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Joelene Bergonzi

Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, June 15, 2009

New IU Bloomington program to address civic engagement

June 15, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Provost and Executive Vice President Karen Hanson announced today (June 15) that Indiana University Bloomington is initiating a program that combines academic study and real-world experience to help students develop skills for participating in American political and civic life. The program, called PACE (Political and Civic Engagement), will launch this fall.

Funding to establish PACE came from Edward L. Hutton, a longtime Indiana University benefactor who died in March 2009. Hutton was also a key supporter of IU's Hutton Honors College, International Experiences Program and Well Scholars Program.

"Our students are eager to make a difference in the world by applying what they learn in the classroom," Hanson said. "Requests for a program of this sort came directly from students, and IU Bloomington -- and Mr. Hutton -- responded to their interests. PACE will provide our students with the tools they need for a lifetime of constructive engagement. The program will draw upon the strengths of outstanding faculty members from a variety of disciplines."

PACE is a 25-credit undergraduate certificate program with an innovative curriculum that includes courses, hands-on learning and co-curricular experiences. Students will complete core courses on leadership and policy-making, electives from a variety of disciplines, a one-credit exercise on decision-making, a mentored internship and a capstone seminar.

"We see this as a way for students to develop knowledge and skills about American public life that can enrich their professional and career opportunities and enable them to be active and productive members of their communities," said PACE Director Michael Grossberg, the Sally M. Reahard Professor in the Department of History and professor in the IU Maurer School of Law-Bloomington.

The program will deepen students' political and civic understanding and give them opportunities for meaningful engagement in the community, state, nation and world. It will prepare students for involvement with political campaigns, advocacy groups, nonprofit organizations and government agencies, and for graduate work in law, public policy, media and other fields.

Michael Grossberg

Michael Grossberg

Print-Quality Photo

"The opportunity to bring theory and practice together, to work in the community, and in ways that are intellectually, politically and socially engaging, is sure to appeal to a wide range of students on the Bloomington campus," said Sonya Stephens, vice provost for undergraduate education. "This certificate program brings a new dimension to the undergraduate experience and will provide those who pursue it with models for reflective participation in civic life long after they have graduated from college."

The PACE program is administered by the College of Arts and Sciences; students may combine the certificate with academic majors in the College or with undergraduate degrees in other academic schools at IU Bloomington.

Leadership, Ethics and Social Action (LESA), an academic minor program that has been part of the College of Arts and Sciences, will merge with PACE.

"PACE is an exciting centerpiece of the College's efforts to provide students with an intellectual foundation for participation and leadership in civic life. It builds as well as on our growing emphasis on interdisciplinary studies," said Jean Robinson, associate dean for undergraduate education in the College of Arts and Sciences. "We look forward to collaborating with other schools and campus offices to make this initiative a success."

PACE draws on the 2007 book Educating for Democracy: Preparing Undergraduates for Responsible Political Engagement, produced by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. Thomas Ehrlich, senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation, who was Indiana University president from 1987 to 1994, and his co-authors argue that universities should make intentional, explicit efforts to support students' political development. The goal should be to increase not only the extent, but the quality, of student engagement, they say.

Grossberg said the outpouring of youthful activism in the 2008 presidential election showed that college students are hungry for opportunities to learn about and engage in civic life.

"One goal of the program is to give students a chance to learn how to take a principled stand: how to think through a problem, arrive at a position and defend it," he said. "But the program is also designed to give students the skills to work with people with whom they may not agree."

Information about the program is available at or from Associate Director Joelene Bergonzi at