The Democracy Commitment Initiative for Community Colleges

The Democracy Commitment (TDC) is dedicated to the advancement of civic learning and engagement at community colleges. This initiative ensures that millions of community college students graduate with an education in democracy and civic responsibility.

TDC creates highly effective programs that transform the community college experience for students.  It is our goal that upon graduation, students will have the knowledge, skills, and experience to actively participate in our democracy.   For more information, contact Verdis L. Robinson, Director of Community College Engagement at verdis {at} compact(.)org.

In 2011, The Democracy Commitment (TDC) confronted challenging gaps in the civic landscape.  With the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continuing, and divisiveness and partisanship growing, America seemed unable to address some of its most pressing public problems.  Community College students, like many Americans, were increasingly marginalized and alienated from the political institutions on which their communities depended.  Across higher education and at community colleges in particular, the national focus on workforce development was opening another gap between a contemporary view of education as job training and a historic vision of education as preparation for civic life.

Seeing these gaps widening, Brian Murphy (president De Anza College), Bernie Ronan (associate vice chancellor for Public Affairs for the Maricopa Community Colleges), and George Mehaffy (vice president for Academic Leadership and Change at American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) created TDC as a project that would mirror for community colleges what AASCU’s American Democracy Project (ADP) had done for state colleges and universities since 2003.  Thus ADP and TDC grew out of a shared context of frustration and despair as well as a shared commitment to education and action.

TDC formally launched at the offices of The New York Times on November 11, 2011. 50 presidents and chancellors from community colleges and districts nationwide were early signatories dedicated to the cause of democracy in higher education, and to make democratic skills available to all individuals who desire a voice and a seat at the table of local, state, and national discourse and action.  TDC has grown to provide a platform for the development and expansion of community college programs, projects, and curricula aimed at engaging students in civic learning and democratic engagement.

TDC sees community colleges as “stewards of place,” a term coined by AASCU in 2002. TDC aims to revitalize democracy in our communities– communities in which our community colleges are based, as well as committed to and responsible for; and communities from which their students come, and to which they return each day.  To such end our programs have conceived of civic work broadly and successfully.  TDC supports volunteerism and service learning, but we are also committed to the full range of civic work—including democratic practice, electoral engagement, community engagement, civic education integration and assessment, diversity, and deliberative democracy.

On July 1, 2018, TDC became an initiative of Campus Compact after seeing the urgent need to increase capacity and reach. TDC is now housed in Campus Compact National Office in Boston, Massachusetts.

Programs

We believe that community colleges are charged with preparing students to be informed, active, and mobilized citizens in their communities, states, and the world, in addition to preparing them for the workforce and careers. TDC will support members in this work, providing programming specifically designed for community colleges, while offering valuable connections to national organizations and other campuses that are intentionally engaging in civic work to benefit students.

Two award winners standing side-by-side. The person on the left is holding the TDC Award for Civic Leadership.

TDC annually recognizes exceptional work of community college faculty, staff, and students who have advanced the work of democracy on their campuses and in their communities.

The Bernie Ronan Student Action Award
The Bernie Ronan Award is presented annually to a student or a team of students from a TDC member institution for a student-initiated or student-directed project or program that exemplifies the democratic skills and capacities we desire of our students.

The Daniel M. Asquino Civic Leadership Award
Recipients of the Daniel M. Asquino Award for Civic Leadership can be staff, faculty or administrators who advance systemic change to embed civic education and civic learning in the college and its community.  The award recipient will receive an engraved commemorative to acknowledge the national recognition and registration to the Civil Learning and Democratic Engagement meeting.

The Brian Murphy Presidential Democracy Commitment Award
Coming Soon!

Participating colleges have exclusive opportunities to participate in signatures projects, a blend of national and campus-centered activities that deal with critical national dialogues and issues such as political engagement, inequality, deliberative democracy, community conversations, civic agency, and civic curriculum development.

Engage the Election: 2018
Engage the Election: 2018 is a community college electoral engagement project focusing on the unique challenges and opportunities of democracy’s colleges. Our goal is to develop a series of webinars, toolkits, lesson plans, and assignments in order to integrate electoral education into the curriculum, across disciplines, and on campuses in exciting and engaging ways to increase voter registration, information, and turnout.

Higher Education Civic Outcomes Study
The Higher Education Civic Outcomes Study is a survey and research project in partnership with the Center for the Study of Community Colleges that studies the outcomes of college students’ civic learning and engagement.  Results can guide institutional civic efforts. The Higher Education Civic Outcomes Survey is currently open to all TDC member institutions.

Special Days of Service and Reflection
TDC’s SDSR project is designed to engage campuses and communities in recognition of key figures and causes that have advanced our democracy.  Institutions will recognize selected days/weeks of action, remembrance, or service adopted or created by TDC in addition to the tradition national days of service.  This project will develop toolkits and best practice guides for implementation on member campuses.

Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation
TDC and the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) joined to develop a three-year curriculum and faculty development project supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Through this partnership, project participants used the online learning platform to develop forums and to share and co-create resources and course materials.

Clashes over citizenship

Citizenship Under Siege
In an age of fractious differences about this topic when finding common ground seems elusive, The Democracy Commitment (TDC) and The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&C) joined with seven TDC community colleges to orchestrate a series of public forums each with accompanying programs and educational resources to bridge the rifts.  Organized under the common theme, Citizenship Under Siege and supported by a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities, the events are framed through the powerful historic, ethical, and narrative lenses of the humanities

Deliberative Democracy Initiative
For this project, The Democracy Commitment has partnered with the Kettering Foundation and the Center for the Study of Community Colleges (CSCC) in a multi-year initiative and research study to broaden and deepen the use of deliberative civic engagement practices among community colleges.  The Deliberative Dialogue Project has engaged 11 community college campuses in moderator trainings, national issues forums, and reflective study on the impact of public deliberation.

Economic Inequality- ADP/TDC Joint Initiative
Co-led by TDC’s Mount Wachusett Community College (Mass.) and ADP’s Keene State College (N.H.), a cohort of 9 TDC member institutions joined with ADP campuses in a three-year initiative to understand the impact of economic inequality on our democracy. The goal of this initiative is to help students think about and take action to confront the complex causes of growing economic inequality.

Resources

TDC resources will be coming soon to compact.org. In the meantime, check out some of the great resources we have in our general resource library.