The Center for Democracy and Civic Life contributes to thriving civic cultures at UMBC and in communities touched by our work. The Center coordinates the BreakingGround grant program, which awards funds to students, faculty, and staff who are infusing civic values, practices, and experiences in existing or new projects and courses. Center staff also engage members of the UMBC community in conversations about what people can do to strengthen their communities and address issues such as systemic injustices through effective communication, relationship-building, and everyday practices. These engagements take the form of consultations, convenings, and reflective journaling.
The people who connect through the Center for Democracy and Civic Life explore their own civic motivations and aspirations; identify paths to positive social impact through their careers; and learn to create space for the full participation of their neighbors and colleagues in decision-making and community life. Kara Seidel ‘18 and Nailah-Benā Chambers ‘23 shared reflections on their involvement with the Center in segments filmed for UMBC’s episode of The College Tour:
“Students have quite literally shaped UMBC’s history, from the design of campus and how our pathways are literally paved based on where students walked to intellectually in how students dedicate and foster spaces for collaboration and democracy. We now have a Center for Democracy and [Civic] Life, created by UMBC staff who are also alum. The Center engages students from all major colleges on campus […] As a campus community, we center student voice in a way that empowers co-creation, from students all the way up through administration. And that’s one of the many reasons why I love it here.” — Kara Seidel
“UMBC creates an environment where I can enhance my advocacy and leadership skills, both socially and academically. Our leadership programs such as [the] Center for Democracy and Civic Life help us as students in becoming stronger leaders, both on-campus and post-graduation. […] Leadership here can mean anything from learning how to have a hard conversation to volunteering in one’s community to instituting big changes here and beyond.” — Nailah-Benā Chambers