Eatman Receives International Honors for Promoting Democracy, Civic Engagement in University Life

Timothy K. Eatman, assistant professor in Syracuse University’s School of Education and research director of Imagining America, has been invited to serve as a scholar-in-residence at the University of the Free State (UFS) in South Africa from Aug. 10-23. Eatman will also be senior research adviser for “We the People:” The American Commonwealth Project in the upcoming year. Both invitations honor Eatman’s expertise in civic engagement and knowledge of using democracy and social service to promote higher education, particularly for underrepresented groups.

South Africa’s University of the Free State, one of the country’s oldest institutes for higher education, sought Eatman to review and evaluate its current community engagement and service learning practices, as well as the institutional life of the university. Eatman will also advise UFS on how to ensure that, conceptually and operationally, its service learning and community engagement efforts are academically grounded and work to empower needy and disadvantaged communities, as well as the institution and its students. During his stay in South Africa, Eatman will have the opportunity lead discussions, interviews and focus groups with UFS senior management, faculty, students and staff, and visit UFS’s Qwaqwa Campus and community organizations that UFS collaborates with on many civic engagement projects.

Eatman’s position on the steering committee of the American Commonwealth Project (ACP) is another national recognition. The ACP is a partnership among colleges and universities, the White House and other federal agencies, including the Department of Education. Together these groups will participate in events, meetings and conversations with students, faculty, administrators and community leaders to promote colleges and universities as agents of democracy and change. Collaborative projects, local and national assessments, and research studies among educators such as Eatman and members of the government and communities from across the nation will further the national campaign to make “agents and architects” of democracy out of already existing institutes of higher education, with a special emphasis on schools which have high percentages of minority, first-generation, and low-income students.

The ACP will begin in September and continue until July 2012, when it will culminate with the Summit on the Public Purposes of Higher Education in Washington, D.C., on the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act, which established land grant colleges, once known as democracy colleges. Policy recommendations produced from the summit will provide plans for the further development of civic learning and strategies to improve civic community health. The ACP draws from “We the People,” an effort of the American Democracy Project started by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, as well as the Department of Education’s Civic Learning and Democracy Engagement Initiative, which focuses on strengthening civic agency as a tool for civic learning and the power of democracy in high education.