ADP encourages students to learn about democracy
February 15, 2007
In 2004 UW-River Falls became a member of the American Democracy Project (ADP), and over the last three years the project has come a long way through the presence of programs, information and events to get students involved in our democracy.
UWRF Chancellor Don Betz is one of the founders of ADP, an organization with more than 1.7 million students and nearly 200 universities participating nationwide.
The goal of the project is to encourage educated civic engagement among college students and the public as a whole in the U.S.
“It’s [civic engagement] one of our American values and we need to encourage that,” said Colleen Callahan, chair of the UWRF journalism department and of ADP.
At UWRF several outlets of ADP are available to aid in achieving their goal, such as the “New York Times Readership Program,” “Constitution Week” and the “New Voters Project.”
Students in certain classes, such as business, journalism and science classes are involved in the “New York Times Readership Program.” Students involved in classes that offer the program pay an additional course fee of $5 to receive a copy of the New York Times daily on campus and access to exclusive content on the New York Times Web site. The remaining copies of the newspaper are available for all students after 2:00 p.m. every day for free.
According to the 2004-2005 UWRF annual report, “An average of 775 students are reading the renowned newspaper; last spring it was used by 14 faculty members in 21 class sections of 17 courses.”
“Constitution Week” takes place during the first week of classes in September. During this time there are activities directed at making students recognize the U.S. Constitution. UWRF History Professor Kurt Leichtle dresses up in colonial garb and passes out pocket Constitutions to students.
The “New Voters Project” is designed to increase the number of student voters every two years, Callahan said. During election time, things are done on campus to encourage students to vote. Student volunteers come to classrooms to register voters, give directions on how to vote and information about candidates is available on campus.
Callahan said “Coffee with the Times,” another event in conjunction with ADP and sponsored by the New York Times, has her excited. This is a group discussion open to the public that will be held twice a month in the University Center.
“It’s a place for faculty, staff, students and the community to get together to talk about issues that are important to them,” Callahan said, adding that she is still searching for people to lead the discussions.
On April 12-14, UWRF will be hosting the first American Democracy Project North Central Regional Conference in the new University Center. The theme for the conference will be “Spaces of Civic Engagement.”
“This theme leads us to sustainability and our roles as leaders and stewards of our resources, natural and human,” Betz said.
The conference will focus on where spaces of civic engagement occur, how they are created and how they can be sustained.
“We are educating citizens to acquire the skills, perspective and motivation to actively address the issues of our times,” Betz said.
According to the conference Web site, “This conference invites you to explore the myriad spaces where students, faculty, alumni, staff and local residents can come together to exchange ideas, solve problems, and improve the physical and intellectual environments on college campuses.”
Several events will take place during the conference, including speeches by environmental activist John Cronin, and the New York Times Senior Editor Greg Brock. A photography exhibition entitled “9 Months in America” will be displayed, and there will be a showing of “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the University Center Theater.
Special Assistant to the Chancellor Blake Fry said the conference is $125 for faculty and staff and $100 for students, but certain events, such as the film showing and the photography display, are free and open to the public.
Callahan said she sees the importance of civic involvement at a young age because future generations depend on the people of today.
“That’s part of our job as educators, to promote civic engagement,” she said.
The American Democracy Project is an attempt to make civic involvement a reality at UWRF and throughout the nation.