Members of Dartmouth Community Gather at ‘Crucible Moment’ for Civic Engagement


In response to the assertion that higher education has shifted away from civic engagement, a group of 72 alumni, faculty members, staff, and students gathered this week to examine community involvement at Dartmouth.

Students, staff, faculty, and alumni gathered at a seminar this week to talk about service learning, community service, and civic activism. (photo by Eli Burak ’00)

The National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement released a report in January 2012 that emphasized the importance of service in education and called for “investing on a massive scale in higher education’s capacity to renew this nation’s social, intellectual, and civic capital.”

The term “civic engagement” refers broadly to involvement on local and global levels, including community service, political activism, and service learning. The seminar studied these topics as they relate to Dartmouth. Participants also analyzed the relationship of civic engagement to students’ well being.

“This is a crucible moment,” said Helen Damon-Moore, director of service and educational programs at the Tucker Foundation, in opening remarks. “How might we better carry out Dartmouth’s civic mission? What are the most important next steps?”

Denise Anthony, associate professor of sociology and research director for the Institute of Security, Technology, and Society, said it was an achievement to have so many participants from different schools, departments, and disciplines at the seminar. “I am really excited to be here and to learn from everyone else,” she said.

Jay Davis ’90, program officer for outreach in schools at the Tucker Foundation, facilitated the seminar, which was sponsored by the Council on Service and Engagement. On a sunny day, with the door open, Davis led groups of eight or nine gathered at circular tables in Brace Commons, writing and discussing questions about Dartmouth’s engagement in the Upper Valley and around the world.  Participants worked individually, in pairs, and in group settings as they grappled with these issues.

The seminar’s ideas and feedback will be reported and analyzed, according to Damon-Moore, and will help shape future discourse about civic engagement at Dartmouth. “I think we’ve opened a new chapter here,” she said.

Stephanie Pacheco, outreach and arts education manager at the Hopkins Center, was encouraged by the event.

“It was great seeing people from so many divisions of the college sit and dedicate a day to thinking about this work and how we prioritize it on campus,” she said.

Keith Chapman