The Dartmouth College Public Impact Initiative
Developing an Undergraduate Model for Strengthening Civic Health and Leadership
Current research highlights the lack of civic engagement among young people, raising concerns about future citizenship and participation in our democracy. There is little indication that a new generation is inclined or prepared to fill vacancies created by the retirement of senior administrators in government, education, social service, and traditional non-profit sectors. By coordinating and augmenting existing resources, the Public Impact Initiative will motivate Dartmouth students to lead civically engaged lives, and provide them with the policy, management, and strategic skills necessary for careers in the common good. The Initiative will include peer institutions in strategic planning, evaluation and post-graduate programs to identify best practices, target measurable civic health outcomes, and encourage replication.
The Public Impact Initiative is a campus-wide effort to strengthen student civic engagement, to encourage students pursuit of careers in the common good, and to use Dartmouth s assets to benefit the region. The Initiative is housed in the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center, Dartmouth s center for public policy research, deliberation, and teaching. We plan to link several existing community service and internship programs with a curriculum, career counseling and skills training to provide a coherent experience for students and a road map for their future direction. We request support for the Initiative s first phase to augment current Rockefeller Center offerings with strategically targeted new programs and enhanced student support to strengthen political civic engagement on campus. The funding will expand administrative capacity to foster collaboration among Dartmouth s Tuck School of Business, undergraduate centers, and the Office of Career Services, and long-term partnerships with top-tier public and non-profit employers, and other colleges and universities nationwide.
The Public Impact Initiative will begin by convening employers who hire people into the political world to determine the core competencies and experiences needed for the next generation of public policy and independent sector innovators. This group will include non-profit managers, union organizers, think tanks, campaign and advocacy representatives and legislative councils. This initial meeting will ensure the correct focus for the Initiative. Discussions will inform the Center s program development and assessment protocols and, by engaging the independent sector in Dartmouth s vision, will plant seeds for future national collaboration.
A Comprehensive Program for Civic Leadership
The Public Impact Initiative will include integrated curricular, co-curricular, research, and skill development opportunities to support students interested in pursuing careers in the common good, and to enhance the civic health of all students. The Initiative will structure students progression from consideration of academic policy frameworks, through sophisticated research and practical contributions in the policy world, to specially designed post-graduate training for non-profit management. Students will gain strategies to pursue new ideas, a context for policy development, and an opportunity to prove themselves in the real world of policy and public service all within an infrastructure that facilitates civic innovation and discourse. Each of these elements will be fully integrated to maximize their cumulative impact. The Rockefeller Center will utilize a detailed longitudinal assessment to measure effectiveness, and will solicit student feedback to investigate additional opportunities.
Programming will include an expansion of the civic engagement curriculum, rigorous experiential skill building, and new co-curricular offerings to strengthen civic responsibility among all students as noted below:
A. Building Civic Skills
Participation and Civic Engagement Course Building on new research in the United States and emerging democracies abroad, this class will focus on civic engagement and participation by combining readings, research and field experience. The literature will focus on issues of political participation, issues that affect political activism and grass roots mobilization, polling as a campaign tool, and political strategies that reflect historic demographic trends. The class will include guest lectures from practitioners (preferably some in residence), and a practicum in which students work on a campaign, in a political action committee, party organization or advocacy group, at a press organization, or in a grass roots organization.
Legislative Research Shop Strategically located at the mid-point between the capitals of Vermont and New Hampshire, the Research Shop will provide information to lawmakers in both states, proactively and upon request, in the areas of education, health, and the environment. Both legislatures are part-time and have minimal staff to address increasing policy responsibility in the new devolved environment of state government. Twenty-four paid student researchers will provide in-depth research from other states and produce appropriate policy briefs. A post-doctoral fellow and the Associate Director of Research for the Rockefeller Center will supervise the student researchers.
Civic Engagement Skills Training Filling a need articulated by politically-inclined students, the Rockefeller Center will provide intensive one-week training sessions for students on grassroots and political mobilization. Leading experts in political organizing will teach media strategies, database management, polling, lobbying, volunteer coordination, campaign finance, strategic planning, and fundraising.
B. Developing Civic Leadership on Campus
Leadership House This will be a residence for on-campus civic leaders, complete with space (computers, conference room, and reference information) to support the Research Shop, skills workshops and non-profit ventures. Civically active Dartmouth alumni will provide mentoring activities here as well.
Civic Practitioners in Residence Borrowing from successful models at other colleges and universities, the Rockefeller Center will create a practitioner in residence position on a year-round basis. The position will be for individuals with significant professional experience in the area of public service, politics, or policy. In addition to writing and conducting research, these leaders in their fields will mentor students and, when appropriate, teach a seminar in collaboration with a Dartmouth faculty member. The practitioners will advise the Office of Career Services on new opportunities for graduates and on opportunities for campus program enhancement.
C. Supporting Students Beyond Graduation
Non-Profit Bridge Program Based on the nationally renowned Tuck School of Business Administration Bridge Program, the Tuck School will offer a four-week non-profit finance and management boot camp for recent graduates. This proposal includes seed money for program development and thirty scholarships for Dartmouth graduates. Over time, we will add ten additional attendees from peer institutions whose tuition will help support program costs. <><> Dedicated Staff for Careers in the Common Good Responding to student demand for more information on public and independent sector careers, the Initiative will support dedicated staff to ensure expert counseling, internships, exposure to national fellowships, and national caliber fairs for careers in the common good.
Building Capacity for Future Growth
The Rockefeller Center must expand its capacity in order to achieve these ambitious programming efforts while maintaining its current level of excellence. Such an expanded operation will over time enhance the Center s potential for entrepreneurship in the field of civic engagement. The Leadership House adds a residential component to enhancing civic health, and will provide additional space for programming and visiting residential scholars. Rockefeller Center has identified opportunities to further increase capacity through consolidation of current staff responsibilities and the strategic addition of new positions. New job descriptions will include a strong focus on fundraising to sustain the Initiative, and on leveraging partnerships to maximize collaboration and replication.
To ensure success, the Public Impact Initiative will provide a baseline assessment of the civic health of undergraduates at Dartmouth College, compare the results to similar assessments at peer institutions, and conduct a longitudinal study to measure the success of program elements against the stated goals. The assessment will utilize the civic health indices developed in the Pew Charitable Trusts-funded CIRCLE Study conducted at the University of Maryland, and will explore incorporating other emerging protocols. Unlike traditional assessments of civic activity on campuses that focus on inputs (i.e. number of hours of community service, use of work study for service, etc.), this evaluation will measure outcomes by evaluating a student cohort s civic health, and tracking the cohort longitudinally to test the effectiveness of new strategies.
Partnerships and National Impact
The Public Impact Initiative will partner with colleges and universities at the forefront of undergraduate efforts in enhancing civic engagement. We will collaborate on the initial focus group, on an institution-to-institution evaluation of civic health, and on participation in the Non-Profit Management Bridge Program. Using these key collaborative elements, we will identify core competencies in the marketplace; diagnose gaps in civic health; test new strategies to address shortfalls; identify best practices for strengthening civic health; and gain a critical mass of students for the Bridge Program to test its effectiveness in launching students into careers in the common good. We will share findings of these collaborative efforts nationally. We expect the reports to spark a national exchange of undergraduate strategies to achieve specific measurable outcomes in the quest for stronger civic engagement in the next generation. Current institutional partners include Tufts University, Stanford University, University of Vermont, and Middlebury College. We will pursue additional national partners when the project is fully funded.
Capitalizing on Dartmouth s long history of academic excellence and Rockefeller Center s strength in public policy, we are eager to build programs, facilities, and expanded capacity to ensure that Dartmouth students are prepared for lives of active civic leadership. We will engage peer institutions from the outset to collaboratively establish measurable outcomes and identify effective practices for national replication. Through this focus and partnership, the Public Impact Initiative will advance research on undergraduate strategies to enhance civic engagement, and pave the way for developing a new generation of civic leaders in America.
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