Bringing It

Bringing It #60: Supporting Students & Civic Learning

April 14, 2021

Dear friends,

We hope this letter finds you safe and well, and that, wherever you are, spring is blossoming with new possibilities. Though vaccinations are underway and many institutions are looking at a return to normal operations, there is still much concern regarding the crises of the past year and much work to be done.

In this issue of Bringing It, our focus is on supporting students (through this challenging time and in the future) and on fostering civic learning opportunities and democratic education. We also invite you to share your thoughts on these topics with us and this community; if you are interested in contributing an essay to our blog please reach out to [email protected]

The Way Forward Grantee Spotlight: Supporting Indigenous Students in Maine & Wisconsin

We are excited to continue telling you about The Way Forward grant projects that BT2P has recently funded. Here we highlight two projects that center the needs of Indigenous students through close partnerships between tribal groups and colleges and state universities and associations in Maine and Wisconsin.

The University of Maine at Fort Kent (including UMFK’s Student Life & Engagement, Sustainability Club, and Rural U Early College & Concurrent Enrollment Program) is partnering with the Wabanaki Center at the University of Maine, the Wabanaki Youth in Science (WaYS) program, Maine Youth for Climate Justice, and the Maine Environmental Education Association to develop a series of interactive online conversations for high school and undergraduate students exploring the intersections of Indigenous and Western knowledge systems in the context of global change. The series is being designed and presented through close collaboration among a Wabanaki cultural knowledge keeper, a contemporary Western science scholar, and at least one youth leader. It aims to increase interest by underrepresented youth in environmental stewardship; empower the next generation of changemakers by connecting them with mentors, opportunities for learning and engagement; and build mutually-supportive relationships among Indigenous people, institutions of higher education, and young environmentalists.

In Wisconsin, a remarkable group of higher education leaders including the University of Wisconsin System, Tribal Colleges of Wisconsin, College of Menominee Nation, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College, Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges & Universities, and Wisconsin Technical College System are collaborating on professional development opportunities for faculty through an online conference and webinar series focused on recruiting, retaining, and graduating students of color – Native, Black, Latinx, Hmong – and first-generation students. This coalition of groups plans to build a community of practice with strong regional connections within the state to better support and empower their students. “Our first guest speaker is Elder Ada Deer, the first Menominee Tribe member to graduate from the University of Wisconsin,” said Fay Yokomizo Akindes, project co-leader and Director of Systemwide Professional and Instructional Development at the University of Wisconsin System. “She has many life accomplishments, including leading the restoration of the Menominee Nation after its termination by the federal government. Ada Deer is an extraordinary, uplifting scholar activist.”

We are excited by the ways each project centers community building and collaboration with local tribal nations, colleges, and associations as essential for the success of the overall project goals of supporting students. We look forward to continuing to share details on these projects and others among The Way Forward grantees in future editions of Bringing It.

Community Learning Partnership Launches New Grassroots Initiative

The Community Learning Partnership is a national network of community-academic partnerships dedicated to preparing people directly impacted by poverty and racism to enter careers where they can address inequality and injustice to improve the quality of life in their communities. CLP Coordinators Cynthia Kaufman (of De Anza Community College) and Lena Jones (Minneapolis Community and Technical College) sent us this post about an important new initiative:

The last few years have seen a deepening crisis of democracy and a slide toward reduced participation and growing cynicism about government. Yet for many CLP students – students of color, students from poor communities – “democracy” has always felt like something that was not designed for them and that they and their communities have been excluded from. Democracy in the U.S. must not only be re-built, but re-imagined. We believe the voices, ideas, lived experience, and passion of our students and students like them around the country are critical to creating a new vision and reality of a democracy that works for everyone.

With the CLP Network’s 10+ years of experience, we have learned what it takes to move students who have been marginalized from a state of disengagement and alienation, to a belief that their voices matter, and then to becoming skilled participants in civic life. Now, with support from the Teagle Foundation, our Network will gather what we’ve learned to create and share new curricular and other resources so more colleges have the concrete strategies and tools they need to realize their commitment to developing the civic capacity of their students. This year, we’ll focus on creating:

  • New modules that can enhance Introduction to U.S. Government curriculum through critical reflection on the promise of U.S. democracy and its failure to be inclusive of all people – an example is a module that explores how Martin Luther King Jr., Fredrick Douglass, and José Antonio Vargas’ reached back to the nation’s founding documents and ideals to criticize existing exclusions and to argue for a more inclusive future.
  • A set of pedagogical approaches and teaching tools that build students’ sense of civic agency along with the knowledge and skills for being effective civic actors – an example is a module that focuses on how to engage students in developing a power analysis around a local issue.
  • A tool kit with a set of strategies and lessons learned around how to institutionalize programs that build civic capacity for transformative change.

Our hope is that this work leads to a growing network of community colleges around the country with curricula and approaches that propel students into believing that they can be the shapers of a democracy that includes them and gives them the tools to make it so. We look forward to keeping you abreast of this exciting new project as the work unfolds over the next months and years.

Cynthia Kaufman
De Anza Community College

Lena Jones
Minneapolis Community and Technical College

Sound Bites and Blog Notes

In the past two weeks, our podcast, The Way Forward: Higher Education in a Time of Crisis, has released two great episodes. Paul Hanstedt (director of the center for teaching and learning at Washington and Lee University) spoke with David about placing the “wicked problems” of this crisis-moment at the center of the curriculum…

“How do we bring that spirit of encountering something you’ve never seen before where there’s no clear answer and maybe even the professor doesn’t know the clear answer, how do we bring that into the classroom?… We can give students skills and content, and they can memorize it and hand it back to us perfectly on the exam and they might still not be prepared when they encounter one of these wicked problems.”

…and Elaine Maimon (former president of Western Governors University) discussed what she calls the “new majority” – working students, parents, students from low-income backgrounds and communities of color – and their need for liberal learning as well as career pathways:

“The new majority students need to be educated in terms of educating the imagination, as well as preparation for immediate employment. What we have to do in terms of the transformation as we move out of the pandemic is to avoid the paralysis of saying, well, we just are going to do less and less. We’re going to shortchange students who need the broad, high-quality education.”

Elaine also posted a terrific essay, “Higher Ed Will Never Be the Same Again,” on the BT2P blog.

As always, you can read our blog at https://bttop.org/bt2p-blog/ and access our podcast episodes at https://bttop.org/the-way-forward-podcast/. Have a listen and a look. And if you have suggestions for podcast episodes or a blog contribution to submit, let us know.

An Opportunity to Engage

Our friends at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) will be holding their annual conference in June. The meeting is one of the most important civic engagement gatherings every year, bringing together faculty, student affairs professionals, senior campus administrators, students, and community partners to ensure that students graduate from public and private colleges and universities prepared to be the informed, engaged citizens that our communities and our democracy need. We’re looking forward to taking part (virtually, of course).

For more information about the 2021 Civic Learning & Democratic Engagement (CLDE) virtual Meeting, please visit: https://www.aascu.org/meetings/CLDE21/

Thank you for staying in touch, for contributing to our work, and for all the work you do.

David, Kelly, Todd, and Kate