This Civic Action Plan presents our recommendations for the structural, cultural, and policy changes that will enable Middlebury College to fully achieve its public mission and the commitments embedded in the Campus Compact Action Statement, as signed by President Patton in November 2015. The Middlebury College Civic Action Plan Committee included:
- Professor James Davis, Professor of Religion and Academic Director of the Privilege & Poverty Academic Cluster
- Amy McGlashan, Director of Academic Programs, Center for Careers & Internships
- Diane Munroe, Community-Based Learning Coordinator, Environmental Studies
- Elizabeth Robinson, Associate Dean, Student Creativity, Engagement, and Careers
- Tiffany Sargent, Director, Center for Community Engagement
The following commitments from the Campus Compact Action Statement frame what we refer to in this report as civic and community engagement:
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.
Below are highlights from the Civic Action Plan that articulate the challenges, recommendations (both short- and long-term), and concluding remarks, as offered by the Committee.
We are convinced that what Middlebury College most needs is not significantly new programming aimed at civic engagement. What we need is more intentional effort—including infrastructure and resources—designed to bring civic engagement into direct alignment with the central academic mission of the College. In some cases, this will require better communication and choreography between areas of the College hosting such opportunities. In other cases, it will require a more deliberate effort to insert the public purpose as an integral part of academic planning and assessment. Overall, it will require increased access to engaged learning opportunities for our students, rooted in a shared consensus among members of the College community—especially academic leadership—that civic learning contributes to the College’s ultimate public mission: the cultivation of ethical citizenship.
This Civic Action Plan emphasizes four objectives: (1) Integration; (2) Coordination; (3) Inclusion; and (4) College-Wide Endorsement. We believe that the best way to make progress on those goals is to move from “first-order” efforts—new programs—to “second-order” structural changes that will have a transformative effect on reinforcing civic engagement as a coordinated academic priority. As the College acknowledged in its recent governance restructuring, an institution’s operational framework needs to reflect its vision and priorities in order to implement them effectively. In that spirit, we make the following short-term and long-term proposals:
- Recommendation #1: Conduct an External Review of SCEC programs.
- Recommendation #2: Align and increase campus staffing resources in order to effectively and efficiently advance all Action Statement commitments.
- Recommendation #3: Establish a Civic Engagement Partnership Network.
- Recommendation #4: Develop a system to effectively connect and communicate with alumni who were involved with community engagement activities while at Middlebury or who are now active members in the field.
- Recommendation #5: Augment the Academic Outreach Endowment to $100,000 by 2025, in order to expand faculty integration of community-connected engagement in new or existing courses.
- Recommendation #6: Develop a central support fund to ensure that all students are guaranteed equal access to civic engagement opportunities.
- Recommendation #7: Create the position of DEAN OF ENGAGED LEARNING, who will report directly to the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and who will partner with the Dean of Curriculum in the integration of academic programming at the College.
Conclusion If the outcomes from our Envisioning Middlebury process are any indication, we at the College recognize the vital importance of liberal education to preparation for ethical citizenship, and thus our responsibility to make that preparation the vector along which our students’ curricular and co-curricular experiences travel. Middlebury has demonstrated its commitment to a public mission by developing a wide range of engaged learning opportunities at the College. But the dictates for another stage of maturation are clear. Civic engagement must yield its place on the periphery of the Middlebury academic program, to become a central component of the intellectual and ethical preparation we offer our students. The elevation of engaged learning will require deliberate integration into the academic program; better coordination across campus and with extra-institutional entities; deeper commitment to the inclusion of all students in these educational experiences; and college-wide endorsement of the civic purposes of college.