As Provost and faculty member in Leadership Studies at Fort Hayes State University, Jill Arensdorf believes democracy is a creative practice that calls for situational and contextual awareness as folks move together toward a shared goal. As a leader, Jill has “a lot of faith and hope in people,” which she expresses both through her leadership practice and through her commitment to civic engagement as she helps prepare FHSU students for rich lives of community and civic participation in service of larger democratic principles. Listen and learn about Fort Hayes State University’s Civic Investment Plan, a complement to their strategic plan that helps ensure all students — whether they are located in Kansas, throughout the US, or around the world — understand how to bring civic awareness to service for their communities.
The episode at a glance:
>> 0:01. Welcome to The Uplift, the podcast obsessed with all things related to women’s leadership in higher ed
>> 02:21. I can’t help myself: have you listened to Dolly Parton’s America yet? If not, go listen now! It’s seriously so binge-able.
>> 06:07. Jill describes how her practice as a teacher and scholar of leadership has shaped her practice as a provost at FHSU, which she identifies as “the most challenging and rewarding four years” of her career. As provost, she is committed to continuing her love for developing people through shared and collaborative leadership.
>> 10:24. Jill discusses her belief that excellent leadership is both collaborative & situational, so that leaders are not only responding to the moment they find themselves in but also listening to others’ voices and perspectives. For Jill, this mirrors civic life as well: the situation, the context, and all voices matter.
>> 13:28. This may sound ideal and utopian, but Jill believes it because she’s seen it. “It’s hard, it’s messy, and there’s risk involved.” It’s important to teach students that collaboration requires compromise and loss so that a whole can determine the best, shared path forward.
>> 14:59. Fort Hays State University adopted AASCU’s American Democracy Project, which has helped the university see civic engagement more broadly, engaging in conversation and dialogue around civic issues. These extend not only to the ~4000 undergrads on campus, but the thousands of students who study online around the country and in China.
>> 18:43. FHSU responded to AAC&U’s The Crucible Moment by drafting a Civic Investment Plan, which helped move civic engagement into the broader institutional strategy. FHSU’s current strategic plan, Unlocking Untapped Potential, dedicates the work in Goal Five to Community & Global Engagement. Jill also shares how this looks different for differing communities of undergrads.
>> 21:16. Jill shares the eight strategies that emerged from FHSU’s Civic Investment Plan: (1) Promoting the development of the engaged scholar; (2) Providing an academic focus for civic learning and engagement; (3) Promote institutional intentionality; (4) Promote a comprehensive and cohesive approach to civic learning and engagement; (5) Promote a reciprocal partnership with our various communities; (6) Promote a framework for civic learning and engagement that educates for full citizenship; (7) Promote a campus structure and culture that models civic learning and engagement; and (8) Promote civic learning and engagement strategies that address our diverse student population. Read the whole plan at FHSU’s site.
>> 26:20. Jill discusses how students see the connection between civic engagement life at FHSU and their ability to vote, make a difference at the polls, and otherwise engage in civic life. Many local students came to FHSU with experience in civics from their K-12 education, and the work they do at FHSU gives them space to further explore that through curricular and co-curricular activities. The university seeks to meet students where they are, and move them along the continuum of civic participation.
>> 32:50. I ask Jill how much she thinks about this work with intersectionality in mind. She describes her current experiences teaching Women and Leadership at Fort Hays State University, where she and her students have studied the suffrage movement, which has re-energized Jill as she and her students engage on important questions of intersectionality and intentionality in both civic life and leadership.
>> 36:22. Jill offers some advice to help students feel empowered to action for the coming mid-term elections and the 2024 presidential elections: as simple as it sounds, have these conversations and engage in dialogue. Short term: we can use our role as leaders to help students understand the importance of voting and help students see how voting connects to them and how interconnected higher ed and democracy really are. Longer term: get involved with The American Democracy Project, which is full of ideas, resources, and approaches for helping students engage with each other.
>>40:08. FHSU has seen and valued the work of civic engagement and its benefit to students. Jill closes by telling us “I’m very very proud of Fort Hays State University. This is one thing I think we’re doing exceptionally well.”
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