Wagner College Civic Action Plan

Wagner College is a small, residential college that integrates professional programs and the liberal arts. Located in the New York City borough of Staten Island, Wagner has, since the late 1990s, positioned itself as a national leader in the movement to place civic, public, and democratic purpose at the very center of higher education’s mission.

Under the leadership of President Richard Guarasci, the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts (“Wagner Plan”) was launched in 1998 and has come to define a Wagner education. Beginning in a student’s first semester on campus, the Wagner Plan is a comprehensive, four-year curriculum that aspires to provide every Wagner graduate with an excellent academic foundation and with the critical ability to consider the public and civic purposes of their education and profession.

Wagner has also embraced its role as an anchor institution within the wider Staten Island community, particularly in the nearby community of Port Richmond. The Port Richmond Partnership (PRP), formally adopted in 2009, is the primary vehicle through which students and faculty link academic study to issues defined in partnership with the community. The PRP is organized around five pillars of activity — education and college readiness, health and wellness, arts and culture, economic development and sustainability, and immigration and advocacy — through which Port Richmond residents, non-profit and business leaders, and Wagner faculty, students, and staff work together to develop strategies and tactics for addressing the pressing issues affecting the community.

Other efforts, like the civic engagement minor, the Bonner Leaders and IMPACT Scholars Civic Network programs, the Civic Engagement Faculty Fellowship, 30,000 Degrees, and the use of civic data tracking software, offer ample evidence of Wagner’s commitment to civic education and leadership.

While the foundation for Wagner’s revitalized civic mission began to be constructed 20 years ago with the creation of the Wagner Plan, a proliferation of new activities and initiatives has occurred in only the past five years. Having built several successful programs (described in detail below), the next phase of the work will be focused on assessing their impacts. The creation of this document provides one opportunity to assess existing programs and to identify ways that Wagner can advance toward the full realization of its aspirations with regard to civic identity, education, and leadership.

The actions within this Civic Action Plan are intended to produce five key outcomes which will move us toward achieving the overall goal of institutionalizing civic engagement as a core element of a Wagner College education and of its identity within the wider community. The first four outcomes are related to stakeholders vital to achieving the institutionalization of civic engagement at Wagner College. These stakeholders are: Wagner College students; Wagner College faculty; the College’s community partners; and Wagner College staff and administration. The fifth and final outcome is concerned with the financial implications of institutionalizing a sustainable civic engagement agenda.

This Civic Action Plan is conceived as a five-year undertaking, with the intention of achieving all outcomes by September 2023 — the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts. The framers of this document recognize that this work is iterative, and have chosen to include here only the action steps for the first phase of this project. Outcomes and progress will be reviewed annually and, where appropriate, revised and/or expanded upon.

The preparation of this document has been facilitated and organized by Wagner College’s Center for Leadership and Community Engagement (CLCE), led by Dr. Kevin Bott, dean for civic engagement, and Arlette Cepeda, director of the CLCE. Key contributors to the ideas within the Civic Action Plan team include: Leo Schuchert, associate director, CLCE; Laura Morowitz, professor of art history; Bernadette Ludwig, assistant professor of sociology; Sarah Donovan, professor of philosophy; Ashley Olsen, Markham Leadership Academy coordinator; and Crystal Montalvo, executive director of 30,000 Degrees.

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