Georgia College joins national conversation on higher education
How should higher education help us create the society we want? Are leaders and citizens talking past each other on higher education issues?
Georgia College and one of its programs played a vital part in a national discussion on those questions.
Dozens of forums were held across the country last academic year, sponsored by the National Issues Forum (NIF), a group that promotes public deliberation in America.
The goal of the forums — to allow the public to get involved in problems solving.
“Georgia College hosted 19 “Shaping Our Future” forums from fall 2012 through spring 2013,” said Gregg Kaufman, coordinator of the American Democracy Project at Georgia College. “Since we held more forums than any other organization, we were asked to help present our findings and interaction to a group of state legislators from across the country.”
Kaufman joined Jean Johnson, senior fellow and special advisor with NIF, for the presentation at the National Conference of state Legislators in Atlanta.
“I’m honored that Georgia College had the opportunity to participate in the national conversation and that our programs have been recognized as a model for successful interaction,” said Kaufman.
The pair presented “The Future of Public Higher Education: Public Attitudes and Legislative Issues Luncheon” to a standing room only crowd. Hawaii State Sen. Les Ihara and the Kettering Foundation's Kriss Gang were also on hand to talk with state legislators about NIF's work around the country.
“Georgia College was actually a field test site for the ‘Shaping Our Future’ discussion materials, so this campus has been with us since the very beginning,” said Johnson. “The Center for Engaged Learning, Teaching and Scholarship (at Georgia College) has hosted forums, both on campus and at other sites. It's one of the most robust and impressive programs we’ve seen in any state, and since the National Conference of State Legislators held its annual meeting in Atlanta, we wanted to highlight ‘Shaping Our Future’ in Georgia.”
During their presentation, they showed a video highlighting some of the interactions on the topic at Georgia College.
“Several legislative staff members, as well as Amanda Seals, University System of Georgia Executive Director for Government Relations, spoke to me after the presentation and expressed appreciation for how the brief video of students, faculty, staff and citizens discussing the role of higher education clearly illustrated the value of deliberative democracy forums,” said Kaufman.
The mission of the National Issues Forums is to bring citizens into discussions, like this, so everyone can have a chance to understand the challenges and think more deeply about choices for addressing them.
“So far, nearly four in 10 forum participants have been college students, and many of the deliberations have taken place on campuses, though certainly not all of them,” said Johnson. “One theme emerges repeatedly —whether it's better for students to have an education that focuses mainly on specific job skills or whether it's better for students to have a broad, rich education that allows them to discover and study new ideas and fields.”
For more information on “Shaping Our Future” and the National Issues Forum, visit their website nifi.org.