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DSO Encourages Civic Engagement Via Website

Assoc. News Editor

Published: Monday, October 29, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

Earlier this fall, Boston College was selected by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) to be part of the Lead Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement, an honor that only 50 other colleges and universities in the U.S. received. This program was created in response to worries among education experts that the current U.S. education system is not preparing young men and women to be engaged, informed citizens. BC and the other schools that comprise the Lead Initiative are looking to fight the perceived inefficiencies in the education system by launching exciting new programs focused on educating students to become better citizens.

“There has been an increasing call for awareness on many levels that we are not preparing our youth to be informed, engaged, or responsible citizens on a local, national, or global level,” said Kristen O’Driscoll, assistant dean of students. “Recognizing that civics and democratic education has been all but eliminated, the White House Office of Public Engagement and the Department of Education have led the charge that the United States must make civic and democratic learning for all students a top national priority. This includes K-12 education, local and state level government, higher education, and public and private sector business.”
Schools such as BC, Stanford University, and the College of William and Mary represent institutions of higher learning that have promised to “commit to a series of strategies to work in partnership with on and off campus constituents to influence students’ ongoing commitment to civic learning and democratic engagement” as part of the Lead Initiative. All of the selected institutions will create civic learning and democratic engagement activities for students, collect data on gains in civic learning and democratic engagement spurred by these programs, and work with students to help solve community problems.

The Dean of Students Office (DSO) has launched a website and Twitter account as part of its plan to make BC students more engaged and informed citizens. The Twitter account (@BCEngage4Change) retweets information pertinent to upcoming presidential and state elections, and also engages directly with students by informing them of civic learning events on campus. O’Driscoll’s office also plans to ask civic literacy questions on Twitter that students can respond to and win prizes. The newly launched website also provides links to resources that will help inform students about the upcoming elections and publicizes civic learning events both on and off campus.

“We are looking to support student organizations through co-sponsorship of programs or as a resource in all efforts regarding civic engagement,” O’Driscoll said. DSO has co-sponsored the second Presidential Debate Watch Program with Rock the Vote, distributed candy that had QR codes on it at Kal Penn’s lecture to publicize the new website, and will be co-sponsoring an Election Watch Program with Nights on the Heights from 4 p.m. to midnight on the day of the presidential election.

Although DSO is using the upcoming election as a major vehicle to launch its new initiative, O’Driscoll said she plans to keep the new program going strong long after America has selected its new president.

“This is an exciting time, and we want to tap into that in a meaningful way,” she said. “While the election is a perfect platform in which to launch this initiative, we will be looking to move forward past the election to continue our goal of promoting engaged citizenry and civic responsibility.”
DSO realizes that it has a campus of energetic, engaged students to work with during this initiative, and plans to harness BC’s engaged spirit to make this initiative a success.

“We know that this campus is quite engaged,” O’Driscoll said. “There is a high level of service learning and volunteerism, work to strengthen the local community, and global experiences through study abroad and service trips, just to name a few. We are looking to take these experiences a step further through reflection and action on a more global level.”
O’Driscoll’s office is looking to help students become better citizens in whatever way possible, and it recognizes the importance of the Lead Initiative for America’s future.

“Civic engagement has many different meanings and many different avenues, and we want to encourage students to engage today to change tomorrow,” O’Driscoll said.

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