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Community Partners Talk Politics at 2016 Presidential Symposium

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

More than 150 people, including local leaders as well as Tufts staff, faculty, and students attended the annual gathering.

Table conversations at 2016 Symposium on Community Partnerships

On Wednesday, March 9, Tufts University held its 14th annual Presidential Symposium on Community Partnerships, which brought together more than 100 leaders from our host communities whose collaborations with Tufts students, staff, and faculty, are critical to the work of the University.

Hosted by Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco and organized by Tisch College, the Symposium was an opportunity to celebrate fruitful partnerships and forge new connections. Throughout the morning, University leaders highlighted the critical role played by educators, nonprofit leaders, elected officials, and many others in attendance.

“Together, we are educating the next generation to take an active role in their communities and in our democracy,” said Alan D. Solomont, Dean of Tisch College, in his opening remarks. “Together, we conduct important research, creating knowledge that is used in the classroom and in the laboratory, but which also and directly improves people’s lives. And together, we tackle pressing issues, combining knowledge, skills, and resources to make our communities stronger.”

This year’s Symposium focused on political learning and voter engagement. “Whether your work tackles food justice and homelessness, racial and gender inequalities, education disparities, or any of the other countless issues that afflict our nation, politics and policy have a profound impact on the wellbeing and flourishing of our communities,” said President Monaco.

Peter Levine, Associate Dean for Research at Tisch College provided an overview of some of the leading research on youth political engagement conducted by Tisch College’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, and our Institute for Democracy & Higher Education. In the Symposium’s keynote address, MassVOTE Executive Director, Cheryl Clyburn Crawford, spoke about the barriers to political engagement faced by low-income communities, new immigrants, and other underserved populations.

“Democracy should not be this hard,” said Clyburn Crawford as she detailed some of her organization’s work to address those disparities through programs like MassVOTE’s Democracy for Nonprofits and its Civic Engagement Fund—initiatives that many organizations represented in the room have partnered with to develop and increase voter engagement.

During table discussions and the resulting plenary session, Dean Solomont encouraged participants to consider the direct consequences of politics and policy on the issues that affect communities like Medford, Somerville, and Boston’s Chinatown, and to brainstorm innovative ways of increasing political engagement to address those challenges.

In lively conversations, Tufts students, faculty, and partners shared the need make politics concrete and relevant to youth, to make young people stakeholders with real decision-making ability in organizational efforts, to create more intentional coalitions for voter engagement, and many other strategies.

“We’re thrilled with the turnout at this year’s Presidential Symposium on Community Partnerships, and with the rich, fruitful discussions that took place throughout the morning,” says Shirley Mark, Director of Community Partnerships at Tisch College and primary organizer of the event. “I look forward to seeing exciting new collaborations develop as a result of the Symposium, and to working with all our partners to increase and improve voter education and engagement in this critical election year.”