Civic Studies Initiative

“Higher education is in the midst of profound change. In turn, ‘many faculty members are sliding toward politically impotent modes of defensiveness and cynicism’ (Rom Coles and Blase Scarnati, 2015). Augsburg College’s trajectory points toward a different way to respond to these crises: a move from powerlessness to agency…In our search for collective empowerment to shaping the changing environment as well as our own destiny, Augsburg holds capacity to emerge as a democracy college.”

Catherine Bishop, Harry Boyte, Kathleen Clark, Elaine Eschenbacher, Margaret Finders, Michael Lansing, and Joe Underhill, “Agency in an Avalanche: Imagining Democratic Futures at Augsburg College,” forthcoming Timothy Eatman and Scott Peters, Rebuilding the Democracy College

What is Civic Studies?

In 2016-17 the Civic Studies Initiative, undertaken in cooperation with the Kettering Foundation, will acquaint the wider University and partners with the theory and practice of civic agency and its transdisciplinary field of Civic Studies.  As Tufts University describes it, “Civic Studies is the intellectual component of…the movement to improve societies by engaging their citizens, understood as co-creators of their worlds.”

The idea of citizens as co-creators – of Augsburg, of the Twin Cities, of democracy as a way of life – is a profound challenge to “students as consumers” and related definitions which degrade civic life, from the vantage of Civic Studies.  In contrast, the model of citizen as co-creator raises issues of creative power and a different kind of politics, engaging people across differences. It unsettles many fixities including conventional academics and co-curricular life.

The Civic Studies Initiative is co-sponsored by the Center for Teaching and Learning, the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, and Augsburg’s Department of Education, and it is consciously woven into the longer term planning process of Augsburg in anticipation of 2019, the 150th anniversary of the University. It meets Goal 1 of Augsburg 2019 in that it is collaborative across programs and departments to facilitate the development of a signature curricula to “prepare students for civic agency in a complex world” and “support faculty in developing pedagogies that are effective with Augsburg’s intentionally diverse mix of students”; “Integrate the liberal arts and professional studies” and “Engage innovative thinking and collaborative pedagogies at the intersection of science, business and religion.”

Symposia and Fellows Programs

  • The Civic Studies Initiative will include four symposia in 2016-17, open to all faculty, staff, and students from Augsburg as well as partners in the larger community. Read more on the Civic Studies Symposia page.
  • These symposia will introduce Civic Studies as presenting a different definition of citizen, citizen as co-creator, and what that implies. They will also explain how to integrate civic agency skills into courses and student activities; look at how the “democracy college” lens calls for rethinking assessment to emphasize cooperative excellence; and explore what “public scholarship” looks like with a Civic Studies lens.
  • Another component of the initiative will be selection of Civic Studies Augsburg Fellows and Community Fellows. These will be chosen from a variety of disciplines and staff units as well as community partners, forming a learning community which will help organize the subsequent symposia, undertake more thorough study of Civic Studies, and develop projects for policy and culture change. Read more on the Civic Studies Fellows page. Applications will be accepted through October 12th.