CORVALLIS, Ore. – Thursday was a day of collaboration and celebration on Oregon State University’s campus as part of its annual University Day, bringing faculty and staff members together before the beginning of the academic year.
This year’s topic at the event was civic-minded engagement, a broad subject about inclusion and the desire to improve the lives of others.
Keynote speaker Caryn McTighe Musil, the Senior Scholar and Director of Civic Learning and Democracy at the Association of American Colleges and Universities, had a variety of messages regarding the importance of weaving university programs together.
“Creating a civic-minded institution cannot be accomplished solo,” Musil said.
She says civic-minded engagement is about aspiring to work together to improve the quality of people’s lives and to improve the sustainability of the planet.
“To work around civic engagement and helping students be responsible and engaged citizens – I can’t imagine a more important work than that,” said Larry Roper, the Vice Provost of Student Affairs at OSU.
Why should faculty care about civic engagement?
“Climate change,” Musil said. “The degradation of pollution and the health effects. The cure for diseases not getting to the people who need it. The increasing economic disparity and inequality between the haves and the have-nots.”
Musil says civic engagement is about helping students seek jobs that not only interest them, but that also help the greater global good.
Susie Brubaker-Cole, the Associate Provost for Student Success at OSU, says when students interact with the university, they cross many spheres.
“It feels right just to come together as a campus community to share our values and our commitments to the types of educational programs we want to have here,” she said. “Students experience OSU as one OSU, so knowing what’s happening in the four corners of campus is invaluable.”
Faculty members say University Day is about bringing programs together to open up discussions that may otherwise not happen.
“Rather than having the student experience be this series of disconnected courses, it brings a kind of coherence and a kind of integration that allows the students to go out and weave ideas from one course to another, and to understand the relationship among all disciplines,” Roper said.
Roper says as educators, civic engagement is about helping students become engaging citizens.
“What’s also important for us not to lose sight of is our responsibilities,” Roper said. “And our responsibility is really about giving energy to the dreams of young people who come here, whose best possibilities for their lives are still in front of us.”
Roper says students look at faculty and staff for inspiration to stimulate the path to their future, and when various programs across campus collaborate, sparks for that inspiration can be created.