September 28, 2021
RICHMOND - The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) today joined forces with dozens of higher education and student success organizations to announce a Shared Commitment to make democracy learning a top priority for postsecondary education.
Democracy faces monumental challenges in the U.S. and worldwide, and in this pivotal era, the Shared Commitment calls on the higher education community to take concerted action to help build Americans’ readiness to tackle urgent public problems together.
Urging “equity-committed civic learning,” the Shared Commitment signatories call for civic inquiry, practice in civil discourse and collaborative work on real-world public problems to be part of each postsecondary student’s educational pathway.
SCHEV Director Peter Blake explained, “One of the three goals set forth in Pathways to Opportunity: The Virginia Plan for Higher Education is to be transformative, increasing the social, cultural and economic well-being of individuals and communities within the commonwealth. Civic learning is one important vehicle for that transformation. By thoughtfully incorporating civic learning into their academic and extracurricular programs, Virginia’s colleges and universities are equipping students with knowledge and skills that will benefit not only the students themselves, but their families and communities now and well into the future. Many of our public institutions have been doing excellent work in this area for years, and we are excited to see even more institutions now giving it the consistent attention it deserves.”
Virginia is one of three state systems that have launched comprehensive initiatives in recent years to advance civic learning for all students in their two-year and four-year public higher education institutions. In 2017, SCHEV added civic engagement as a core competency that all public colleges and universities are required to assess among their undergraduates. Some institutions have integrated civic learning experiences into their general education curricula, while others have promoted community-based teaching strategies or expanded opportunities for students to practice civic and democratic skills outside the classroom. Dr. Jodi Fisler, senior associate for assessment policy and analysis, leads SCHEV's work related to civic engagement, collaborating with institutional assessment staff, faculty developers, and other faculty and staff who have a particular interest in promoting students’ civic knowledge, skills and participation.
“Given our history, the Commonwealth of Virginia and its institutions of higher education have a unique opportunity to play a leadership role nationally in civic engagement work,” noted James Madison University president Jonathan Alger. “SCHEV has worked with our institutions to ensure that civic engagement is a meaningful part of the learning experience both in and outside the classroom, and to prepare students to be active citizens who understand their responsibilities as well as their rights in a democratic society. These efforts will help students develop skill sets in areas such as communications, teamwork, critical thinking, information literacy, problem-solving and ethical reasoning that will help them to have productive lives and careers.”
The Shared Commitment pledge was organized by the Civic Learning and Democracy Engagement (CLDE). Founded by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO), Complete College America (CCA) and College Promise, CLDE is working in partnership with civic learning organizations and initiatives across the United States.
For more information about the CLDE movement and its goals, visit http://www.collegeciviclearning.org/.
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The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia is the state’s coordinating agency for higher education. With The Virginia Plan for Higher Education, SCHEV is dedicated to making Virginia the best-educated state by 2030. For more on The Virginia Plan, visitschev.edu/index/statewide-strategic-plan.