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The iconic Illinois State University bridge over College Avenue.

Illinois State University’s Center for Civic Engagement won the American Association of State Colleges and Universities 2021 Excellence and Innovation for Civic Learning and Community Engagement. 

This award is national recognition for the university’s work to engage its students in the democratic process.  

The center had to apply to be recognized for the award and prove to the AASCU that ISU was engaging its students in governmental areas.  

“Our application highlighted our new strategic plan which outlines four priorities for enhancing student civic engagement and advancing the institution’s commitment to its public purpose: embrace our Redbird Impact through shared community problem-solving, transform the student experience, foster faculty and staff engagement and strengthen infrastructure,” Director of the Center for Civic Engagement Dr. Katy Strzepek said.  

Even through the pandemic, the center was working with students to engage them with the campus community and the political community at large.

Deliberative dialogues were given to any group that requested them.  

“During a deliberative dialogue, participants reference a shared issue guide and trained facilitators follow a structured discussion format,” Strzepek said. 

“Facilitators seek to create a brave space where participants are able to openly share varying and controversial opinions, offer opposing views, acknowledge the impact of their words on others, step in and step out of the conversation, demonstrate respect for one another and avoid personal attacks.” 

The center put on 100 deliberative dialogue sessions in the spring of 2020 alone.

About 822 students and 105 faculty and staff discussed hard topics and learned to better communicate with their peers through these sessions.  

The center continues to find ways to engage the campus community with various programs and promotions.

The team has graduate assistants and interns helping every step of the way.  

Especially during times of crisis, universities should continue to use their strengths to challenge inequities and to build partnerships that embrace our commitment to educating thoughtful, informed students who will know how to use their skills to take action as active members of their communities,” Strzepek said.   

CHLOE MILLER is a News and Features Reporter for The Vidette. Miller can be contacted at cemill4@ilstu.edu. Follow Miller on Twitter at @chloemiller_04


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