• Current Programs and Initiatives

    2019 ADP Infographic

    ADP represents the largest nationally coordinated and led civic engagement initiative in the country, and we continue to expand the depth and breadth of our multidisciplinary and cross-campus work across the nation, with our campuses, and in our regions and states. We have a unique ability to coordinate with faculty and staff from multiple disciplines and campuses and to build resources that are integrated across our universities.

    Below are some examples of the work being done across the nation; the results are indicative of an intentional and holistic approach to democratic engagement.

    • Our Voter Education and Engagement initiative focuses on comprehensive strategies to ensure that all areas of ADP campuses are actively working to increase informed political engagement of our students. The 2018 results are impressive and show a marked increase from previous year. Our pilot yielded a 65% voting rate at Metropolitan State University of Denver, one of our urban Hispanic-serving institutions, and a tripling of voting rates at James Madison University, a more rural campus in Virginia. Thanks to these efforts, we have seen similar results at all our campuses, and according to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement report, ADP campuses have the highest voter turnout rates of all higher education. As a comparison, the national voter turnout rate for youth 18–29 was 46% and the national average for undergraduate students was 50.7%.  ADP campuses had a voter turnout rate of at least 52%. The overall national turnout rate was 60%, and while reaching a 65% voter turnout was a new high for ADP, we are confident that we will be able to sustain that rate across all ADP campuses as we move toward November 2020. 

    • ADP's Digital Polarization Initiative is a broad, cross-institutional project to improve civic digital literacy by teaching students to fact check and contextualize information they encounter online, as well as alert them to mechanisms bad actors use to sow confusion and create social discord. Now entering its fourth year, the project is spearheaded by ADP's inaugural Civic Fellow Mike Caulfield of Washington State University Vancouver; recently completed a successful nine-campus pilot; and has received recognition from the press, including an article published August 2019 in Inside Higher Ed

      The work takes seriously the epistemological challenges posed by digital polarization, problematic information, algorithmic manipulation, and networked propaganda, and introduces the “SIFT” method and other essential skills of online fact checking and research.  The initiative now includes a robust set of curricular resources developed by Indiana University Kokomo and has begun to rollout professional training and development institutes. The “Mind over Chatter” modules developed by the team from IU Kokomo focus on the cognitive biases that make us susceptible to faulty information in the first place, as well as the many subtle framing techniques used by a variety of media to obscure and mislead.

    • Our Science for Citizens course developed by faculty at Sam Houston State University (Texas) currently serves 400–500 students each semester. It indicates that when students are introduced to the process of science through an approach that includes deliberative dialogue and provides students with the ability to understand empirical and evidence-based research without having to relinquish their core beliefs or religion, their critical thinking scores and acceptance of scientific facts like evolution are increased by at least five points according to both the Critical-thinking Assessment Test (CAT) and the Measure of Acceptance of the Theory of Evolution.  

      The results are robust and consistent; quite simply, students who complete the Science for Citizens course show significant improvement in their critical thinking skills, as measured by the CAT, while students who complete a traditional general education science course do not. The success of the course is predicated on the interdisciplinary approach and providing faculty with the professional development to teach both the knowledge and the process of science through the use of a “flipped classroom” approach, where class time centers on active-learning strategies, case studies, basics of argumentation and logical fallacies so that students have the benefit of experiential learning to increase their critical thinking skills and improve their appreciation and acceptance of science. Scientific literacy, then, can best be achieved by offering an alternative type of integrated science course that focuses on these foundations rather than on the traditional “memorize the facts” approach to science education.


    • We are seeing similar success through another one of our initiatives, the Four-Quadrant Political Ideology Diagnostic. The Ideological Diagnostic is designed to quickly break down the ideological stereotyping that students and others do about themselves and about others in terms of hot-button public policy issues. That stereotyping is the key factor in the current polarization that besets college campuses.  The Diagnostic is a guide to productive political discourse rather than ugly rancor and,  coupled with critical thinking activities, increases student ability to engage in deliberative dialogue and be open to exploring complex political policy and issues. 

      The Diagnostic has now been tested scores of times on thousands of students at different colleges and universities. Two striking findings emerge. First, virtually no one’s answers are all in the same ideological quadrant. Second, in every classroom, there is a range of ideological positions on each question. In other words, students usually think of themselves in one of the four ideological categories, but will almost certainly find that some of their answers are in different categories. And members of a class may believe that the class is made up, for example, of modern liberals, but will likely find that it is actually made up of a range of ideological positions. When paired with critical thinking activities, students gain an average four points on the CAT within one course, compared to increasing three to four points over the span of an entire collegiate career.


    • Likewise, our Global Challenges initiative, first launched in 2006 in partnership with Erik Peterson at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has matured and is ready to expand from the initial cohort, which included California State University at Fresno, Dalton State College (Ga.), Fort Hays State University (Kan.), Fort Lewis College (Colo.), Georgia College, Kennesaw State University (Ga.), Northern Arizona University, Stockton University (N.J.), Southeast Missouri State University, University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, University of Minnesota Duluth, and Western Kentucky University. The initiative brought together faculty from multiple disciplines, including political science, economics, international relations, neuroscience, theater arts and social work to create curricular and co-curricular approaches to help students build an understanding of their role in effecting change in increasingly interdependent global society. 

      The interdisciplinary course they designed has yielded some significant results including: 

    o  Increased retention and graduate rates for students who took the course

    • First-year retention rate of 93% compared to 80% for those who did not take the course
    • Second-year retention rate of 89% compared to 78%
    • Six-year graduation rate of 74% compared to rate for the general student population of 50%

    o  More than 75% of the students reported much or extensive growth in deep thinking, critical thinking and problem-solving, empathy for people, media literacy, initiative and self-direction 

    • Preparing college and university students to be informed and engaged citizens is imperative for a healthy democracy. We must also prepare our students with the expertise that the country, the economy and the modern world demand from graduates as they move from college to workforce. The Citizen Professional Initiative addresses strategies for building strong citizen professionals and a vital 21st century democracy. As “stewards of place” rooted in communities across America, AASCU colleges and universities shape the identities and practices of professionals in every field. Citizen professionals add an important civic dimension to such professional formation. Citizen professionals see themselves as citizens—stewards of place—contributing to their communities and engaging for the good of their institutions through their work. They pay close attention to what their professions can contribute to advance the well-being of communities and society. They strive to empower fellow citizens through their work by being “on tap, not on top” and by advancing an ethos of stewardship in their workplaces and in their communities.

      The Citizen Professional Initiative of ADP is a partnership with the Public Work Academy, a new educational initiative at Augsburg University (Minn.) co-directed by Harry C. Boyte and Marie Ström. The Citizen Professional Initiative and the Public Work Academy build on 30 years of experience, first through partnerships at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute and more recently through Augsburg University. Civic engagement efforts have worked with teachers, nurses, civil servants, bankers, therapists, public managers, scientists and others on the concept of “citizen professional,” professionals who do public work to turn their work sites and communities into more humane, empowering, purpose-filled places. Bill Doherty, director of the Citizen Professional Center at the University of Minnesota and process designer of the depolarization movement Better Angels, has been a close collaborator in this work for more than 20 years.  


    • Stewardship of Public Land has expanded from the original focus of the reintroduction of wolves to a more in-depth and global look at environmental stewardship and sustainability. The hallmark of this project is the exploration of the various voices, perspectives and politics around environmental policy. Faculty spend one week exploring the issues and hearing from multiple stakeholders and then utilize the frameworks to develop curricula relevant to their own campuses, local and regional ecosystems. Over this next year, we will explore the next phase of this strand to encompass additional areas of focus and utilize environmental stewardship as a component of other strands such as conflict resolution and policy.  

      In a world of negative images about political dialogue and discussion, we must provide alternative images of what works. We must create powerful examples of what a productive and engaging democracy looks like. As educators, we have an enormous obligation to prepare students with the knowledge, skills and experiences to be informed and engaged citizens. The Preamble to the Constitution laid the vision and aspiration for our path forward, “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union … ” Our obligation is to renew, build, sustain and protect and to inspire, encourage and equip our students with the knowledge, skills and experiences to be informed and engaged citizens.     

    For information about any of these initiatives please contact us at adp@aascu.org,  copelandc@aascu.org, or nudelmanf@asscu.org