National leader of American Democracy Project will give public talk about civic engagement

Dr. George Mehaffy, vice president of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, will speak from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 9, in the Black and Gold Room of Fort Hays State University's Memorial Union.

Mehaffy, who serves as national director of the American Democracy Project, will speak on the topic, "Citizenship and the Future of Democracy."

There is no charge and the public is welcome.

The American Democracy Project was co-founded by AASCU and The New York Times in 2001because of the need to counter forces at work in American society that threaten democracy, such as declining civic participation, low voter participation among 18-25 year olds and declining recent test results on civic understanding among 4th-, 8th- and 12th-graders.

AASCU believes that America's public universities, especially AASCU institutions, are especially suited to foster civic engagement among today's undergraduates. Across the country, 196 AASCU-member universities are participating in the American Democracy Project, whose primary objective is to graduate more students with civic competencies, a sense of social responsibility and the willingness to participate in democratic processes at all levels.

At FHSU, ADP?s mission is to inspire today's students to be tomorrow's active citizens through opportunities for student involvement through volunteerism and service-learning, voter registration and education, and access to local, regional and national leaders through speeches and forums. Professors and students can then integrate those real-life lessons into classroom learning to reinforce the idea that an active citizenry is essential to continuing the democratic experiment in America.

Mehaffy's public presentation and other meetings with community and campus leaders during his daylong visit will provide an opportunity for FHSU to discuss ADP efforts on campus with a national expert.

Christie Brungardt, ADP project coordinator at FHSU, is enthusiastic about Mehaffy's visit. "We are excited to have the opportunity to showcase our continuing efforts in civic engagement for Dr. Mehaffy. We?re hoping that he will share ADP 'best practices' from other ADP campuses throughout the nation that we can implement at FHSU."

Mehaffy looks forward to his visit to campus. "I hope to learn about innovative activities that Fort Hays State is doing in the American Democracy Project that I can share with the other 196 campuses involved in the project. I will be describing some new initiatives that ADP is starting this spring, and I also want to be of help with questions that people on campus may have."

FHSU and Emporia State University are the only two institutions of higher education in Kansas that are participating in the American Democracy Project. During the past two years, FHSU has engaged in numerous ADP-related activities, including a voter registration drive last fall, ongoing service-learning activities and the weekly lunchtime Times Talk series, in which faculty, staff, students and the community gather to discuss a recent article in The New York Times.

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