Civic engagement is contributing and working to make a difference in the public (or civic) life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and commitment to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community and solving public problems, through both political and non-political processes. Civic engagement is undergirded by constructs of collective action and social responsibility (Ehrlich, 2000).
Helping students draw connections between policy or legislation and course content, disciplinary questions or field-related priorities is critical for educating students about the role we all play in shaping the communities we live in, not only while at University of Michigan but also in the future. While it can be challenging to know where, or even if, to begin making these connections more explicit in your courses, we can support your efforts.
What is allowable as a state employee?
- Inform students of an upcoming election
- Share resources for voter registration
- Make students aware of which positions and initiatives will be on the ballot, without endorsing a particular candidate or position
- Encourage international students to research candidates and ballot measures, and to talk with their peers who are eligible
- Review University guidelines
Why should I talk about voting in my class?
Traditional-age college students are young, have little or no history of voting, and are residentially mobile, which works against their rates of voter registration and voter turnout. Studies show that encouragement from faculty, staff, and other students makes a significant difference in student registration and turnout (Bennion and Nickerson, 2016; DellaVigna, List, Malmendier & Rao, 2016; Gerber and Rogers, 2009). The University of Michigan’s Big Ten Voting Challenge and civic engagement efforts helped to increase student midterm election turnout from 14.3% (2014) to 41.0% (2018), but that is well short of full engagement and we have more work to do.
Encouraging students to engage in the democratic process is a non-partisan activity.
What is the connection between well-being and civic engagement?
Resources to promote discussion, reflection and connections:
Include information about civic engagement in your syllabus
- Consider the timing of exams on election days.
- Include information about voting during election seasons.
- Include framing language in your syllabus, such as:
In a democracy, a government is chosen by voting to elect representatives to make policy and enforce laws while representing the citizens. The University of Michigan encourages eligible students to exercise their right to vote, and students of all citizenship backgrounds to actively engage in issues of public concern. When more people participate, a broader array of perspectives is represented in policies and laws that impact our country, society, and the world. You are encouraged to vote in local and national elections, work at the polls and support democractic engagement. You can register to vote at govote.umich.edu.
Connect course content to policy issues
- Reflect on how your course content could connect to one or more issues related to policy and/or funding. How does public policy impact your discipline? How can you help students make these connections?
- These resources offer concrete strategies and tools:
- Campus Election Engagement Project
- Civic Learning in the Major by Design
- The Politically Engaged Classroom
- Project Pericles' Nonpartisan Voter Education Modules
Incorporate the Pathways to Civic Engagement into your work
- The Pathways to Civic Engagement & Community Change offer students multiple (and overlapping) ways to contribute to a more just, inclusive, and fair democratic society. We have developed a complementary set of Academic Partner Strategies and resources that you can use to support each of the pathways.
- Policy & Governance
- Community Organizing & Activism
- Direct Service
- Community-Engaged Learning & Research
- Social Entrepreneurship
Incorporate civic learning activities into your courses
- This Dialogue Deck, co-designed by the Ginsberg Center and UMMA, offers a number of ways to use the curated images and prompts to support discussion and reflection.
- We have curated a number of civic learning activities that allow students across disciplines to practice democratic processes so they can develop democratic habits and engage with socially relevant topics. We offer considerations for adapting the exercises to both in-person and virtual classroom contexts.
Encourage and support discussion and dialogue
Being able to support all students to engage fully in discussions can be challenging, but it is a critical responsiblity of a civically engaged campus.
Partner with others to support civic engagement
You can work with colleagues and others to engage more deeply in civic issues:
- Hold a meeting with other faculty to strategize ways to support students' learning around civic engagement
- Host a panel with faculty or other experts to talk about specific issues
- Bring in a local rep who is legislating about policies relevant to your field or discipline
- Check-in with your professional or disciplinary associations to get ideas for connecting your discipline with public policy
Further readings & resources
- The Political Classroom
- I Will Register and Vote, If You Teach Me How
- Battistoni, R. M. (2017). Civic engagement acrosss the curriculum: A resource book for service-learning faculty in all disciplines (e-book). Boston, MA: Campus Compact.
- Ehrlich, T., & Ehrlich, T. (2000). Civic responsibility and higher education. Oryx Press.
- Episode of Campus Compact's Podcast Nation focused on campus political engagement with Nancy Thomas