SKIP navigation
Name Here

This page's main content:

frequently asked questions.

What exactly is the American Democracy Project?

The American Democracy Project is a non-partisan, national initiative conceived by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) in partnership with the New York Times and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. AASCU is working to connect participating campuses, facilitate conversation and research, and support the effort through networking. Of AASCU's 430 member campuses, 227 have currently declared participation in this project. The ADP asks participating campuses to consider the growing challenges of educating a citizenry who have the knowledge, skill, values and motivation to renew our democratic principles and ensure a healthy democracy anew with each generation. The Civic Participation Project is The University of Nebraska at Omaha's implementation of this initiative.

What are the key assumptions leading to AASCU's American Democracy Project initiative?

  • That "social capital" (provided through interaction with others, the development of trust, a sense of linkage between people, participation in community) is on the decline.
  • That primary and secondary civics education is declining.
  • That a sense of personal entitlement is on the increase.
  • That the politics of polarization is increasing.
  • That rates of political participation are decreasing.
  • That support for higher education is declining.
  • That the interest in democracy is increasing abroad.

What research and scholarly work underlie these assumptions?

The Civic Participation Project website has links to the AASCU and New York Times American Democracy Project web sites, where numerous references for the ADP are cited. Key to the ADP are the following:

  • Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone
  • Thomas Ehrlich, Ed. Civic Responsibility and Higher Education 2000
  • Thomas Ehrlich, Educating Citizens
  • Jedediah Purdy. "Suspicious Minds." The Atlantic Monthly. January/February 2003
  • The Civic and Political Health of the Nation, A Generation Portrait, 2002

What is the role of the New York Times in this project?

The New York Times serves as a resource by providing:

  • News, analysis and multiple perspectives through its educational services
  • Special events (for example the recent symposium for campus newspaper editors and their campus advisors)
  • Staff writers as guest speakers on campus
  • A web site for project dissemination
  • National visibility for the project and participating campuses
  • A conference for presidents and other senior campus leaders

What does the project mean to UNO?

The Civic Participation Project provides opportunities for the campus to:

  • Focus on issues related to citizenship and civic engagement at an institutional level (the distinction between engaged students and an engaged campus)
  • Integrate civic engagement with our planning and accreditation processes, through our strategic plan, institutional portfolio, and the Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP)
  • Research, describe and celebrate the breadth and depth of civic engagement activities already present on our campus
  • Engage in broad conversations about the role of civic engagement in our undergraduate and graduate programs
  • Enhance and extend curricular and co-curricular engagement activities

What is the working definition of "civic engagement" in the context of the Civic Participation Project?

Using Thomas Ehrlich's words, civic engagement is:

  • "Working to make a difference in the civic life, our communities, and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference."
  • Promoting the quality of life in a community through both political and non-political processes

What are the broad student-learning outcomes of the Civic Participation Project?

  • To increase the understanding of democracy's conceptual and historical roots
  • To create an understanding of contemporary issues and events
  • To provide opportunities to learn and experience core processes of civic engagement
  • To develop a commitment to take action and become involved in the life of the community

Why should the campus get involved in this project when there are already examples of our success with civic engagement?

While there are many examples of activities on campus that fit the definition of student civic engagement, the Civic Participation Project focuses at an institutional level where the chancellor, vice chancellors, and the entire university community become involved. Additionally, AASCU encourages the development of linkages between those on campus who are "engaged" as well as forming or deepening relationships with the broader local community and with other campuses.

Is this really about getting our students to register to vote?

Voter registration can be an important aspect of the civic participation efforts on the campus; however, civic engagement also includes a broader set of skills, values and experiences.

What resources are available to support civic participation efforts?

AASCU and the New York Times provide important non-monetary support. Campus resources or other public or private sources must provide funding for activities initiated by the campus. UNO's Office of Academic and Student Affairs has provided small seed grants for such initiatives. We will provide information on other support opportunities as they become available.

What is the timeline for the American Democracy Project? When does it begin? End?

AASCU considers the spring of 2003, when ideas of civic engagement were introduced in the national meetings, to be the beginning of the ADP; however, each campus is encouraged to enter the initiative when the institution is ready.

Each campus is asked to:

  • Year one: Under take a campus audit of civic engagement, begin campus conversations and identify possible projects
  • Years two and three: Undertake activities designed by the campus based on institutional mission, local circumstances and campus-generated initiatives.

Presentations at the ADP national and regional meetings address:

  • Innovative teaching/learning strategies
  • Model voter education and registration strategies
  • New national programs
  • Assessment ideas

Where are the opportunities for action?

  • First year programs
  • General education
  • Faculty development
  • Elections
  • Campus culture
  • Assessment
  • Service Learning
  • American Humanics
  • Co-curricula
  • Community

How do I get involved?

Faculty, staff and students are invited to learn more and to get involved at whatever level they wish. This website is an excellent place to begin.