University of Central Arkansas Civic Action Plan

The UCA Civic Action Plan seeks to energize and expand the university’s focus on civic engagement, including activities and initiatives, new or ongoing, that contribute to producing graduates who are educated citizens, creating partnerships that serve the public good, and developing learning opportunities that promote social responsibility locally and around the world.

The UCA Civic Action Plan supports the vision and mission of the University of Central Arkansas and the following core values:

  • Intellectual Excellence, including preparing students to be educated citizens who are culturally competent and appreciate diversity
  • Community, including community partnerships, outreach activities, and public service
  • Diversity, including learning opportunities for students as members of our global community
  • Integrity, including an institution, faculty, staff, and student body that are responsible members of our many levels of community

The university welcomed our 11th president, Houston D. Davis, in January 2017, and President Davis signed the Campus Compact 30th Anniversary Action Statement on May 4th, 2017, making the following commitments:

  • We empower our students, faculty, staff, and community partners to co-create mutually respectful partnerships in pursuit of a just, equitable, and sustainable future for communities beyond the campus–nearby and around the world.
  • We prepare our students for lives of engaged citizenship, with the motivation and capacity to deliberate, act, and lead in pursuit of the public good.
  • We embrace our responsibilities as place-based institutions, contributing to the health and strength of our communities–economically, socially, environmentally, educationally, and politically.
  • We harness the capacity of our institutions–through research, teaching, partnerships, and institutional practice–to challenge the prevailing social and economic inequalities that threaten our democratic future.
  • We foster an environment that consistently affirms the centrality of the public purposes of higher education by setting high expectations for members of the campus community to contribute to their achievement.

Framework for a Civically Engaged University

The framework of a Civically Engaged University is part of an institutional effort at UCA to provide all students opportunities for participation in experiential learning activities.

We see the following Expectations for a Civically Engaged University as fulfilling Commitment 5 of the Action Statement:

All students have the opportunity to participate in at least one civic engagement activity, and all faculty and staff have support for participating in institutional efforts and initiatives that serve the public good. This will involve the institution offering a significant number of civic engagement activities, including both academic and co-curricular.

Categories for Activities

  • Partnerships for the Public Good (Commitments 1 and 3)
  • Education and Civic Engagement (Commitment 2)
  • Challenging Social Inequalities (Commitment 4)

Key Activities

The activities below are intended to capture the breadth of programs and stakeholders on campus that are currently engaged in civic engagement or will engage in civic engagement activities in the future. New Initiatives are detailed at the conclusion.

Partnerships for the Public Good

  • University Centers: University Centers provide targeted data, research, and programming to support campus and community initiatives. University Centers included in this civic action plan are those that respond to community needs with specialized expertise. Community needs may be local, regional, national or global in nature, and resources provided may include technical assistance, public policy analysis, community-based research, capacity building, and lifelong learning.
    • Examples: Arkansas Center for Research in Economics, the Center for Community and Economic Development, and the Confucius Institute
  • Key Partnerships: The university will pursue, develop, and sustain key partnerships that promote civic engagement that reciprocally benefits students and community partners. Opportunities to engage in long-term partnerships with broad campus engagement will be identified through ongoing assessment of institutional, student, and community needs and interests.
    • Examples: Arkansas Educational Television Network, City of Hope Outreach and the Institute for Poverty Studies, Faulkner County Juvenile Court, and Gusangira Project (Service-Learning in Rwanda)

Education and Civic Engagement

  • Academic Engagement: The institutional framework for providing intentional curricular processes that develop the knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes necessary for students to lead lives of active citizenship and contribute to addressing issues of public concern.
    • Examples: Service-Learning Program, Study Abroad/Domestic
      Study Away, Internships, PhD in Leadership Studies, Honors College, Arkansas Collegiate Model UN, and the Citizens Academy
  • Faculty and Staff Development and Support: Programs and resources that bolster institutional capacity 1) to promote quality of community and institutional diversity, 2) to develop and execute the programs and initiatives outlined in the civic action plan, and 3) to recognize the value of civic engagement work of students, faculty, staff, and community partners
    • Examples: Institutional Diversity Grants, Service-Learning Seed Grants, the Women in Academic Leadership Learning Community, and initiatives from the Center for Teaching Excellence that support civic engagement and learning
  • Campus-Community Civic Engagement Programs: Programs, projects, and initiatives that bring together campus and community stakeholders and resources with the explicit purpose to explore what it means to be an active citizen and community member, engage participants in shared reflection and learning about issues affecting our neighbors and communities, and support participation in local, state, national, and global communities.
    • Examples: CitiZine Project, Conway Conversations, and the Women’s Leadership Network
  • Co-Curricular Civic Learning: Co-curricular initiatives in civic learning will support UCA’s Civic Action vision of graduates who are educated and engaged citizens. The initiatives provide the information, develop the civic relationships, and cultivate the community-minded dispositions necessary for effective participation in public affairs.
    • Examples: Citizens Academy, Vote Everywhere, National Study of Learning, Voting, & Engagement, Citizenship & Democracy Week, Arkansas Collegiate Model UN, and Gender Studies Lecture Series

Challenging Social Inequalities

  • Student Access & Success Programs: Student access and success programs provide research-based initiatives that address pervasive, systemic social inequities in educational access and attainment. Programs move underrepresented populations, first-generation students, and under-prepared students toward academic success and college completion. These initiatives include programs designed to close achievement gaps, secondary school partnerships for college preparation, as well as bridge, transitional, and second-chance programs that provide high-impact support. Additionally, we endorse programs that educate, tutor, and coach toward social responsibility and lifelong learning.
    • Examples: Black Male Achievement Challenge (BMAC), Project X, Summer Start, Unlocking College Academics Now (UCAN), Upward Bound, Office of Student Success, Department of Student Transitions, and Gateways to Completion 
  • Student-to-Student Organizations: Student-to-Student Organizations support the mission and vision of UCA and the Civic Action Plan. Student-led Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) feature several ongoing community outreach and philanthropic initiatives. Community-focused RSO initiatives develop civic learning, civic action, and social responsibility.
    • Examples: Social Justice League, SGA Community Engagement, PRISM, Greek Life, Veteran Students Association, and Non-Traditional Student Organization 
  • Volunteerism, Philanthropy, and Direct Benefit Programs: Volunteerism, philanthropy, and direct benefit programs support Civic Action’s vision of a university actively challenging the detrimental effects of social and economic inequality. These programs allow the university and surrounding community to practice and promote social responsibility by creating partnerships with local institutions, establishing and increasing accessibility to university programs, and encouraging awareness and/or direct aid for the immediate alleviation of resource insecurity.
    • Examples: Food Recovery Network, Big Event, Bear Boots on the Ground, Greek Life philanthropy requirements, Aramark/Swipe Out Hunger, Bear Essentials Food Pantry, and the Career Services WOW Clothing Closet

New Initiatives

  • Gateways to Completion (G2C): Over the next three years, UCA will participate in the G2C program under the direction of the John N. Gardner Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to excellence in undergraduate education. The goal of the G2C program is to make evidence-based changes to high-enrollment gateway courses in an effort to reduce the overall percentage of DFWI grades and close achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students populations at UCA. Ultimately, the G2C program seeks to ameliorate the academic inequalities in higher education that limit the social mobility of disadvantaged populations in the United States. The G2C program will help UCA: 1) gather and analyze data on its high enrollment, high DFWI rate courses; 2) use the data to conduct a faculty-centered self-study to come up with a plan to redesign four or more of these courses; and 3) subsequently implement the plans generated for each of the courses.
  • Vote Everywhere: UCA was invited to become a Vote Everywhere campus in 2018, and this partnership with the Andrew Goodman Foundation will provide a keystone for co-curricular civic engagement on UCA’s campus in the coming years. Vote Everywhere is a national nonpartisan network that identifies and equips student ambassadors on campus to coordinate voter engagement and education efforts year-round and beyond typical election-year efforts, focusing on increasing voter registration on campus and removing barriers to voting. UCA’s Vote Everywhere team will focus on strategic partnership building between the Division of Outreach & Community Engagement, the Political Science Department, and the Student Government Association and politically-oriented student organizations to effectively engage campus and community stakeholders.
  • Citizens Academy: The vision of UCA’s Citizens Academy is to create an understanding of and engagement with the public affairs and institutions of the City of Conway, Faulkner County and the state of Arkansas. The goals of the Citizens Academy: 1) Educate academy participants (UCA students, staff, and local residents) about local and regional governments’ roles and responsibilities. 2) Engage academy participants in a discussion about their role in local and regional public affairs. 3) Develop constructive relationships and lines of communication between academy participants, UCA, and local/regional government. 4) Promote citizen participation in community affairs.
  • Institute for Poverty Studies: The vision of the UCA-City of Hope Outreach Institute for Poverty Studies is to create a learning environment in which students, faculty and staff, as well as community partners from across the state of Arkansas, can be equipped through research and experiential learning to address poverty on a state, national, and global level. The goals of the Institute: 1) Promote an understanding of poverty and its outcomes. 2) Prepare men and women to address poverty within religious, social, economic, and political spheres. 3) Produce quality research–qualitative and quantitative–that offers substantive solutions regarding poverty alleviation. 4) Facilitate learning opportunities for faculty, students, nonprofits, and local citizens to learn and discuss poverty alleviations. 5) Incubator for nonprofit development and creation for persons seeking to address poverty locally, nationally, and globally.
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