Harvard Training Increases TSU Students’ Knowledge on Civic, Political Engagement

Dr. Michael Harris, dean of the College of Public Service and Urban Studies, middle, and students Erica Richardson-Carter, left, and Beonca James, represented TSU at the just-ended conference of the National Campaign Consortium for Political and Civic Engagement at Harvard University.
Dr. Michael Harris, dean of the College of Public Service and Urban Studies, middle, and students Erica Richardson-Carter, left, and Beonca James, represented TSU at the just-ended conference of the National Campaign Consortium for Political and Civic Engagement at Harvard University.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Shutting down the government, raising the debt ceiling and the rising cost of education are some of the major issues currently facing the United States. The politics and ramifications of these drain resources and impact decision making on the national and local levels.

But understanding these issues and the ability to clearly articulate their impact and ensuing debates or maneuverings in Congress, states assemblies or around the dinner table require a keen and engaged mind that is derived from education, information and participation.

At Tennessee State University, the College of Public Service and Urban Affairs is developing and implementing programs in these three areas to increase students’ awareness and engagement.

“Our goal is to work to facilitate and develop civic-minded and politically engaged students as part of their learning experience,” said Dr. Michael Harris, dean of CPSUA, who recently accompanied two students to Harvard University, where they participated in a two-day (Oct. 4-5) conference of the National Campaign Consortium for Political and Civic Engagement, sponsored by the Kennedy School of Government, and the Institute of Politics.

TSU was one of 24 universities from around the nation selected to take part in the annual workshop that included such institutions as Harvard, University of Oklahoma, Tufts University, Louisiana State University, University of Texas, University of Virginia and the University of Chicago.

Dr. Harris said the conference demonstrated the “valuable strategic mission” of CPSUA to educate leaders who serve and create sustainable and engaged communities. He added: “The Harvard experience and the ongoing work with 23 other universities will allow our students and faculty to enhance CPSUA’s contributions to engagement and citizenship activity at TSU and in Middle Tennessee.”

Beonca James, a senior Urban Studies and Sociology major from Lancaster, S.C., who accompanied Dr. Harris, said the discussion on how to implement social change through community service, advocacy and politics offered a great learning experience.

“TSU students and faculty can be a huge influence for change on campus and in the surrounding communities,” James said, adding, “if only we could get people more involved in the issues and give them the skills to implement the change they seek.”

The person pushing the NCC agenda as its campus coordinator for TSU is Dr. Cara B. Robinson, assistant professor of Urban Studies. She said the purpose of the consortium is to promote voting and civic engagement on college campuses.

“Each member of the NCC is charged with creating unique approaches to the promotion of voting and civic engagement across their respective institutions,” Robinson said. “As we initiate our campaign, we want to emphasize the role of CPSUA in the promotion of civic and political engagement on the TSU campus and greater community, as well as our plans for the next year.”

Under the theme “Change Agent: Tools for Effective Advocacy,” the conference discussed engagement in electoral politics, helping students pursue a career in public service, and a foundation in civic education.

“I am very excited about our campus campaign,” said Erica Richardson-Carter, a junior Urban Studies major from Nashville, Tenn., who also attended the Harvard conference. “I think the first thing we need to do to get our students engaged in making them aware of government affairs.”

She said this could be accomplished through the establishment of what she called a “Did you know campaign,” utilizing social media, text or the Banner service. “Our (campus) team will be meeting soon to brainstorm ideas,” Richardson-Carter added.

For more information on the TSU campus campaign, contact Dr. Robinson at (615) 963-7243 or crobin22@tnstate.edu.

 

 

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About Tennessee State University

With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university and is a comprehensive, urban, coeducational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top Universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912 Tennessee State University celebrates 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu