David Hoffman, Student Life, Outlines Attributes for Civic Engagement on American Democracy Project

When the American Democracy Project met in New Orleans last month, founder George Mehaffy described some early civic engagement efforts as “marginal, episodic, and celebratory.” David Hoffman, assistant director of student life for civic agency, responded to Mehaffy’s comments by suggesting language to describe positive attributes of civic learning and democratic engagement efforts.

david_hoffman_300x375“We need equally clear and concise language to describe the positive attributes of profoundly valuable and impactful civic learning and democratic engagement efforts,” Hoffman wrote on the American Democracy Project’s website. He proposed four attributes that should describe civic engagement efforts, including integral, relational, organic, and generative.

“Our civic learning and democratic engagement efforts are strongest when they embody all four of these attributes,” Hoffman said. “To the extent that one or more of them is missing, we risk teaching and learning lessons we do not intend about the intractability of our problems, the rigidity of our roles and relationships, and the limits of human agency and democracy itself.”

Read “Describing Transformative Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Practices” on American Democracy Project.

David Hoffman, Student Life, Considers Higher Education’s Future in Zocalo Public Square

david_hoffman_300x375Zocalo Public Square, a non-profit website specializing in humanities journalism, recently invited scholars to describe the ideal 21st century university. David Hoffman, assistant director of student life for civic agency, responded with an article emphasizing the need for universities to become spaces for discourse and action in order to remain relevant in society.

In the article, Hoffman discussed UMBC’s response to the Baltimore protests in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death, noting that the campus teach-in focused on sharing knowledge to support construction action in a way that respected everyone’s stories and abilities to contribute. “That spirit of mutual respect and creativity belies the dichotomies common to conventional thinking about higher education: distinctions between teacher and learner, scholar and citizen, research and action, university and community,” he wrote.

Hoffman also mentioned the national push for civic engagement through networks such as Imagining America. UMBC faculty, staff and students have participated in Imagining America’s work in the past through BreakingGround and our campus will host Imagining America’s 2015 National Conference in October.

Click here to read “Take action, and leave the ivory tower stereotype behind” on Zocalo Public Square. The article was also re-printed in TIME.

BreakingGround Initiatives Highlighted in Diversity & Democracy

breakingground_fnlBeverly Bickel, associate director of Language, Literacy and Culture doctoral program, Craig Berger, and David Hoffman, Student Life, were published in the latest edition of Diversity & Democracy, a publication by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

In the article, Bickel, Berger and Hoffman write about the democratic strands in UMBC’s history and how BreakingGround initiatives are fostering civic engagement and imaginative thinking. They describe how transparency and authenticity created spaces for positive contributions, saying “[BreakingGround’s] philosophy emphasized that individuals and collaborative groups are powerful agents of meaningful change, and that students deserve genuine respect as agents in their own lives and as partners in building community.”

Another article in the issue written by Timothy Eatman and Scott Peters, co-directors of Imagining America, praises the initiatives fostered by BreakingGround. “UMBC is suggesting answers to the questions… about what should be done—not just for relatively new public institutions, but across all of higher education,” they write.

Click here to read “Democratic Agency and the Visionary’s Dilemma” by Beverly Bickel, Craig Berger and David Hoffman.

David Hoffman, Student Life, Publishes Chapter in Democracy’s Education

david_hoffman_300x375David Hoffman, assistant director of student life for civic agency, wrote a chapter in the recently published Democracy’s Education: Public Work, Citizenship and the Future of Colleges and Universities. The book challenges educators to rethink the meaning of citizenship and education.

Hoffman’s chapter, entitled “Fostering Civic Agency by Making Education (and Ourselves) ‘Real,'” describes the philosophy of BreakingGround, a collaborative approach to innovative campus and community engagement at UMBC. Hoffman draws on his research and experience at UMBC, focusing on students who gained civic agency by causing meaningful change on campus through launching new organizations and engaging in purposeful conversations. The chapter also mentions work done by President Hrabowski, Provost Rous, the Shriver Center and The Retriever Project.

Hoffman writes, “The process at BreakingGround’s heart is a series of real conversations. There is strategy and design behind them: the initiative’s organizers have sought out people on campus who have seemed to embrace or demonstrate civic agency, or who have been in a position to help support its promotion on campus. But the conversations have been essentially free of maneuvering and salesmanship. Mostly we have asked students, faculty, and staff about their own experiences with civic agency (though typically not in those words) and have sought to make the road to BreakingGround’s objectives by walking it with them.”

Click here to learn more about BreakingGround. Learn more about Democracy’s Education here.

UMBC’s BreakingGround Featured in AASCU Monograph

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) released a new monograph entitled Becoming a Steward of Place: Four Areas of Institutional Focus. A section of the publication focuses on civic learning and engagement and uses UMBC’s BreakingGround as a model for creating seamless learning environments.

“BreakingGround [is] a campus-wide initiative uniting students, faculty and staff in fostering changes in the academic curriculum, co-curricular activities and campus culture,” the report states. “Students taking BreakingGround courses, participating in BreakingGround programs, and sharing stories on the BreakingGround website are learning to: think entrepreneurially about social challenges, work collectively to bridge differences, and contribute meaningfully to the common good. This work is supported by a campus culture that builds community from diversity and celebrates ingenuity and resourcefulness.”

To learn more about BreakingGround’s work, visit their website. Click here for more details on Becoming a Steward of Place: Four Areas of Institutional Focus.

BreakingGround Faculty Lunch/Get-Together (10/24)

Over the past few semesters, faculty have been coming together from across campus to discuss their teaching, research, and connections in the community.  We have heard from faculty interested in integrating civic engagement into their courses and research that it is helpful to have a forum to share ideas, ask questions, and build connections with other faculty doing the same work.

Please RSVP to delana1@umbc.edu if you are interested in attending this get-together, or to ask any questions.   Our location will be the University Center, Room 312, on Friday, October 24 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. A light lunch will be served.  

Also, applications are open for BreakingGround grant support for courses and projects for Spring 2015.  More information is available online including descriptions of previous funded courses and projects.
Please invite other faculty you believe would be interested in exploring how to infuse opportunities for student civic agency and civic engagement into their work to come to the lunch and to consider applying for a BreakingGround grant.

TEDxUMBC (9/13)

We are excited to announce TEDxUMBC, in partnership with the BreakingGround, Honors College, Graduate Student Association, and Interdisciplinary Studies at UMBC! The event will be held on Saturday, September 13, 2014 from 10am-4pm at the University Center (UC) Ballroom. The day’s program will consist of 10 live speakers, including members of the UMBC community, as well as from the local Baltimore area.

There are only 100 spots available for attendees, so buy your tickets soon! Tickets will be $5 for UMBC Students and $10 for General Admission – there will be a small additional fee of less than $2 for buying tickets online.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Lee Blaney, Faculty Member
  • Tanvi Gadhia, Alumna and Staff Member
  • Patrick Jenkins, Undergraduate Student
  • Yoo-Jin Kang, Undergraduate Student
  • George Kosmides, Community Member
  • Stephen Marengo, Staff Member
  • Kimberly Moffitt, Faculty Member
  • Tamara Peters, Faculty Member
  • Rafay Qureshi, Undergraduate Student
  • Stacy Branham, Associate Research Scientist