About the Civic Participation Project

The Civic Participation Project at Teachers College is an interdisciplinary hub for bringing together participatory work going on campus wide. CPP’s co-directors are Lalitha Vasudevan, Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz, and Laura Smith.

We ask: Can academic scholarship become a force that promotes the broad access of all citizens to social platforms, opportunities, and resources? As a contemporary exemplar of the College’s historic commitments to inclusion, CCP’s aim is to demonstrate that the answer is yes.

This question and its answer are unmistakably aspirational, but they are not merely so. Our aims are premised in specific elements of the work that we do and the events that we organize, yet they also connect both concretely and philosophically to conceptions of authentic inclusive democracy.

Generally speaking, we enact our aims by bringing a multifaceted, participatory, inclusive emphasis to bear upon our work: our scholarly interests within the fields of education and psychology, the methods by which we study them, and the academic settings and systems in which these exist.

  • We are participatory and inclusive in our understanding of what knowledge is and how it is discovered, communicated, and applied
  • We are participatory and inclusive in our vision of wellness as a concomitant of social inclusion
  • We are participatory and inclusive in our ideas about the doing of a university – we emphasize the invitation of collaboration and voice in the spirit of democracy
  • We are participatory and inclusive in our vision of the university’s role in the community and the world (and vice versa)
  • We envision this approach as an alternative to taken-for-granted, conventional, individual-oriented assumptions and systems.

Why do we do what we do? What are the implications of such an alternative?

  • The inclusion of more sources and perspectives in knowledge-creation promises to expand the discovery of knowledge
  • The inclusion of more constituencies among society’s knowledge-makers and users promises to catalyze the agency and active citizenship of these constituencies
  • Active citizenship promotes true participatory democracy at institutional, civic, national, and global levels
  • Inclusion and agency also facilitate wellness broadly as they mitigate against the damage done by social exclusion
  • Universities that embody these tenets stand to benefit from the perspectives and voices of all their constituencies: students, staff, senior faculty, junior faculty, and facilities personnel.
  • University community members stand to benefit from living, working, and learning in an environment where their agency and contributions are recognized and valued

These university communities – ones that encourage inclusion and encompass diverse perspectives and experiences — need not resist or turn away from national events and discourse in a society that is poised for sweeping demographic and sociocultural change. They are able to entertain and learn from such discourse inside. In this way, constituents at all levels of the university can feel seen, heard, and respected, and scholars at all levels of the university can better study, learn, analyze, and create together.

These university communities can serve as experiments and think-tanks for effectiveness and wellness for a changing society. By encouraging voice, promoting participation, inviting collaboration, and valuing diverse sources of knowledge, such a university can model a participatory living-learning-working community for a changing nation’s consideration – and thereby be a university that invites the nation in.

Our efforts are connected by three framing ideas:

  • Humanizing Media
  • Public Pedagogy
  • Praxis

Watch this short animation to see how the moving parts of CPP are connected:

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