About the Project

Welcome to the “Future of Engagement” website, a forum for leaders in higher education to discuss the challenges to and opportunities for advancing community engagement and democratic citizenship in American colleges and universities.

At a time when there is a sense of drift and fragmentation in the movement to promote community engagement and the formation of democratic citizenship as key institutional priorities for American colleges and universities, the New England Resource Center for Higher Education (NERCHE) and the Kettering Foundation have sponsored two forums to promote discussion about the challenges to and opportunities for advancing this important work.

The first component of this project was an Invitational Colloquium involving a representative and diverse group of 33 academic and community leaders. The Colloquium took place at the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio, February 26-27, 2008. The group met to identify problems and issues associated with reforming higher education for community engagement and democratic citizenship and to suggest ways for cultivating the next generation of engaged scholars in American higher education. The dialogue was catalyzed in part through the discussion of recent research, including the 2007 book by Lee Benson, Ira Harkavy, and John Puckett, Dewey’s Dream: Universities and Democracies in an Age of Education Reform, as well as forthcoming publications by the Kettering Foundation, including Agent of Democracy: Higher Education and the HEX Journey and Deliberation and the Work of Higher Education.

We also recognize that countless individuals have played leadership roles, both nationally and on their campuses, over the past two decades.  For this wider group of leaders and thinkers, we have established this web blog, the project’s second component, which is an expanded version of a Virtual Forum established in late January.

This project is possible due to support from the Kettering Foundation, the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania and is part of NERCHE’s 20th-anniversary year events.


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    A forum for exploring community engagement and democratic citizenship in higher education


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