Collaboration helps students become political leaders

Young people having a discussionUIC will team with six local institutions in the newest phase of a Chicago-based civic learning initiative led by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

“We want to help our students become political leaders in their communities and beyond in the decades to come,” said Dick Simpson, professor of political science and the project’s lead coordinator at UIC.

The collaboration is funded by a Robert R. McCormick Foundation grant to the association to expand its Chicago Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Action Collaborative.

UIC and its partners will work with their faculty to strategize the integration of civic learning and democratic engagement in three academic areas: arts, humanities and social sciences; STEM disciplines; and pre-professional majors such as business, allied health and education.

The institutions working with UIC in the first phase of the program include City Colleges of Chicago, Governors State University, Lewis University, Northern Illinois University, North Park University and Roosevelt University.

Illinois Campus Compact, the local chapter of a national higher education association focused on campus-based civic engagement, is also a partner.

“UIC is often recognized as a leader in civic and political engagement but our task is now to spread civic learning across all disciplines and to provide best practices for other universities throughout the country,” Simpson said.

Coordinators at each campus will work with faculty to produce templates that embed civic lessons in various disciplines, faculty development workshops based on the templates, and new methods for assessing students’ civic learning across departments.

“When faculty members adopt a civic lens as they advance knowledge within their disciplines, students can better understand how to use their areas of specialization to address issues that affect the welfare of the broader public both locally and globally,” said Caryn McTighe Musil, senior scholar and director of civic learning and democracy initiatives at the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

“It better equips students to make informed, civically responsible decisions in the workplace as well as in their communities.”

The project will continue through 2014.

Other UIC coordinators are Joseph Hoereth, director of the Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement, and Barbara Ransby, professor of history, African-American studies and gender and women’s studies and director of the UIC Social Justice Initiative.

Faculty interested in participating can contact Simpson at

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