Grad Profile: Pursuing an End to Inequality in Public Education
Gwen Baxley was a high school student in a Jersey City charter school when she discovered the messy reality of public school funding....
Rutgers Study Shows Depleted Fish Stocks Can Come Back from the Brink
Fish stocks that have been depleted for decades can find their own way back to healthy levels if timely limits are put on their catch, Rutgers scientists say.
- Education / Higher Education;
- Politics, Law and Public Policy;
- Politics, Law and Public Policy / Government;
Student Political Education Well Under Way at Rutgers
New Darien Learning Community combines theory, practice for the politically minded
ATTENTION EDUCATION, POLITICAL, ASSIGNMENT EDITORS
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – Rutgers’ new Darien Learning Community for Citizenship and Civic Engagement, established with a generous gift from alumni Steven and Susan Darien, will enable students to transform their classroom lessons about American politics into action on campus and New Brunswick during the homestretch of the 2012 presidential race and beyond.
Steven Darien, a retired human resources executive with Merck, is a graduate of Rutgers College. Susan, his wife and a retired social worker, received a bachelor’s degree from Douglass College and a master’s from Rutgers School of Social Work.
The selective, 15-person nonresidential community is a partnership of the Department of Political Science’s Walt Whitman Center for the Culture and Politics of Democracy, Eagleton Institute of Politics and the Office of Undergraduate Education.
“The learning community is a unique learning experience for undergraduates that will allow them to take what they learn in a classroom and put it into action on the Rutgers campus and local communities,” said Ghada Endick, Rutgers learning communities director.
At the beginning of the semester, Darien students enrolled in two courses: “American Political Thought,” taught by Andrew Murphy, director of the Walt Whitman Center, and “Topics in Political Science: Citizenship and Civic Engagement,” taught by Elizabeth Matto, director of Eagleton’s Youth Political Participation Program. Outside class, the students are at work on the nonpartisan RU Voting student mobilization initiative to register students and get them to the polls. They also have to design and execute get-out-the-vote projects as part of their coursework.
For sophomore Jessica Brand from West Caldwell, N.J., applying for a spot in Darien was a natural. “I’ve always been into politics,” Brand said. “My mom is a Democrat and my dad is a Republican. We had some interesting conversations around the dinner table.”
Brand decided to apply for Darien when she learned how many of her friends on the Busch Campus, Rutgers’ engineering and science campus, didn’t think about politics and social science classes. “I was shocked that they didn’t see how politics affected their lives,” Brand admitted. “I thought the Darien Learning Community and working on RU Voting was a nice way to get out on campus and make (politics) more accessible.”
Mark Feaster, a junior from Nutley, N.J., hadn’t given much thought to politics while at Rutgers until Matto introduced the Darien Learning Community during an Eagleton class last spring. “I began thinking I hadn’t done anything to get involved,” said Feaster, who became aware he was a political junkie after realizing his TV was tuned to CNN 24/7. “Courses are important, but other things are, too.”
For his Darien project, Feaster and a friend are planning to produce an election primer for students, comprising a political glossary and summary of key issues to help students become better informed and “overcome their fear about saying the wrong things” when discussing issues.
Darien students also will participate in an evening lecture, Rethinking Democracy and a special presentation from Christopher Phillips, scholar, author and deliberative democracy specialist, who will discuss his latest group dialogue project and book, Constitution Café: Jefferson’s Brew for a True Revolution, on Oct.11, and visit the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia before they give their final public presentations on Nov. 26.
The Constitution Café and “Popcorn and Politics,” a watch party for the third presidential debate on Oct. 22, are just two of many Election 2012-inspired events planned for students during the fall.
Eagleton faculty and visiting faculty associates have been busy teaching other courses aimed at engaging students during the presidential election year. Director Ruth Mandel is teaching a special Byrne Seminar for first-year students, “The 2012 Elections and You – What’s Up with That?” a behind-the-scenes look at political campaigning. A special session of the “Political Campaigning” course team-taught by adjunct faculty and respected campaign veterans Maggie Moran and Michael DuHaime, 2012 and Money: The Real Deal, recently was taped by C-SPAN and broadcast as a lead-in to the first presidential debate.
Students and the general public also will hear from such nationally recognized experts as NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd and “The Borowitz Report” creator Andy Borowitz. Visit eagleton.rutgers.edu for a list of programs.
“It’s an exciting time for students at Rutgers with the presidential election coming up,” said Matto, who urged all would-be voters to register by the Oct. 16 deadline and make sure their registration information is current. “The youth vote played such a crucial role in the 2008 election. I would expect young voters to be a key demographic group this time around as well.”Undergraduates may apply to the Darien Learning Community in spring 2013 and take part in RU Ready, a civic education program administered in New Brunswick and area schools. Click here for more learning community opportunities.
Media Contact: Steve Manas
732-932-7084, ext. 612