School of Humanities & Communication Recognized for Integration of Civic Responsibility

SEASIDE, Ca., Oct. 25, 2017 – California State University Monterey Bay’s (CSUMB) School of Humanities & Communication (HCOM) was recognized today by The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) for providing a model on how to make civic learning and democratic engagement an expectation for all students who major in that discipline.

CSUMB’s HCOM department was one of nine departments singled out for special recognition and will be featured in an upcoming issue of Peer Review, AAC&U’s quarterly publication on emerging trends and key debates in undergraduate education. The issue, “Civic Learning in the Major by Design,” will be published in January 2018.

Supported by a grant from the Endeavor Foundation, this initiative aims to limit the civic-free zones of too many departments by providing guidance to colleges and universities as they tackle one of their most resistant, yet fertile, areas of civic learning by bringing it squarely into where students invest most of their academic attention: their majors.

A Crucible Moment: Civic Learning and Democracy’s Future (2012) found that most civic-oriented study occurs in the first two years of a student’s academic career and then shrinks demonstrably as they move into more concentrated academic study. One of the recommendations in A Crucible Moment calls on colleges and universities to “define within departments, programs, and disciplines the public purposes of their respective fields, the civic inquiries most urgent to explore, and the best way to infuse civic learning outcomes progressively across the major” (32).

AAC&U took up this challenge through a pilot initiative that resulted in the publication of Civic Prompts: Making Civic Learning Routine Across the Disciplines (2015) by Caryn McTighe Musil. Civic Prompts constructs a process for faculty members to hold deep conversations with their departmental colleagues to explore on their own disciplinary terms how best to make civic learning unavoidable. This new grant enables AAC&U to offer concrete models of what that actually looks like in practice.

Caryn McTighe Musil, Senior Scholar and Director of Civic Learning and Democracy Initiatives, and director of the Civic Learning in the Major by Design project, was impressed by the creativity and variety of ways that the selected departments used a civic lens to enhance the design of the major. “These civic-rich departmental designs seek to increase students’ comprehension of their discipline’s investigations, enhance voice and agency, offer hands-on practice in collaboratively addressing challenging public problems, and introduce students to moral, ethical, and civic responsibility issues that are likely to be part of their professional lives,” McTighe Musil said.