Civic Seminar: Civic Engagement, Diversity, and the Postsecondary Success of Underserved Students

List of Participants

Initiative Overview

Seminar Agenda

UMass Dartmouth Campus Map

Parking Pass

The Civic Seminar is one of a series of 27 seminars to be held throughout the nation and supported by the project on Bringing Theory to Practice and the Charles Engelhard Foundation. This particular seminar is hosted by the Next Generation Engagement Project, a collaboration between the American Association of State College and Universities (AASCU), Imagining America and the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE). The seminar will be hosted by the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth on April 13, 2011.

In preparation for the seminar, participants will be reading John Saltmarsh, Susan Sturm, and Timothy Eatman's "Full Participation: Systemic Integration of Civic Engagement, Diversity, and the Postsecondary Success of Underserved Students" Civic Seminar Catalyst Paper and Nancy Canton's, "Why Diversity Still Needs a Champion".


Goals of the Civic Seminar

1.      To collaboratively explore the implications of civic engagement at institutions of higher education when student and faculty diversity are considered and the success of underserved students is prioritized.

2.      To provide feedback on the catalyst paper, specifically on its conceptualization of the problem and on how it can be used strategically to influence the higher education and the wider civic engagement movement.

3.      To provide recommendations for the kinds of “products” or outcomes that might emerge from a national civic seminar.


Framing Questions


Opening and Guiding Questions: The First of Three Substantive Parts of the Seminar.

  • What do we mean when we claim that higher education has a civic mission? What are key ways that the civic mission is operationalized? (What does it look like in practice?) How is the civic mission expressed in faculty roles?
  • How does the civic mission relate to the community beyond the campus?
  • What is the basic “grounding” i.e. justification for this civic mission? Who or What is to carry out such a mission?
  • What is the relationship between the civic mission and student learning? In what ways are the civic and learning missions incompatible and why?


Next Generation Engagement

New England regional civic seminar is focused on addressing the civic mission of higher education with a particular context: looking at the next generation of increasing diverse undergraduate students, graduate students, and early career faculty. Use the catalyst paper, Full Participation, we want to explore the following question:


What is the connection/relationship between civic engagement, faculty and student diversity, and the academic success of underserved students? Another approach to the question is what is the relationship between active and collaborative teaching and learning, collaborative knowledge generation, and the success of underserved students? (By diversity, we mean it broadly defined, to include racial, ethnic and culture diversity as well as gender diversity. By “underserved” we mean low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color.)


Discussion Questions from the Catalyst Paper:

1.      How does your work bring together the practices of diversity and public scholarship/civic engagement?

a.       Who is involved and how do they work together?

b.      Where is this work situated in relation to the core values of your institution?

c.       What are examples of products or outcomes of this work that have emerged or can be envisioned?

2.      Can you identify and describe examples of integration of these projects and goals, with each other and into the fabric of the institution?  What are their features?

3.      What are the obstacles or challenges to integrating these approaches with each other?

4.      How would your institution have to be transformed for these values to become central to its culture and practices?

5.      Where do you see momentum or openings to push for this kind of transformation?  Who are potential allies?  Where are the possibilities for collaboration?



The last substantive part of the seminar should be on how to move forward and possible action steps.

(1)  Based on this discussion, what are just a few of the steps, the changes, the emphases that need to be made and by whom, if the civic mission of higher education is to be realized? What would need to happen at your institution?

(2)  How will we know that a civic mission is being realized?

(3)  What special issue, perspective, theme do we want to emphasize should be a part of the national seminar?

(4)  What specific suggestions do we have re what should be the “products” or outcomes that might emerge from a national civic seminar and thereby move or affect discussions and actions most broadly and substantively on campuses nationally and perhaps internationally.