum and Welna connected with Northfield students to make their voices heard in local school politics. In March, the Carleton seniors hosted a community organizing training for students from local high schools. Participants developed action plans to combat high-stakes testing, strengthen school support for youth activism, and improve students' relationships with the community. These youth are now pursuing their plans with support from the Carleton Office of Academic Civic Engagement.
D4D represents the spirit of Project Pericles in action. It provides student leaders and activists with the skills and support necessary to develop and run educational and advocacy campaigns on issues of critical social concern.
Adrienne Falcon is the Director of Academic Civic Engagement and Project Pericles Program Director at Carleton College.
Periclean Faculty Leader wins North American Society for Social Philosophy's 2011 Book Award
Swarthmore's Ben Berger (Associate Professor of Political Science) recently won the North American Society for Social Philosophy's (NASSP) 2011 book award for his work, Attention Deficit Democracy:The Paradox of Civic Engagement (Princeton University Press, 2011). Berger joins the company of illustrious past winners including Seyla Benhabib, Will Kymlicka, and Amartya Sen.
"By providing a realistic account of the value of political engagement and practical strategies for improving it [engagement], while avoiding proposals we can never hope to achieve, Attention Deficit Democracy makes a persuasive case for a public philosophy that much of the public can actually endorse (from the publisher)." Berger completed the book while serving as Swarthmore's Periclean Faculty Leader.
Pericleans in the News
Periclean institutions are committed to integrating social responsibility and participatory citizenship into the core of their educational mission. The three brief articles below highlight activities that Chatham University, Allegheny College, and Widener University are undertaking to advance civic engagement in the classroom, on campus, and in the community.
Chatham's Project Pericles Program Director Spearheads Program to Increase Number of Women in Public Office
By Dana Brown
From Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, women running for office around the country have made headlines. But these high-profile women obscure a sad truth: the percentage of American women holding public office remains dismally low with women holding 24% of state legislative offices; 21% of the statewide offices; 17% of US Senate seats; 17% of the seats in the US House of Representatives and 12% of governorships.
In order to call attention to the paucity of women in politics and to inspire women to take a seat at the table, the Pennsylvania Center for Women and Politics (PCWP) has partnered with the national, non-partisan, 2012 Project - a campaign to increase the number of women in Congress and state legislatures by taking advantage of the once-in-a-decade opportunities of 2012. Following the 2010 census, congressional and state legislative districts in the country are being redrawn, creating new and open seats.
The goals of The Pennsylvania 2012 Project are three-fold:
Allegheny Professors Publish Article on Community Engagement and Service Learning Minor
By Amara Geffen
Allegheny College professors Stephanie Martin, Economics, and Eleanor Weisman, Dance and Movement Studies, recently co-authored "Aligning Civic Engagement with the Strategic Goals of an Institution: Focus on Allegheny College" for a special issue of the Journal of College and Character. The article describes how Allegheny's interdisciplinary minor, Values, Ethics, and Social Action (VESA), a community engagement and service learning program, fulfills the College's strategic plan by preparing students to act responsibly as citizens in quickly changing local and global communities. Through real work in the Meadville community, and through the theoretical study of the impact of one's political, philosophical, and economic actions on the world, VESA students embody the educational objectives of the college. The VESA program provides a potent model of the power of higher education in the lives of young adults in the twenty-first century.
In the article, Martin and Weisman describe how VESA can serve as a model for similar paths of inquiry at other higher education institutions through a curriculum that links a strong curricular foundation with specific interdisciplinary building blocks that are designed to support student growth. The VESA curriculum consists of six courses, plus an internship or service leadership experience taken with a reflection seminar.
The VESA foundations course provides an introduction to the theories and ethics of social action, with a focus on community service. Attention is paid to the ways in which class, race, and gender shape the processes and outcomes of social action. In subsequent courses, students apply competencies and gain deeper levels of understanding. The VESA program also provides several opportunities for application of course concepts through community engagement projects. The service leadership requirement gives students experience organizing projects that meet community goals, while also teaching students to connect their co-curricular work to their curricular work through a reflection seminar. The minor culminates in a capstone course that engages students in public scholarship related to a local advocacy project.
VESA capstone projects have led to a program that made it possible for low-income residents of Meadville to use their access cards to purchase locally grown food at Meadville's Market House, and development of promotional materials used by the Center for Family Services (CFS), which were rewritten to accommodate the reading levels of those in CFS's target service audience.
As the national emphasis on civic engagement in higher education grows, discourse on strategies to improve the quality of student participation in local communities becomes increasingly important. In their article, Martin and Weisman demonstrate how community engagement programs that fulfill the mission of higher education must intentionally link the curricular and the co-curricular as an essential part of education for civic engagement and social change.
Amara Geffen is Professor of Art and the Director of the Center for Economic and Environmental Development at Allegheny College and the Project Pericles Program Director.
Widener Students Show High Levels of Civic Engagement Preliminary Data Reveals
In fall 2009, Widener University implemented a campus-wide assessment of civic engagement initiatives designed to determine projects that yield the best community outcomes. A rigorous method to assess institutional service-learning was subsequently implemented. The campus assessment tools provide data to examine Widener's role in the community, to explore strengths and areas for improvement, and to enhance neighborhood sustainability. Preliminary data from the civic engagement impact study reveal that 48% of students at the main campus are involved in civic engagement activities - almost 20% above the national average. Through service-learning and/or civic engagement projects, nearly every department and student organization is involved with the metropolitan community.
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