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Institute for Democracy & Higher Education Receives Lumina Foundation Grant

Thursday, July 29, 2021

The grant will advance IDHE's work to support higher education's role in preparing students for an inclusive democracy.

The Institute for Democracy & Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life has been awarded a $105,000 grant from Lumina Foundation to explore higher education’s unique role in educating for the health and future of an inclusive democracy. 

The Lumina Foundation grant will enable IDHE to provide the higher education community with a conceptual framework for defining the academy’s research, teaching and service roles in the context of a democracy in question, including providing tools and resources for educators.

“This grant from Lumina Foundation comes at a critical time for our democracy. It will support colleges and universities in realizing their democratic purpose and potential,” said Nancy Thomas, director of IDHE. “Educators need a framework for postsecondary learning that connects racial equity and social justice, effective and inclusive participation in public problem solving, resistance to misinformation, and integrity and accountability in government.” 

IDHE is a nonpartisan applied research center that studies and works to improve college and university student political learning, discourse, equity, campus climate and participation in democracy. IDHE works with more than 1,200 campuses in all 50 states and serves as a resource to organizations throughout the higher education community. A central tenet of IDHE’s work is to support the historic responsibility of U.S. colleges and universities to educate for—and strengthen—an inclusive democracy. 

Today, U.S. democracy faces multiple, intersecting threats. These include persistent, systemic racial inequality and unequal access to power; increasing polarization that is giving way to extremism; low levels of trust in institutions; deliberate campaigns of misinformation and disinformation; and increasingly destabilized democratic institutions and systems. Though decades in the making, these conditions have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a contentious 2020 election season. 

“Higher education can and should be central to how we address systemic risks—including threats to democracy, climate change, and racial inequity and injustice. But first we need to be clear-eyed about the challenges, how they intersect, and what colleges and universities may need to do differently,” said Terri Taylor, strategy director for innovation and discovery at Lumina Foundation. “IDHE’s work through this grant can jump-start this essential effort.”

“Many educators want to do this work, and they need support in how to effectively incorporate it into their teaching and research across institutional types, disciplines, and departments,”said  Thomas. “This initiative will provide a necessary framework and tools for change on campuses and within the broader higher education ecosystem.”

More information about IDHE’s work—including their signature initiative, the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement—can be found at idhe.tufts.edu