Civic Creativity

The Civic Creativity of University Graduates:  Deepening Higher Education’s Public Mission

The energy of educated young people committed to working for the public good is a crucial force for change in every nation.  The goal of the Third Century Global Challenges team development project on The Civic Creativity of University Graduates: Deepening Higher Education’s Public Mission is to answer the question, “How do we best support this vital asset for effecting change — college students moving into lives in which they seek to address local, national, and global challenges as active citizens?” This project will lay the groundwork for an international multi-campus study of the roles, identities, and aspirations of publicly committed graduates. Faculty collaborators want to help campuses to encourage the civic life choices of current students; to see, value, and nurture their public-minded alums; and to strengthen communities by identifying ways to support those active graduates.

The culture of donor-centered alumni relations is spreading internationally. So, too, is the development of academic programs that make civic learning and democratic engagement as central to undergraduate education. Significant numbers of graduates are looking for ways to sustain the civic activism they pursued as students in the places where they live and work.  They want to be understood as “doers, not (just) donors,” as the University of Michigan-based initiative, Citizen Alum puts it.

The group’s long-term goal is to design research models that will help people in many different higher ed systems who are investigating the impact of civic learning at the tertiary level. They are particularly interested in models that engage graduates themselves in alumni civic engagement studies. In the team development stage, they will be identifying faculty at U-M who have strong relationships with universities abroad that are developing strong community-engaged curricula or who are pursuing research programs grounded in regional and local partnerships. They will also build ties to international groups such as the Talloires Network.

The project builds on the emergence and expansion of a national network called Citizen Alum, based at U-M and initiated by Professor Julie Ellison in 2012. The U-M Citizen Alum team—which includes four members of our TCGC group—is focusing on Bicentennial programming with a State of Michigan focus.

Project Team:

Julie Ellison, College of Literature, Science and the Arts
Crisca Bierwert, Associate Director, CRLT
Cinda-Sue Davis, Executive Director of STEM Program Development and Director of Women in Science & Engineering
Kristin Hass, College of Literature, Science and the Arts
Elizabeth Moje, School of Education
Katie Richards-Schuster, School of Social Work
Michael Spencer, School of Social Work