The University Record, February 11, 2002

Committee unveils plan for educating a diverse democracy

By Laurel Thomas Gnagey

Concerns over society’s declining interest in civic involvement and the impact it has on diversity and democracy has been the focus of a special faculty committee that began meeting last summer. The Provost’s Faculty Committee on Education for a Diverse Democracy now has a number of recommendations for renewing the University’s civic mission. Their intent is to involve faculty and students in activities that promote diversity and democracy.

“Too many Americans have reduced their involvement in volunteer activities, attendance at community meetings and voting in elections,” says Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs. “Faculty can have an influence on this trend by encouraging student interest in public issues, their ability to argue their beliefs and their respect for group differences.”

The faculty members on this committee believe the concepts of “knowledge for society” and “education for democracy,” once important precepts for institutions of higher education, are rarely emphasized today.

“For democracy to function effectively in the future, people must understand their own social identities, communicate with those who are different from themselves, and build bridges across their cultural boundaries,” says Barry Checkoway, professor of social work, one of the committee members. “Civic engagement requires new initiatives to strengthen education for democracy and diversity as complementary objectives.”

To achieve its goals, the committee formulated a two-year strategy, which includes several initiatives that Monts says are just the beginning. They include:

Diversity and Democracy Initiatives Fund

This fund is a collaborative program of the Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice President for Research and Horace H. Rackam School of Graduate Studies intended to promote scholarly and curricular activities that will advance understanding of diversity and democracy as interdependent values; that will inform and enrich scholarly discourse campuswide; and that will enable new “citizen scholars” to draw upon their knowledge in ways that develop diverse communities and strengthen civil society. The fund will support the following types of work:

  • Strengthening Scholarship of Democracy & Diversity

    Theory and practice projects using appropriate methodology accepted by disciplines or interdisciplinary scholars.

  • Putting Intellectual Values into Public Practice

    Action research, and public intellectual and cultural projects informed by an intellectual or academic perspective.

  • Renewing the Civic Mission of Higher Education

    Research, curricular or pedagogical projects that promote commitment to democracy and diversity consistent with the University’s scholarly, teaching and service missions.

    Olivia P. Maynard and S. Olof Karlstrom Fund for Faculty Civic Development

    Through a gift from Regent Olivia P. Maynard and S. Olof Karlstrom, this fund invites proposals for faculty initiatives that prepare students for active participation in a diverse democratic society. Proposals are sought that will enable faculty members to:

  • Engage students in collaborative research and/or teaching projects which involve community partners and address important community, civic or partnership issues

  • Develop curricula or courses that strengthen community learning or civic education

  • Participate in co-curricular activities that have a strong civic learning purpose

  • Prepare students for entering diverse communities and learning with people who are different from themselves

  • Integrate democracy and diversity as complementary educational objectives.

    Decisions on these awards will be announced by April 1 for projects expected for completion by the end of the subsequent academic year.

    For the second round of funding, please contact Jeffrey Howard, Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, or (734) 647-7402.

    Nancy Cantor Lecture on Intellectual Diversity

    This lecture series will honor former Provost Nancy Cantor’s contributions to the social and intellectual vitality of the U-M. It will bring prominent national figures to campus to speak about intellectual diversity in higher education.

    Cantor was the first woman to serve as chief academic officer. Whether speaking to a small group of alumni or to a large national forum, she often extolled diversity as integral to higher education.

    The Nancy Cantor Lectureship will be administered by the Office of the Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs in collaboration with the Provost’s Faculty Committee on Education for a Diverse Democracy. The inaugural lecture will be delivered by Cantor on a date to be determined.

    2002–03 Campus Forum on Higher Education for a Diverse Democracy

    The yearlong forum will include a series of visits by distinguished public intellectuals from various academic disciplines and professional fields, each of whom will speak to core questions of diversity and democracy. The forum will conclude with a conference with selected external speakers. It will feature the projects sponsored by the overall initiative, focus on relevant work on campus by various stakeholders and incorporate many discussions held during the year. The conference will include a project fair, course fair and sessions by undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty grant recipients.

    Diversity and Democracy Initiatives fund proposals due April 1

    Projects may include small scale research, preliminary data collection, theoretical and analytical papers, working conferences or collaborative work sessions, community-based cultural or research projects, curriculum development or evaluation, student conferences, video projects, national network formation, or other relevant activities. Funds may be spent on research assistants, supplies and materials, research-related travel, and other normal project expenses.


  • Up to $15,000 available to faculty members who are encouraged to involve undergraduate and graduate students and staff members from other academic and student affairs units

  • Up to $5,000 for graduate students enrolled in any Rackham doctoral or professional school program. Students are encouraged to form partnerships with faculty members

  • Up to $1,000 available to undergraduate students who are encouraged to form partnerships with graduate students and faculty members, and who will be required to identify a faculty sponsor for the project

    Proposals will be reviewed by an interdisciplinary panel according to their academic and intellectual quality; criteria in advancing understanding or practice related to democracy and diversity; demonstrated capacity for successful completion; and potential for collaboration. Grantees will be required to submit a final report and, if requested, to make a public presentation.

    For further information, please contact Cynthia Avery at OVPR, (734) 763-2080.