Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Public Deliberation and Practical Application of Civic Engagement through a "Train the Trainer" Process at a Historically Black College

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Public Deliberation and Practical Application of Civic Engagement through a "Train the Trainer" Process at a Historically Black College

Article excerpt

Introduction

The public work of institutions of higher education is often associated with processes and activities beyond the gates of the college/university and is reflected in experiences framed in constructs of the institutional mission. This is often captured in the consciousness, commitment, and engagement of the campus and community. The public work of institutions takes higher education outside the confines of the campus and into communities and society with focus on deliberate experiences and activities connecting public work to civic engagement. Creating "spaces" for deliberation on college campuses involves a commitment to civic engagement and connection to that mission. Such spaces and opportunities provide experiences for students (and all campus constituents) to embrace and actualize the "practice of deliberation," civic responsibility and professional practice of "public work."

This study is positioned in the conceptual framework of "civic agency," which emphasizes the collective capacity of engagement (civic) and public voice. Boyte (1997) suggested that the concept of civic agency highlights the broader set of capacities and skills required to take skillful, imaginative collective action in fluid and open environments. Additionally, Boyte notated civic agency through a project initiative with the American Association of State Colleges & Universities (AASCU; www.aascu.org) and the Kettering Foundation (www.kettering.org). The focus is to incorporate civic agency into minority-serving institutions such as historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and regional institutions. A key component of the initiative involves building capacity for civic agency through civic engagement and service among students, faculty, and staff. Public, private, HBCUs and predominantly White institutions (PWIs) through the years have had a "service" component associated with their institutions. Activities may take the form of a variety of experiences (e.g., community service, service learning, and civic engagement) and link the campus and community through public work. Connecting or reconnecting the academic life of the college with public work of citizenship calls for commitment and intentional efforts toward the democratic process. The relevancy of an engaged people must be examined with focus on the establishment of an institutional culture of civic engagement, democratic practice, and public scholarship. Mathews (2005) asserted that a public scholarship movement off campus is as great as the potential on campus. The connection between community and campus serves as a platform for public forums or marketplaces as described by Mathews. Review of public scholarship and public service leads to analysis and a reflective process involving institutional purpose and mission.

Examination of the public service mission of institutions is directly linked to the process of institutional "self-study." Whisenton and colleagues (1969) concluded that the "self-study" process aids an institution in making a realistic appraisal of its status and effectiveness, whereby providing opportunities for rethinking the purpose and yielding insights into the institution and its people. As such, a question emerges: Does the institutional mission represent the practice of the institution with focus on civic engagement and public service? Peters (2005) highlighted four key points related to higher education's public-service mission: (a) higher education's public service mission directly links the academy with external partners in both the public sphere and the private sector through the work of engagement; (b) engagement is a two-way activity, which is mutually beneficial, and helps to advance the interests of external partners and the general public as well as the academy; (c) engagement has declined in the post-world War II era in both status and frequency, which leads to conversation regarding the need for renewal; and (d) there are significant barriers and disincentives blocking scholars and as such engagement is not sufficiently appreciated, valued, documented, assessed, or rewarded. …

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