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Civic Engagement: The Iowa Caucuses
Unformatted Document Text:  Introduction Colleges and Universities are increasingly coming to the conclusion that part of our mission should be to promote and strengthen civic society. Civic engagement, in this view, is designed to help students become active, informed and empowered democratic citizens. (Hoppe 2004; Swaner 2007). The goal is “the development of students’ civic capacities for democratic participation and responsible engagement in community life.” (Swaner 2007, p. 19). Much of the development in these areas has been shaped by efforts at service learning, combining volunteer activity with coursework and critical reflection. (Jacoby 1996; Eyler and Giles 1999) But it also can involve other active learning techniques such as involvement in internships or participation in co-curricular activities. Drake University fits this pattern of increasing the emphasis on civic engagement. We just enhanced our commitment to, in the words of our mission statement, “engaged global citizenship.” Part of that increased commitment was to strengthen the academic requirement for “engaged citizenship,” one of the areas where students must complete coursework as part of the general education requirements of the University. The new standards require completion of an upper-level class that fits in the “engaged citizen” requirement, replacing a requirement that relied on large introductory level classes. In addition, each year we have a theme around which classes, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities are structured in the hopes of encouraging a campus-wide dialogue on the topic. This year’s theme is “Democracy and Dissent.” In response to these changes and to a belief in the importance of helping students become empowered democratic citizens, I put together a new class designed to encourage this kind of civic engagement. 1 The hope was that the class would help each student more effectively “function as a citizen in a democratic society.” (Benson and Harkavy, 2002, p. 362.) 2 In this brief paper, I want to describe the class and examine how effective it was at achieving this objective. POLS115/193: The Presidential Nomination Process/Caucus Internship I have, in most Presidential years since I came to Drake in 1990, taught a class on 1 There is also a school of thought in the civic engagement literature that ties such engagement to a feeling of “giving back” to the community. (See Etzioni 1995). That is a worthy goal. My class, however, was not based on this perspective. Empowering citizens, not giving back to the community, was the goal of this experience. 2 According to the research, approaches such as this can also lead to personal development. (Eyler and Giles 1999; Pascarella and Terenzini 2005). And some arguments are made that it can even improve student’s mental health and overall well-being. Again, while such goals are worthy, they were beyond the scope of my concerns, nor did I try to assess whether such goals were achieved. (For a good overview of these broader issues as they relate to civic engagement, see Swaner, 2007).

Authors: Sanders, Arthur.
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Introduction
Colleges and Universities are increasingly coming to the conclusion that part of
our mission should be to promote and strengthen civic society. Civic engagement, in this
view, is designed to help students become active, informed and empowered democratic
citizens. (Hoppe 2004; Swaner 2007). The goal is “the development of students’ civic
capacities for democratic participation and responsible engagement in community
life.” (Swaner 2007, p. 19). Much of the development in these areas has been shaped by
efforts at service learning, combining volunteer activity with coursework and critical
reflection. (Jacoby 1996; Eyler and Giles 1999) But it also can involve other active
learning techniques such as involvement in internships or participation in co-curricular
activities.
Drake University fits this pattern of increasing the emphasis on civic engagement.
We just enhanced our commitment to, in the words of our mission statement, “engaged
global citizenship.” Part of that increased commitment was to strengthen the academic
requirement for “engaged citizenship,” one of the areas where students must complete
coursework as part of the general education requirements of the University. The new
standards require completion of an upper-level class that fits in the “engaged citizen”
requirement, replacing a requirement that relied on large introductory level classes. In
addition, each year we have a theme around which classes, co-curricular and extra-
curricular activities are structured in the hopes of encouraging a campus-wide dialogue
on the topic. This year’s theme is “Democracy and Dissent.”
In response to these changes and to a belief in the importance of helping students
become empowered democratic citizens, I put together a new class designed to encourage
this kind of civic engagement.
The hope was that the class would help each student more
effectively “function as a citizen in a democratic society.” (Benson and Harkavy, 2002, p.
362.)
In this brief paper, I want to describe the class and examine how effective it was at
achieving this objective.
POLS115/193: The Presidential Nomination Process/Caucus Internship
I have, in most Presidential years since I came to Drake in 1990, taught a class on
1
There is also a school of thought in the civic engagement literature that ties such
engagement to a feeling of “giving back” to the community. (See Etzioni 1995). That is a
worthy goal. My class, however, was not based on this perspective. Empowering
citizens, not giving back to the community, was the goal of this experience.
2
According to the research, approaches such as this can also lead to personal
development. (Eyler and Giles 1999; Pascarella and Terenzini 2005). And some
arguments are made that it can even improve student’s mental health and overall well-
being. Again, while such goals are worthy, they were beyond the scope of my concerns,
nor did I try to assess whether such goals were achieved. (For a good overview of these
broader issues as they relate to civic engagement, see Swaner, 2007).


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