Democratic Engagement


Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement means promoting the education of students for engaged citizenship though democratic participation in their communities, respect and appreciation of diversity, applied learning and social responsibility (NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education).

Civic engagement involves one or more of the following:

  1. Learning from others, self, and environment to develop informed perspectives on social issues;
  2. Recognizing and appreciating human diversity and commonality;
  3. Behaving, and working through controversy, with civility;
  4. Taking an active role in the political process;
  5. Participating actively in public life, public problem solving, and community service;
  6. Assuming leadership and membership roles in organizations;
  7. Developing empathy, ethics, values, and sense of social responsibility;
  8. Promoting social justice locally and globally.

-B. Jacoby & Associates, Civic Engagement in Higher Education, Jossey-Bass, 2009. Based on the definition framed by the Coalition for Civic Engagement and Leadership

Civic engagement is “working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes.” (Excerpted from Civic Responsibility and Higher Education, edited by Thomas Ehrlich, published by Oryx Press, 2000, Preface, page vi.)


  • A Crucible Moment – This call to action, given in 2012 by The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, and published by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, calls on educators and public leaders to advance a 21st century vision of college learning for all students – a vision with civic learning and democratic engagement an expected part of every student’s college education. Access the full report here.
  • Active Citizen Continuum – The Office of Leadership & Civic Engagement (OLCE) is a member of Break Away, the national nonprofit organization that promotes the development of quality alternative break programs through training, assisting, and connecting campuses and communities. The Spartan Service Trip Program, coordinated through OLCE is based on the Active Citizen Continuum model developed by Break Away.
  • Civic Engagement Value Rubric – Published by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, the VALUE rubrics were developed by teams of faculty experts representing colleges and universities across the United States through a process that examined many existing campus rubrics and related documents for each learning outcome and incorporated additional feedback from faculty. The rubrics articulate fundamental criteria for each learning outcome, with performance descriptors demonstrating progressively more sophisticated levels of attainment. The rubrics are intended for institutional-level use in evaluating and discussing student learning, not for grading.
  • Is Your Service Democratic? – Invite students engaged in different types of service to use this quiz and start a dialogue about the importance of democratic service. This resources is adapted from Building Citizens: A Critical Reflection and Discussion Guide published by the Walt Whitman Center for the Culture and Politics of Democracy.