Civic Engagement Theme
A civic engagement theme is assigned each academic year by a faculty/staff committee. This
theme permeates campus discussions and activities in student life programming, academic
classes, Forum presentations, religious life services and many more venues. While
the theme primarily infuses existing programming, one specially designed activity
is Civic Engagement Day, which occurs late in spring semester. This day is a chance
for individuals, student groups, classes, the theme scholar, service learning agencies
and others to present their work to the campus community. Opportunities for service
are also a part of the day. Civic Engagement Day provides a stimulating opportunity
for the community to celebrate the broad impact that the theme has had across campus.
Creativity, the Arts and Civic Life
Author Robert Fulghum has observed that when children are in kindergarten, they all say that they can draw, sing, dance and act. Studies have shown that people’s willingness to engage in the arts and to be creative can decrease dramatically as we get older. Yet we all know that to address our world’s pressing challenges, we need to think creatively, to imagine new possibilities, to see in surprising ways.
During this year we are exploring the role of creativity and the arts in civic engagement. Certainly a particular focus on fine arts and aesthetics will be important in our conversation. For example, in what ways should a discussion about beauty enter into our civic discourse? Who controls the power to define what is “art” or what is aesthetically pleasing? How have particular social change movements been influenced by the arts—and art affected by the controversies of its era? In addition, we will also explore how creativity and the imagination infuse all disciplines. For instance, how does an appreciation of beauty shape our interactions with other humans and the natural world? How might creativity be nurtured and applied to seemingly intractable problems, such as our fear of people different from us or global responses to climate change or ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine? More broadly, how can we, whatever our academic discipline, unleash our creative gifts for the purposes of God’s universal kingdom?