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Students become engaged citizens through American Democracy Project

Campus Life Feb 23, 2024
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KOKOMO, Ind. — Indiana University Kokomo students are equipped with knowledge and skills to be informed and engaged global citizens as a result of the campus’ participation in the American Democracy Project (ADP).

This nonpartisan initiative of the American Association of States Colleges and University (AASCU) provides local and national programming to help students, faculty, and staff engage in civics education, and better understand their rights and responsibilities in a democracy.

Paul Cook, professor of English and American Democracy Project Civic Fellow, said 2024 marks the program’s 20th anniversary.

“We’re proud to be part of this project, and we continue to lead by example and advocate for the kind of democratic engagement and civic mindedness it embodies,” he said. “From encouraging voting and promoting community dialogue to developing the civic skills that stimulate critical thinking and action, we are committed to preparing our students to lead for future generations.”

Cook said nonpartisan civics education is especially important during an election year, to prepare students to be informed voters.

“This is going to be a historic election,” he said. “No matter what happens, this is going to be one for the history books. It’s very important that we get young people registered to vote and get them informed and engaged in the process. We’re excited to be part of this.”

Cook said he and Erin Doss, associate professor of English, have hosted table talks about voting and the importance of voting, and partnered with the ALL IN Democracy Challenge to bring a customized voter registration portal to campus. He noted that about 50 students registered to vote through the portal.

Through the ADP, students may also participate in webinars with national experts, who have included Michael Caulfield, a research scientist who specializes in misinformation and disinformation, and U.S. presidential special envoy for climate and former secretary of state John Kerry.

“A big part of the ADP is staging these critical conversations about civic engagement and learning,” he said. “Our students can tap into this national network of experts focused on civic learning and engagement.”

The ADP is celebrating its 20th anniversary by recommitting to its guiding principles of civic and democratic engagement. Those include:

  • Making civic learning and democratic engagement and expectation for every student;
  • Integrating civic inquiry across the curriculum;
  • Modeling open, democratic engagement from multiple perspectives;
  • Fostering an ethos of civic mindedness; and
  • Advancing civic action through democratic processes and practices.

“College and university leaders are committed to advancing thoughtful and constructive dialogue rather than polarized debate,” said Cathy Copeland, ADP director. “By recommitting to the guiding principles of the American Democracy Project, we encourage information literacy, responsible stewardship of our nation’s resources, and relationships that acknowledge America’s commitment to a healthy global society.”

The American Democracy Project was established in 2003 in partnership with The New York Times.

Key benefits for American Democracy Project campuses include access to an array network of leaders, faculty, staff, and students, all of which foster collaborative research and resource-sharing opportunities. Additionally, the project offers regular gatherings such as the annual Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement meeting, professional development opportunities for leaders across all levels, and an extensive national partner network. Participating institutions also have the chance to engage in grant-funded national projects, workshops, and initiatives aligned with their missions.

To learn more about the American Democracy Project recommitment initiative and to see the growing list of institutions that have also made the commitment, visit

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