Mount Wachusett Community College has been selected to join the Association of American Colleges and Universities and The Democracy Commitment in “Citizenship Under Siege,” a national program of public forums being sponsored this spring through a $200,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The AAC&U and The Democracy Commitment, in partnership with seven community colleges in the country, will facilitate a tapestry of public dialogues exploring who counts as citizens and who has been accorded full rights to democracy’s promises. These forums will be grounded in the nation’s history and explore creative ways to use the power of the humanities to bridge differences and build strong communities.
MWCC’s program, titled Citizenship Under Siege: Degrees of Citizenship, will take place throughout the spring semester in collaboration with local nonprofit organizations, police departments and elected officials.
Political scientist Robert D. Putnam, author of 14 books including the bestselling “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis” and “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,” will be among the featured speakers at MWCC. Putnam is the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government.
“We are proud and honored to be chosen to participate in this timely, national initiative,” said MWCC President Daniel M. Asquino. “Through these forums, we intend to bring the humanities out of the typical classroom and into the public sphere to engage students, staff, faculty and the greater community in deliberative dialogues around some of society’s most critical issues,” he said.
“One of the benefits of working within a community college is the ability to be adaptive and dynamic, to respond to the needs of our students quickly, yet with intention,” said Fagan Forhan, director of Experiential Learning Opportunities and Civic Engagement at MWCC and director of the college’s Center for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. “Very few community colleges are doing the work of deliberative dialogues, and yet our students are living with these social justice issues in a very immediate and visceral way.”
Forhan and MWCC Dean of Students Jason Zelesky will serve as project directors, working with a team of faculty, students and staff.
The NEH announced the grants in December as part of its new initiative, The Common Good: Humanities and the Public Square. The project builds upon a previous NEH-funded initiative, Bridging Cultures to Form a Nation: Difference, Community, and Democratic Thinking, in which MWCC also participated.