AMERICAN DEMOCRACY PROJECT TARGETS STUDENT ENGAGEMENT
OSWEGO -- SUNY Oswego is one of nearly 200 campuses
throughout the country working to increase student engagement and
community involvement through the American Democracy Project.
The American Democracy Project is a nationwide
initiative launched and co-sponsored by the American Association of
State Colleges and Universities and the New York Times.
A major goal "is to bring the practice and education
of civic engagement into the classrooms and to activities outside the
classroom," from voter registration drives to volunteering in local
nursing homes, said Dr. Douglas Deal, professor and chair of history at
SUNY Oswego and convener of the steering committee for this project.
While the effort is nationwide, "there is no
nationally dictated agenda for campuses who sign up," Deal said, as
each campus is empowered to find the best way to encourage students to
be responsible citizens and good neighbors.
"There will be interested students on the steering
committee, as well as faculty, staff and administrators," Deal said. An
institutional audit of which existing aspects -- classes, volunteer or
internships activities, student groups -- already fit the mold is one
of the expected first steps.
Greg Lawson, the 2003-04 vice president of Oswego's
Student Association, has been involved with the planning process for
"It's very exciting," he said of the project and its
potential. "It's more than just a few programs or a couple of events.
It's really about integrating the concept of civic engagement and civic
involvement through the culture of campus. We're really looking to
involve students actively in the community."
How much student engagement arises during the
election year will test the project in its first steps, Lawson added.
Programs on the U.S. presidential election and the political parties
represent possible avenues to educate students and motivate them to
become more involved.
The project will succeed if it shows "the world
outside that colleges and universities play a crucial role in
sustaining democratic processes," Deal said, such as engaging
participants in civilized discourse or appreciating dissenting opinions.
If, in a few years, SUNY Oswego sees an increased
level of dialogue and involvement inside and outside the classroom, the
project will have hit its mark, Lawson said.
"You'll see the results in the press and in what's
happening around campus and how it impacts the Oswego County
community," he noted.