Building Robust & Inclusive Democracy

Strategic Direction

Educating the Next Generation for a Multiracial Democracy

Dayna Cunningham, the Pamela and Pierre Omidyar Dean of Tisch College of Civic Life, outlines opportunities and responsibilities for higher education in readying the next generation of engaged citizens to govern themselves in a multiracial democracy.

A Strategy for the Future Built on Three Pillars

Our work is grounded in a deep understanding of civic life and in a commitment to constantly expand and refine our knowledge of how to strengthen it. By more vigorously creating, sharing, and applying that knowledge, Tisch College will take on a stronger role in the academic life of Tufts University while helping citizens address society’s most pressing problems in communities near and far.

Education - sharing knowledge

Tufts students should graduate with more than expertise in their chosen fields of study; they must also emerge prepared to contribute to civic life as informed, ethical, and engaged citizens. To strengthen our work with students across all Tufts schools and academic disciplines, we will:

  • Enhance the Tisch Scholars Program by improving its foundational academic course, offering credit for community-based work, and including a capstone element for seniors
  • Evaluate, refine, and expand the Tufts 1+4 Bridge-Year Service Learning Program, which allows accepted students to do a full year of community service before their academic studies
  • Strengthen existing partnerships and form new collaborations across schools and campuses that allow us to reach every Tufts student
  • Expand and increase support for co-sponsored courses and for successful programs like the Tisch Summer Fellows, the Tisch Fund for Civic Engagement, and the Tisch College Distinguished Speaker Series
  • Promote social entrepreneurship and social innovation by contributing to a new Center for Entrepreneurship at Tufts

Research - creating knowledge

Tisch College conducts, supports, and applies research that helps us foster civic learning and
engagement locally, nationally, and globally. We also forge strong partnerships across Tufts University with more than 50 faculty members who incorporate civic engagement in their teaching and research. To bolster both areas we plan to:

  • Expand our current research efforts through the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE), Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE), and the Tisch College Community Research Center (TCRC)
  • Add more Tisch Faculty, deepen their engagement, and create a stronger intellectual community
  • Support more Faculty Fellows and increase individual grants

Practice - applying knowledge

Tisch College applies knowledge to improve democracy and civic life, and to engage citizens in addressing shared problems. We strive for impact in communities and in higher education:

  • Promote civic practices at Tufts, such as increased recognition of faculty for civically engaged research, teaching, and public service
  • Strengthen local and national partnerships with community-based organizations, schools, and government agencies
  • Expand our global reach through a stronger relationship with the Talloires Network, an international association committed to the civic role of higher education around the world

Staying the Course while Charting New Ones

While much of our strategic plan builds on existing efforts, we propose two major new initiatives that will take Tisch College and Tufts University in new directions.

Civic Studies

Civic Studies is an emerging interdisciplinary field that studies civic life and helps citizens improve it. It includes scholarship that combines ethics, knowledge, and strategies to guide citizens in shaping their communities. Already home to students and faculty engaged in Civic Studies, Tisch College will make Tufts a leading intellectual center in this field by:

  • Engaging other Tufts faculty members, academic programs, and departments to shape a cross-cutting initiative housed at Tisch College
  • Connecting and strengthening curricula and scholarship across the entire university
  • In partnership with other schools, recruiting new faculty members in fields related to Civic Studies who will develop new methodologies, theoretical models, and applied research

Institute for Democracy & Higher Education

Tisch College is building the Institute for Democracy & Higher Education to be a leading venue for research, resources, and advocacy that will shape how colleges and universities foster political learning and engagement. The institute will:

  • Work to engage college students in politics, social action, and democracy
  • Advance social and political equity
  • Make Tufts a national leader in research and in practical approaches to educating for democracy

Its signature initiative is the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). The only objective study of student voting rates in the nation, NSLVE offers more than 800 colleges and universities:

  • An opportunity to learn their student registration and voting rates
  • A closer examination of their campus climate for political learning and engagement
  • Correlations between specific student learning experiences and voting

Looking Ahead

Our strategic vision charts a clear, ambitious plan for the future. It builds on our strengths and adds important new dimensions. It will allow us to better understand how citizens participate in civic life and tackle challenges in their communities. It will shape a new generation of leaders, strengthen civic life and democracy, and support lasting change at Tufts University and beyond.

The Tisch College Strategic Plan describes our focus on existing priorities and major new initiatives that will enhance our work across Tufts University and in communities near and far.