Civic engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes. - Thomas Ehrlich
Current events on the national and international stage make evident that democratic principles and institutions are facing new and intensiﬁed challenges. Accelerations in civil unrest, environmental degradation, the wealth gap, public health concerns, and incivility in our world today make imperative that institutions of higher education focus their eﬀorts and resources on educating a next generation that has the knowledge, skill, and proclivity to meet such complex challenges, as well as avert and address others as they arise. Toward this end, Bucknell must grow the civic consciousness and capacities of its members -- students, staﬀ and faculty alike, while producing scholarship aimed at addressing concerns of local, regional, national, and global signiﬁcance. At this juncture, Bucknell is well poised to advance its capacity to meet this imperative. In Spring 2016, Campus Compact issued a call to action. In its 30th Anniversary Action Statement of Presidents and Chancellors, this national organization of college leaders requested that university presidents reassert the civic mission of higher education and make a “public commitment both to its principles and to developing a plan to put those principles into action.” The declaration included ﬁve signiﬁcant aﬃrmations to guide institutional strategic thinking:
- 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.
The Campus Compact Action Statement has been endorsed by more than 450 presidents of colleges and universities nationwide. It is a statement of principles that helps schools focus on civic engagement initiatives and practices such as community-engaged learning, community-based research, place-based partnerships, civil discourse, active citizenship in a democracy, and public problem-solving. John Bravman, Bucknell’s 17th president, signed this visionary document on October 3, 2017, indicating the willingness of Bucknell’s administration to commit signiﬁcant energy and university resources to promoting meaningful civic engagement. Subsequent to this signing, a representative group of faculty and staﬀ was convened as a Civic Action Plan Task Force and met over the course of a year to develop a strategic Civic Action Plan for the university. Considering the ﬁve guiding aﬃrmations put forth by Campus Compact and signed by President Bravman, the Task Force recommends a multifaceted, university-wide initiative, “Engaged Bucknell,” entailing institutional strategic action that will:
- Promote fuller integration of civic engagement in academic and co-curricular life by improving structures and processes for prioritizing this component of the Bucknell experience
- Enhance coordination of civic engagement eﬀorts on campus and with the public
- Expand equitable access to civic engagement opportunities
- Enhance the spirit and practice of mutuality with community partners
- Develop clear communication that signals more broadly and visibly Bucknell’s commitment to civic engagement
By embracing an ethos of “Engaged Bucknell” through the mechanisms of this civic action plan, the university will better actualize civic and public engagement as a central value in its institutional policies and practices, realized in part through an enhanced coordination of meaningful partnerships and synergies for scholarship, undergraduate research, internships, and service opportunities with community organizations and government agencies. Through such eﬀorts, Bucknell will serve our local community as an anchor institution, acting not only as a good neighbor, but as a leader in community aﬀairs by tending to the public welfare of our region, simultaneously sending a clearer message about the value of civic engagement to students, staﬀ, faculty, parents, alumni, prospective students, and donors. By way of Engaged Bucknell, we will develop future generations with the knowledge, skill, and proclivity to be leaders and participants in their local community and on the global stage, thereby contributing to healthier democratic and more equitable societies.