ISU among 16 universities chosen for new Civic Agency Initiative

November 6 2008

The 2008 election campaign that ended Tuesday saw the Indiana State University campus host a voters' fair, monthly "Pizza & Politics" sessions to promote discussion of candidates and issues among students, DebateWatch sessions and even a satellite voting facility.

As one of the founding partners of the American Democracy Project, launched in 2003, Indiana State has been working hard to promote student engagement and those efforts are set to expand. The university is one of only 16 institutions in the country selected for the Civic Agency Initiative, a three-year effort to develop national models for preparing and motivating undergraduate students to be leaders in their communities.

While no presidential candidates visited ISU, Chelsea Clinton made a stop on campus on behalf of her mother, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and many students walked a few blocks to a downtown restaurant to see Hillary Clinton herself in advance of the primary election. President-elect Barack Obama campaigned at Terre Haute Haute North Vigo High School and the Vigo County Fairgrounds.

In addition, 10 ISU students, five from each of the two major parties, actively participated in the Democratic and Republican national conventions last summer.

A survey is in the works in conjunction with the Tufts University - Campus Votes Challenge to gauge just how many students voted at ISU and other campuses, but all indications are the youth vote was an important factor in Obama's historic victory.

Darlene Hantzis, professor of communication and campus coordinator for the American Democracy Project, said the new initiative complements ISU's longstanding commitment to community service.

"The focus of the Civic Agency Initiative is not on maximizing service and volunteerism, but to involve students in the work of politics. We know from surveys that 18- to 24-year-olds have a higher sense of the efficacy of politics as a way to solve problems than they have had in a long time," Hantzis said.

"The energy of the Obama campaign came from the same fertile ground that we've been building since 2003 via the American Democracy Project and that has been building across the nation with similar projects and programs. We want to instill in our students the recognition that every citizen can be an effective actor on the political stage," she said.

The Civic Agency Initiative project will begin at Indiana State this fall and continue for three years by way of a partnership with the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at the University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.

"I have seen and felt the excitement of Indiana State University students during this historic election season. This is due in no small part to the passion and dedication with which the faculty and students have approached the American Democracy Project," said Dan Bradley, ISU president.

"Community engagement and making a difference in our community are what Indiana State is all about. I am pleased that AASCU has recognized the valuable work that goes on here. It is truly an honor for Indiana State to be selected to participate in the new Civic Agency Initiative," Bradley said.

With Tuesday's election barely over, Hantzis and Linda Maule, associate professor of political science at Indiana State, headed to Minneapolis for the first Civic Agency Initiative meeting Wednesday through Friday at the Humphrey Institute.

While events such as Pizza & Politics have been staples at Indiana State during election seasons since 2004, working with a new "Nov. 5 Coalition" is in the works, Hantzis said. The goal of the initiative, named for the day following the 2008 election, "is to sustain the level of involvement in politics that is so evident in November," she said.

Toward that end, Pizza & Politics will be held in the spring semester of 2009 for the first time. Sessions will include an analysis of the 2008 election, a town hall-style discussion of issues and a review of the first 100 days of the new presidential administration in Washington.

The goals of the Civic Agency Initiative are to:
- Define the characteristics of civic agency
- Develop strategies and programs on university campuses and in surrounding communities to develop civic agency in undergraduates
- Design instruments and processes for measuring civic agency
- Support the growth of faculty and staff in AASCU schools, as well as local and regional community leaders, who can be leaders in the new focus on civic agency
- Generate new knowledge about civic agency, civic leaning, and institutional change
- Disseminate knowledge of civic agency and how to teach it to other institutions and broadly across American higher education
- Create campus-wide cultural change, deepening community partnerships, civic learning, and public scholarship.

Both the American Democracy Project and the Civic Agency Initiative are sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Contact: Darlene Hantzis, professor of communication and campus coordinator, American Democracy Project, Indiana State University, dmhantzis@isugw.indstate.edu

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu

Bookmark and Share

Story Highlights

As one of the founding partners of the American Democracy Project, launched in 2003, Indiana State has been working hard to promote student engagement and those efforts are set to expand. The university is one of only 16 institutions in the country selected for the Civic Agency Initiative, a three-year effort to develop national models for preparing and motivating undergraduate students to be leaders in their communities.

Bookmark and Share