As a new semester is upon us, we reflect over the past 12 months of political chaos yet still gear up to send another class of graduates off to new horizons. What will be their fate? Whatever directions they pursue, we hope the Class of 2018 is ready to confront many serious issues affecting our humanity and our planet. As the senior class completes their final semester at SF State, they’re encouraged to remain steadfast to their studies while enjoying their last hurrah of college life!
This message is written following attendance at the recent AAC&U national conference in DC. My week started with a symposium titled: “The power of civic engagement – Across campus, within communities, beyond borders” and I was completely absorbed by the quality of various sessions during the entire convention. The caliber of professionals and scholars I met doing amazing work coast-to-coast was inspiring. Although maintaining some grain of hope is key to survival, let’s not lose consciousness about the direction of autocracy and hypocrisy this nation is headed. The current U.S. administration is inflicting damage to an overwhelming number of human lives and the devastation occurring to our natural and cultural resources is unprecedented. The role of higher education in enhancing civic-engagement includes a commitment to student action, faculty development, and community partnerships representing the fullness of all our experiences. Both civic engagement and service learning tie these diverse efforts together into a coherent whole.
Problems that ought to be addressed with bipartisan decisions continue to be lopsided causing untold harm on our entire society in one way or another. Even the wealthiest 1% will be wounded when our environment is destroyed because of greed and absence of common sense that when we devastate one group of people, everyone suffers. When we cause damage to our environment and create adverse effects of climate change, each of us loses regardless of party affiliation. Which portion of global devastation does our government not understand? From clashing forces between DACA and “The Wall”, to increasing homelessness and a growing illiteracy, when will our elected officials become ‘woke’ to the dangerous terrain surrounding us? From decades of sexual harassment and racial injustice, to crumbling schools and rising medicals costs, we’re in a new era with our administration coming unhinged. We ignore all that at our peril. This nation has a long history of divided social landscapes and the contemporary evils of today are only leading to greater turmoil. This past year was a new call to action; what will you do now? Think Globally, Act Locally. That’s not a cliché, it’s a necessity. While striving to maintain a positive attitude and participate in non-violent protests is crucial, don’t lose sight of your next action. The content of the AAC&U education sessions was on point reminding us of what’s important: Identity matters, multiple perspectives for meaningful civic learning are essential, teaching students about social responsibility is paramount for democracy, advancing engaged scholarship among faculty is vital, and more.
Everyone involved with ICCE is working diligently to maintain forward momentum. During semester break, we co-sponsored the 2018 Faculty Retreat including organizing the keynote panel about civic engagement and how community service transforms lives. I thoroughly enjoyed moderating that plenary with a group of professionals/scholars and an incredible young grad student out there making a difference! Additionally, ICCE welcomes a new Engaged Faculty Fellow this spring with the College of Ethnic Studies, Dr. Teresa Carrillo. In general, thanks to all faculty who focus on student learning, leadership competencies, and opportunities for career development as essential. And, given the harsh global reality, we must create a ‘brave space’ for our most vulnerable students to become the architects of the future they imagine and develop the cultural agility required to help them flourish.
We encourage collaboration across our campus community as well as with outside organizations; fostering student success by enhancing cross-disciplinary research and service is paramount and we’re here to support your efforts. Similarly, all faculty could have a scholarly role relating to their teaching (in addition to the discrete pillar of “research” for the RTP process). Teaching and research do not have to be dichotomous, rather they can go hand-in-hand in many ways. This type of energy does not have to include conducting original research; for example, conceptualizing the scholarship of teaching and learning is ideal for those who teach CSL courses. For instance, we invite you to investigate ways to measure service-learning outcomes if interested! Whether through involving students in your classes, or connecting with organizations for community-engaged scholarship using innovative strategies, faculty are also encouraged to share results and products with us to add to our growing collection to showcase.
Be sure to discern intent versus impact. Courageous conversations are needed where we listen, learn, understand, agree to disagree with respect, etc., all in the spirit of change. To help achieve this, be sure to participate in SF State’s Year of Conversation keeping in mind our dialogue needs to include reclaiming the narrative of justice! Please also nominate a friend or colleague doing outstanding work for one of our ICCE Awards this year. Finally, keep your eye out for SF State’s involvement in a two-year research-to-practice initiative to examine campus climates that foster student nonpartisan political learning and engagement in democracy. We are one of 12 universities selected nationwide to participate; led by the American Democracy Project in collaboration with prominent researchers, a key goal is to reduce the struggle of polarization by increasing student involvement in a myriad of political processes.
Acts of passivity gets us nowhere. Prejudice, hatred and violence give rise to a vicious cycle of oppression often leading to subjugation of our brothers and sisters. Our nation has been here before. Do we sit silently or do we keep fighting for justice together? We encourage you to ‘speak truth to power’ and demand greater equity for all. That is also not a cliché, it’s an imperative and moral urgency.
Thanks for helping make this world a better place ~
Nina S. Roberts, PhD, Faculty Director
Institute for Civic & Community Engagement