The Center for Civic Engagement (CCE) plays a major role in Hofstra University’s fulfillment of core objectives. Started as an initiative by faculty committed to promoting student involvement in community and public life, the CCE opened officially on February 2, 2007. We are a Hofstra institute designed to educate students in democratic values by actively engaging students as knowledgeable citizens in collaborative partnerships with their campus, local, state, national, and global communities.
Hofstra University offers educational, co-curricular and cultural programs and activities that foster an awareness of local, national and global issues, encouraging students to be active citizens and contributors to their local, national and global communities. Hofstra University recognizes its important role in our local community and in participating in a broader national and international dialogue. We offer programs and seek opportunities that mutually benefit the Hofstra community and those beyond our campus.
The CCE was founded on the following premises:
- That those who are engaged in their civic life are better satisfied with their lives and social environment, including their university experience.
- That those who learn about the satisfactions of civic engagement are likely to remain engaged, thus strengthening the democratic fabric of our communities.
- That there are specific activities, knowledge, and skills (specified below) that make for engaged citizens.
- That these attributes can be fostered through sustained deliberative, dialogic, and experiential programs.
- That those equipped with civic engagement experiences and skills can more effectively move from awareness to action.
- That working toward the betterment of humankind through civic engagement fulfills an important aspect of the mission of the University.
To that end, the CCE aims to foster civic engagement by:
- Educating students about current and historical issues related to democracy, social justice, and sustainability.
- Promoting the prerequisites of democracy through educational programs that emphasize:
- Freedom of speech, expression, and assembly
- The value of civic comportment and diverse viewpoints
- Respect and appreciation for diversity
- The ethics of public engagement
- Individual and collective empowerment through collaboration
- Social equality
- Building competencies in:
- Forming and strengthening groups, networks, and organizations
- Developing leadership, team-building, and organizing skills
- Defining, planning, and carrying out activities that promote civic engagement
- Promoting conflict resolution and social transformation
- Fostering connections within and between communities
- Conducting research
- Developing social policy initiatives that improve campus life and student satisfaction
Since its inception, the CCE has organized dozens of on-campus events, including forums, conferences, debates, workshops, exhibitions, cultural gatherings and performances. These events revolve around several major themes related to our overall mission, including:
- Nonviolence, social justice, and sustainability – We celebrate the International Day of Nonviolent Social Change (on or around Gandhi’s birthday, October 2), Civil Rights Day (on or around February 1, the anniversary of the Woolworth’s lunch counter student sit-in in 1960), Earth Day (usually April 22) and Earth Week (during the week of Earth Day). With student groups, we co-sponsor an annual “Day of Peace” to encourage interpersonal nonviolence and “The Art of Healing” – featuring performing and fine artists with a social justice message. In support of green initiatives, we have taken students twice on the “Toxic Tour of the Bronx” sponsored by Sustainable South Bronx and are planning field trips to two Town of Hempstead sustainability initiatives – the Point Lookout Marine Conservation Center and the Norman J. Levy Park and Preserve. The preserve was formerly a landfill.
- The democratic process – Through the program “Deepening Democracy Through Deliberation,” the CCE facilitates a series of public forums in local high schools and public libraries focused on several public policy issues affecting the U.S. presidential elections. These community-based town hall meetings address immigration, economic policy, environment and sustainability, education, and U.S. foreign policy, among other issues, and are led by CCE student fellows and other Hofstra undergraduates. They are supported in part by generous grants from the Kettering Foundation and the Herman Goldman Foundation. Our annual “Day of Dialogue” has become one of the premier events on campus every fall (with Day of Dialogue X just days before the October 16, 2012, presidential debate on the Hofstra campus), where students, faculty, and administrators engage directly with the community on a range of issues of public policy. Furthermore, we have registered new voters regularly since 2007 and have provided information for many more, and encouraged all eligible students to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The Center for Civic Engagement also utilizes the arts as a resource for encouraging active citizenship. To that end we have presented “street theater” events, a civil rights musical concert, and “Democracy in Performance” – 13 events portraying pivotal moments in American democracy featuring fully costumed living history performers. Held just prior to the 2008 presidential debate held on campus, “Democracy in Performance” featured a mix of professional Chautauqua performers and Hofstra student actors trained in a special class. The 2012 “Democracy in Performance” (one day before the University-hosted presidential debate) explores immigration, workers’ issues, the Great Depression, the struggle for the abolition of slavery and voting and civil rights, and the concerns and treatment of veterans.
- Building bridges – The CCE has hosted four Multicultural Mixers, inviting our campus community to come together across ethnic/racial and religious boundaries. Each was attended by more than 200 students. We also sponsor a yearly interfaith dinner on the relationship of faith to civic engagement and have organized several intergenerational issues forums working with the National Issues Forums Institute. Our interns and faculty associates worked on 2010’s Renew New York high school issues conference and published a Kettering Foundation-sponsored issues book on prosperity. We recently received a small grant from the Herman Goldman Foundation of New York City to extend our Renew New York work with high schools, colleges, and community members sponsoring interdisciplinary forums (and involving CCE interns in the process). During the 2009-2010 academic year, we utilized a small grant from the Kettering Foundation to sponsor Teachers Institutes and to assist students in participation in deliberative issues forums. The grant enabled us to support two CCE Interns who worked with teachers and students.
- Creating a community of active citizens – The CCE has been involved in Hofstra’s living/learning community from the beginning, lobbying successfully for a performance space in the Netherlands first-year student residential complex and for a “Civic Engagement House” – which was successful enough that in 2008 there were two houses for first-year students while the students from our first house decided to live together and form a sophomore house to continue their engagement activities in 2009. In 2010 there are again two Civic Engagement Houses. Our graduate assistant (line established in fall 2008) enabled the CCE to host (along with undergraduate interns) a sustained dialogue series at these residence halls and at the Hofstra University Honors College residence hall. We continued to bring Campus Camp Wellstone to Hofstra. This award-winning program trained more than 150 Hofstra students to be effective organizers. We have participated in after school programs with several area groups and are looking to move forward in our community connections endeavors.
- Going global – We brought numerous scholars to campus to speak about current global issues as part of our International Scene Lecture Series. Every spring, we hold our Globalization Day, where CCE fellows and Advisory Board members organize panels and workshops for the Hofstra community to examine and reflect on a broad array of issues related to globalization – politically, economically and culturally. In addition, we sponsor or co-sponsor many other events, including student designed and run special topic conferences. We held one conference on human trafficking as well as a conference on the economics of globalization. The CCE was also a major sponsor of the Hofstra to Haiti initiative in 2010. In addition to a successful conference on and celebration of Haiti’s culture, we assisted in securing two donated festival tents for a small Haiti-related educational NGO, The Edeyo Foundation, started by a Hofstra alumnus. We look forward to fostering links between Hofstra and Edeyo, enabling our students to focus their fundraising, serve as volunteers and perhaps intern with the program.