Democratic Engagement Goes Even Further with AASCU’s American Democracy Project

Sep 21, 2017 4:00 PM

By Robert Spahr ’13

Our students will have a host of new resources as they strive to become more engaged as citizens, now that FSU has joined the American Democracy Project (ADP), a network of more than 250 state colleges and universities focused on public higher education’s role in preparing the next generation of informed, democratically engaged citizens.

“The American Democracy Project will be both a resource and an opportunity for FSU students seeking to grow into future civic leaders,” said Student Government Association President James Kirk. "For many students, college is the period in our lives when we learn the immense value in becoming active and informed citizens, allowing us to witness the positive impacts we can make in our communities.”

The move follows the recognition received in May, when FSU was designated a Voter Friendly Campus by the Campus Vote Project for its efforts to engage students in the 2016 election – one of just two Maryland schools named to the list of 83 American campuses. Now FSU is doubling down on democratic engagement with its membership in the national network, which will complement Frostburg’s existing efforts to engage students in the democratic process.

“ADP is a very good fit with the direction we are moving in – especially the partnership between my office, the J. Glenn Beall Institute and the Student Government Association,” said Patrick O’Brien ’07, director of FSU’s Office of Civic Engagement, which spearheads democratic engagement efforts. “Our three entities have really been working together to get students more engaged in our democracy.” ADP is a nonpartisan initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in partnership with the New York Times.

Participating in ADP will give Frostburg faculty, staff and students access to a national network of peers and resources related to civic learning and community engagement.

Over the past two years, Frostburg’s SGA and the Beall Institute cosponsored a series of events with O’Brien’s office to encourage engagement with the 2016 election. A campus-wide voter registration drive ensured every eligible student was able to register before the election. Town Hall meetings fostered discussion and debate on pressing issues and potential solutions, including a Caucus Night where students experienced an Iowa-style caucus. Other events included a Presidential Debate Viewing series, debates about foreign and domestic issues and a Mock Election Night.

“We hope that our programming and professional development opportunities will add depth and breadth to the already fantastic work Frostburg State is doing in the areas of civic learning and democratic engagement,” said Dr. Jennifer Domagal-Goldman, national manager of ADP. “Our current initiatives span topics from economic inequality to nonpartisan political learning and engagement and from online information literacy to dialogue and deliberation.”

Participating in ADP will also connect Frostburg with resources to boost democratic participation, such as guides to engaging students, online tools to check voter status and facilitate registration, informational webinars, national civic learning and democratic engagement meetings, special days of action and reflection, speaker series and award programs.

“ADP’s values are very much aligned with what Frostburg wants to do with democratic engagement,” said O’Brien.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities founded the American Democracy Project in 2003 to help produce college and university graduates with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and experiences needed to be informed, engaged community members. ADP member institutions can be found in 46 states and Washington, D.C.

For more information on civic engagement at FSU, visit