The Center for Democracy and Civic Life develops learnings forums in which participants enact civic values and build civic capacities.
Two of the Center’s initiatives are immersive learning experiences for students: the STRiVE leadership and social change retreat, and Alternative Spring Break. At STRiVE, participants spend five days exploring their values and strengths; tackling team challenges and reflecting on their participation in groups; thinking critically about the cultures in which they are immersed; and learning to contribute to efforts to address systemic oppression and build inclusive cultures. In the Alternative Spring Break six-day experiential learning program, designed by students with guidance from the Center for Democracy and Civic Life, participants meet with local residents, non-profit staff, representatives of local government agencies, scholars, and public officials; learn about community organizing and effective advocacy; explore the complexity of issues affecting the region, including structural racism and other social injustices; and develop visions and plans for their own sustained participation in addressing those issues.
In courses developed and taught by members of the Center for Democracy and Civic Life staff (currently “Talking Democracy” and “Be Your Best Self in Real Life,” both offered through UMBC’s Honors College), students reflect on their values and hopes, explore challenges to building and sustaining thriving civic cultures, and develop strategies for making meaningful civic contributions.
In addition, members of the UMBC community have opportunities to build their civic knowledge, skills, and agency at a variety of workshops and programs facilitated by Center for Democracy and Civic Life staff. Topics include identifying civic motivations, values, and aspirations; envisioning and pursuing meaningful careers; and identifying the civic dimensions of everyday roles at UMBC and beyond.
The Center for Democracy and Civic Life also promotes political engagement, understood broadly as the creation of our common life through sustained, collective work. Beyond supporting electoral engagement and advocacy, the Center helps people at UMBC solve problems and create new resources by building productive relationships across differences in roles and perspectives.