Project Pericles: a daring work-in-progress.
These divergent trends are variously explained. For one, students were less interested in public affairs, evidencing disenchantment with political processes--their efficacy and relevance to social concerns and the dominating influence of money. Also, compared to volunteer services, many students considered the disciplines and objectives associated with political involvement to be confused and demanding, as well as less idealistic and personally fulfilling. (6) They preferred volunteer activities that offered participant-friendly options with unambiguous ethical merit and obvious social appeal, but also little accountability for performance.
Colleges and universities increasingly responded to volunteer preferences of students by supporting thousands of actions and programs of conceptual merit. Many of them, if not most, were student initiatives, often stimulated by or associated with the activities of outside educational and social service organizations. With notable exceptions, these actions and programs were off-campus, extracurricular ventures, typically peripheral to academic programs and implemented with limited understanding of the problems they addressed as well as of the time and qualifications needed to deal with them. Their objectives frequently lacked definition, criteria for evaluation, and provision for continuity or accountability.
Of more fundamental concern, notwithstanding the representations implicit in most institutional catalogues, colleges and universities have done relatively little effectively to motivate and prepare students to respond as good citizens to civic issues and challenges arising from social and technological changes. On the contrary, educational programs have increasingly become more oriented to vocational preparation and specialized areas of scholarship. As Alexander W. Astin of the University of California stated, "If you look at the typical American college or university--its curriculum and co-curriculum, its teaching and personnel practices, and the values that govern its administrative policies--it's very difficult to find evidence of a core commitment to preparing students for responsible citizenship." (7) The hard reality is that for too many college graduates citizenship has come to represent a nominal status, endowed with inalienable rights but without actionable responsibility.
An Invitation, Mission, and Challenge
Five years ago, I was invited by Daedalus to write an essay on the current relevance of liberal arts education in our society. In doing so, I was to associate some thirty years of extracurricular involvement in education with my occupational perspective as a lifelong business entrepreneur. The essay concluded that liberal arts colleges--and indeed, institutions of higher education generally--should recommit to their historic mission. (8) It insisted that, as a qualification of their franchise, colleges and universities should recognize and make preparation of students for responsible and ethical citizenship and community leadership an essential part of their educational programs. It challenged colleges and universities to do so. The published essay provoked no immediate controversy. However, the sense of having written a hit-and-run appraisal inspired an initiative to develop and promote a solution. On reflection, I accepted as a basic premise that every discipline in higher education is relevant to particular areas of civic and social concern. I recalled a professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Business who made Shakespeare's Coriolanus required reading for his course on business ethics. The premise played midwife to the birth of Project Pericles. (9)
In its broadest sense, Project Pericles conceptually asks higher education, and specifically all Pericleans, to join in a coherent and comprehensive effort to fulfill a long-range social mission preventing the erosion of the core values of our democratic society--or, as some would say, recapturing and preserving them. The mission of Project Pericles merges two propositions. First, America's future as a just, compassionate democracy depends upon the awareness and sensitivity of its youth to the needs of society and the issues of social change, together with understanding and recognition of our political institutions as agencies for civic action. Second, colleges and universities, by the nature of their franchise, are uniquely situated to provide this understanding and should do so as a regular part of their educational programs, curricular and cocurricular. They should seek to stimulate an active and abiding sense of social responsibility, and a conviction that the processes and institutions of our democracy offer each person an opportunity to make a difference.
Beyond understanding social issues and our political system, the Periclean mission calls for informed opinions and their thoughtful advocacy. In Considerations on Representative Government, John Stuart Mill wrote, "Political machinery does not act of itself. The people for whom the form of [representative] government is intended must be ... able and willing to do what is necessary to keep it standing. And they must be willing and able to do what it requires of them to fulfill its purposes." (10)
In 1999, I organized an informal planning committee of friends to help translate my statement of mission into a viable enterprise. Guided by their wisdom, I embarked on a two-year agenda of study, consultation, and meetings with hundreds of educators and administrators. I traded on the credential of my Daedalus essay and experience with entrepreneurial start-ups in diverse environments, including education. I appreciated the opportunity to present the vision of Project Pericles to the critical review of educators and community leaders, and particularly to conferences of college presidents and faculty sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges, the Educational Leadership Program, and Campus Compact. Over the two preparatory years, the elements of concept, policy, program participation, organization, and administration were individually studied, discussed, reviewed, and readied for the test of experience.
"An Historic Transformation of Higher Education" At the end of 2000, Project Pericles was established as a 501(c)(3) corporation. The name and the logo in which it is embodied were registered as service marks, representing its mission and related policies. The planning committee was formalized as its Executive Planning Board (EPB), and Marion Wright Edelman and Clark Kerr were announced as cochairs of a distinguished National Board of Advisors. On January 17, 2001, the presidents and chairs of a diverse group of ten colleges and universities (11) and EPB members met in New York. The mission, policies, and contemplated operating agenda of Project Pericles were extensively discussed, as were the roles and responsibilities of Project Pericles and the associated colleges and universities. By the end of the day, Project Pericles became operational as the ten institutions signed on as the pilot Pericleans. Gregory S. Prince Jr., president of Hampshire College, memorably stated, "Let's all realize--we have undertaken to lead an historic transformation of higher education in the United States." (12)
Especially important at the January meeting, the ten Periclean presidents were constituted as the Presidents' Council of Project Pericles, with Leo M. Lambert of Elon University its chair and an ex officio member of the EPB. Operating under its own by-laws but in sync with the Project Pericles office, the council has been an invaluable advisor on all substantive policy decisions and undertakings of Project Pericles. Its by-laws provide that all Periclean presidents are automatically council members. Looking back, the council's active involvement, including teleconferences and ad hoc committee assignments that have accompanied development and implementation of our operating agenda and programmatic decisions, has been an essential key to the enthusiasm and optimism that I believe all Pericleans share for our mission and the transformation that it envisions. Quoting Lambert, "The presidential commitment to Project Pericles is very strong, and there is a real sense of collegiality and esprit-de-corps among us. We are not figureheads. As Presidents, we play an important role in shaping the direction of Project Pericles and its Program." (13)
Policies for Transformation
The success of Project Pericles will largely reflect the distinctive features of its framework of five governing policies as it progresses toward the ultimate, if distant, fulfillment of its mission. The first and most fundamental of these policies: for an institution to be identified as a Periclean, its trustees must adopt a formal resolution that specifically commits the institution to the mission of Project Pericles--an unequivocal statement of purpose to make preparation of students for social responsibility and participatory citizenship a regular part of its curricular and cocurricular programs. (14) The scope of this commitment is defined by the four other governing policies of Project Pericles.
Second, to endow the resolution with an organic element of institutional governance, the trustees of each Periclean must also establish a discrete standing board committee (or subcommittee of equivalent status), preferably with multiconstituency membership. The committee, which might be called the Committee for Social and Civic Responsibility, is charged with overseeing implementation of the commitment and regularly reporting its progress and impediments to the board.
Third, each Periclean must develop and maintain, as the central instrumentality of its commitment, a comprehensive ongoing program. Programs, though individual to each institution, have much in common. To start, each program identifies, aggregates, and builds on socially oriented projects and studies in which students and others are already actively engaged. They continue to evolve and grow over time, enriched by the input of experience, new ideas, and activities. They are conditioned by resources, by community and institutional environments, and by the learning and experiential opportunities that they generate. As a highly significant resource, directly or through Project Pericles, Pericleans readily share program details and experiences that invite cooperation, support, adaptation, or replication.
The policy requirement for programs also embraces some essential corollaries. Since each commitment is an institutional undertaking, all constituencies are presumed to have equity in its fulfillment. Accordingly, whether in conceiving, developing, enhancing, or administering content, each program is expected to provide appropriate opportunities for the ideas, support, and participation of all institutional constituencies. Likewise, the scope of program content and involvement must include the campus, community, and classroom, with input from all academic disciplines.
Each program is expected to go beyond conventional volunteer services to the community. In many instances, engagement in service learning has preempted the concept of civic and social responsibility by focusing services on limited short-term projects (perhaps tutoring a group of underprivileged children in reading or math). Such engagements, if well organized and well conducted, are certainly worthy and deserve respect. Unfortunately, they bypass the related generic educational problems that require knowledgeable and politically energized solutions. In policy terms, Periclean Programs should prepare students, as participatory citizens and thoughtful advocates, to understand and value the institutions of our democracy and, from that perspective, engage with issues of social concern.
Each program must be coordinated and administered under the central authority of a program director who reports directly to the president. Data and records essential for evaluating program content and performance must be collected and maintained. Recognizing the scope of programs and the protocols of institutional governance, it is essential that the program director(s) and the provost of Periclean colleges and universities establish a cooperative modus operandi in program development and administration. This is a critical relationship that respects their areas of discrete responsibility and fosters a cooperative environment for program development and implementation.
Fourth, evaluation of Periclean programs--their content, quality, and impact at suitable intervals--is a complex but essential concern. In parallel with current development of the pilot Periclean programs, a blueprint for evaluating program objectives, standards, and procedures is being professionally prepared under the auspices of Project Pericles, in consultation with the Presidents' Council and with the generous support of the Spencer Foundation. All Pericleans respect the importance of evaluation as a basic policy of Project Pericles and agree that the Periclean identity must be associated with standards of program quality and performance. While encouraging the professional undertaking of Project Pericles, Pericleans are applying and testing evaluation methods for their current program initiatives. Their experience should facilitate eventual creation of comprehensive evaluation standards and procedures governing the quality and impact of Periclean Programs. Meanwhile, to foster Periclean identification and the mission and commitment that it represents, Pericleans are licensed to use the registered service marks of Project Pericles in their publications. Over time, as the title "Project Pericles" and its logo are used by a growing nationwide roster of Pericleans, the values that they represent will be popularly recognized and appreciated.
Fifth, Project Pericles values and seeks to extend its collaborative relationships with organizations whose agendas address Periclean objectives or that might constructively associate with Pericleans and their Programs. Project Pericles is not an exercise of institutional ego. It rejects La Rochefoucauld's dictum that "it is not enough to succeed--others must fail!" As a basic policy, Project Pericles does not compete with any of the myriad organizations conducting projects or providing support services to higher education or to the community. Nor does Project Pericles seek to interpose itself in the relationships of Pericleans with such organizations.
These five policies, in effect, are the defining guidelines for the complementary roles of Project Pericles and Pericleans. Project Pericles considers itself the catalyst for effecting what Prince characterized as the transformation of higher education. The watchwords of this catalytic role are "advocate, facilitate, inspire." It is the Periclean commitments and programs that generate the critical dynamic for achieving mission objectives. The heroes of Project Pericles are the Pericleans, their constituents, and other organizations that create, direct, and participate in programs--those directly involved in educating and encouraging young Americans to develop their lives as socially responsible citizens.
Program: An "Evergreen" Enterprise
In January 2001, the ten pilot Pericleans set out to implement their commitments, starting with creation of a multifaceted "evergreen" program, comprehensive and tailored to the institution itself and also to satisfy the policy and performance requirements of Project Pericles. Although we had a stimulating inventory of project examples, ideas, and options, there were no operating programs to serve as Periclean models. With a grant supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Project Pericles tied the commitment of each pilot Periclean to a special challenge: to create its own program that could, in due course, serve to guide future Pericleans. Each institution was asked to prepare a proposal with two sections. First, for adaptation and extension as the start-up nucleus of its program, we requested an inventory of its existing social and civic activities. Second, we requested a prospectus for restructuring existing projects and outlining concepts and operating data of new program initiatives that the challenge grants would fund. As hoped, the challenge grant stimulated an impressive flow of curricular and cocurricular proposals, some outstandingly ambitious and innovative. Reinforced by the policy disciplines of Project Pericles, proposals were constructively reviewed and eventually accepted. They gradually have become operative elements of programs, fostering opportunities for involvement that successive classes of Periclean students have come prepared and often eager to accept.
Obviously, Periclean faculty members have played a seminal role in the progress of Project Pericles. Participating actively in creating and conducting Programs, they make classrooms a primary incubator of Periclean objectives and accomplishments. In 2004, Project Pericles undertook to further stimulate faculty initiatives by establishing a challenge grant program. Our pilot institutions offered competitive stipends to their faculty members of all disciplines to design and test "civic engagement courses" (CECs). Without affecting academic integrity, CECs are intended to reflect the relevance of their subjects to areas of social concern. Faculty members responded enthusiastically to the challenge. CECs are now in preparation, with some already being tested in classrooms. Eventually, following evaluation, the syllabi of their faculty authors, duly credited to them and their institutions, will be made available to faculty peers.
The Anatomy of Programs
The reach of Periclean Programs includes the classroom, campus, and the global as well as local community. It encourages students, faculty, and other institutional constituents to consider selectively the critical aspects of society's condition at all levels: ethical, economic, educational, social, civic, and political. It invites their initiatives to react constructively to major aspects of their particular concerns. To facilitate these processes of consideration and reaction, many Pericleans have established Centers for Civic Engagement (or other similar names) over which program directors preside and where campus members and visiting Pericleans may join in discussing, planning, coordinating, and invigorating their existing or contemplated program ideas and engagements. Here are examples of successful elements of the programs of our pilot Pericleans.
In the classroom, Allegheny College has created an academic minor in values, ethics, and social action (VESA). VESA is composed of existing courses in various disciplines (economics, political science, psychology, philosophy, environmental science, and religious studies). The existence of VESA encourages students to consider thoughtfully and engage in issues of citizenship and values as a primary college learning experience. Elon University has established the Periclean Scholars Program, in which a selected cohort of students take classes together over three years and dedicate themselves to addressing a selected major project of social concern through coursework and community-based research and service. Ursinus College has established a required two-semester course called the Common Intellectual Experience, in which students explore fundamental questions related to human existence, learning how to develop informed opinions and--important in the context of the Project Pericles mission--advocate them effectively.
On the campus, Pitzer College, upon joining Project Pericles, undertook systematically to analyze and monitor survey data to assess student opinions and behaviors and thereby measure more reliably the intended outcomes of Project Pericles. New England College held a mock four-day presidential primary convention with nearly a thousand student "delegates" from many colleges. The convention was an opportunity for the delegates to meet every Democratic presidential candidate, attend political workshops, interact with representatives of the national media, and mingle with political activists. Bethune-Cookman College is developing an International Institute on Civic Participation and Social Responsibility that actively addresses social problems affecting African American society. It is described as "a forum for students to work with international leaders on critical social issues leading to policy development and implementation strategies." (15) With the support of the Mellon Foundation, the institute will also offer a curriculum of courses designed to qualify for a master's degree in civic participation and social responsibility. Swarthmore College has developed a Learning for Life program, in which college staff and students are paired to explore a topic or skill of personal interest to the staff member. The subject can range from GED preparation and Website creation to piano, computer skills, and photography. The staff member can take up to three hours of paid time during the work week to work with the student partner. The program has greatly benefited campus relations, and its details are offered for replication.
In the community, Hampshire College overhauled its community service program and, in the process, improved the visibility of community-based learning and community partnership activities, developing clear standards of accountability for the college's civic engagement principles and community partners. Allegheny College students, through their coursework, take part in an exciting program called Model Campaign USA, which joins Allegheny faculty and students with students of four local high schools to simulate a political campaign. Pace University instituted a Project Pericles Leadership Program in Service and Citizenship to nurture student leadership skills through civic participation, community action, and advocacy for social change. Experts in the field of community organizing and politics serve as mentors to the participants. Trudie Kibbe Reed, president of Bethune-Cookman College (B-CC), has established and personally presides over a monthly community meeting in which citizens of Daytona Beach meet with B-CC students, faculty, and administrators, usually in an off-campus community center but occasionally on campus. Agendas promote presenting and discussing specific issues, objectives, and cooperative projects of town-and-gown interest. The local media announce each meeting in advance, and President Reed sends a personal invitation to townspeople who desire to attend. At Macalester College in St. Paul, special orientation programs are held on campus and in the surrounding community to introduce faculty to community programs and needs, and to encourage their consideration of areas for future class- and research-based collaboration.
In the international community, Elon University's first class of Periclean scholars has devoted the past two years to studying the dire problem of AIDS in Namibia. Students first researched the problem thoroughly in class. Then two faculty members accompanied a student team on a trip to Namibia, where they met with government agencies and local organizations, developed community contacts, and interviewed Namibians on video. Upon their return, the Periclean scholars used the video footage to develop a DVD documentary. The documentary has been shown to other Elon students and local K-12 children to raise awareness of the situation and encourage students to get involved. A Swarthmore student group has organized "Swarthmore Sudan" to draw attention to the genocide in Sudan, raise funds to support positive intervention of African states in Darfur, and lobby for American and UN influence and political action to resolve the serious local discord. The students have also developed a do-it-yourself kit for mobilizing student action that is being distributed to other colleges.
In essence, reducing the nature, philosophy, and dynamics of Project Pericles to a simple expression, we refer to a brief but cogent statement of David A. Caputo, president of Pace University, an original planning committee member and current member of our Executive Planning Board:
The concept of Project Pericles, the challenge of its mission, and enterprise of each Periclean Program all make a distinctive difference. But, no less, it's the vocal and active support of presidents who mention Project Pericles, who encourage Program creativity and recognize achievement, who talk about Project Pericles to alumni and invite their participation. It's the active interest of board chairs and trustees, of faculty, who know that the president and provost support their community-based research and socially oriented curricula. It's the leadership of provosts and program directors who encourage new and better ideas and facilitate connections between classroom and community initiatives. It's the esprit that develops on each campus among students, faculty, staff, and administrators who take pride in their Periclean Program and the vitality of their civic sense of mission. (16)
Looking back to December 1999, when the seeds of Project Pericles and its challenging (some prefer the phrase "incredibly presumptuous") mission--"the transformation of higher education"--were conceptually gathered, and to January 17, 2001, when our ten visionary pilot Pericleans formally planted them, now, as of December 31, 2004, it is highly satisfying to be able to characterize Project Pericles as a daring, but credible, work-in-progress. Along the way, there have been defining experiences.
In April 2003, Project Pericles held its first conference of Pericleans. One hundred thirty-seven delegates representing our ten pilot institutions came together in New York for two days of tightly scheduled presentations, workshops, and panel discussions. We got acquainted as we clarified the understanding of Project Pericles' mission, asked questions, and exchanged experiences and ideas. We were told that ours was an historic conference--the first conference of higher education in history that, true to its distinctive philosophy, programmatically involved representatives of every constituency: trustees, presidents, provosts, administrators, faculty, students, and alumni. Most important, everyone left the conference with a fulfilling sense that, beyond daring, we were indeed part of an inspiring work-in-progress; it was a sense affirmed by major stories in the New York Times (17) and the Chronicle of Higher Education. (18)
Sustaining the momentum of our first conference, Project Pericles expanded its offices and engaged Karen E. Holt as its executive director. Under her leadership, as 2004 approached, it was considered timely to signal our growth and add to the diversity of our pilot institutions. Accordingly, during the first part of that year, nine colleges and universities, by invitation, added their enthusiasm and board-authorized commitments to the original Periclean roster of ten. (19) Further membership will be encouraged as the organization, support projects, service facilities, and experience of Project Pericles continue to develop.
In early 2004, Project Pericles was introduced and given the opportunity to present its mission to the community of major foundations at a special luncheon hosted by Vartan Gregorian, president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The presentations of Periclean presidents, faculty, and students stimulated much discussion and follow-up interest. Two successful conferences were held in 2004: a two-day conference of Periclean students, faculty, and program directors hosted by Macalester College, and an afternoon conference of Periclean presidents and board chairs hosted by the Ford Foundation.
The agenda for the immediate future of Project Pericles is demanding. As time goes on, and the existence and recognition of Project Pericles is well established, the agenda will likely seem less daring. Without fanfare, the transformation of higher education envisioned by Project Pericles will become increasingly evident. Its mission, however, in association with the needs and changes in the society contained by our democracy, will continue to make Project Pericles a work-in-progress.
(1.) Lopez, M. H. "Factsheet: Volunteering Among Young People." Center for Information Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, College Park, June 2003. Retrieved Feb. 13, 2005 (http://www.civicyouth.org/research/products/ fact_sheets.htm#3).
(2.) Sax, L. J., Astin, A. W., Korn, W. S., and Mahoney, K. M. "The American Freshman: National Norms for Fall 2000." (Report.) Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, University of California, Los Angeles, 2000.
(3.) Levine, P., and Lopez, M. H. "Factsheet: Youth Voter Turnout Has Declined, by Any Measure." CIRCLE, Sept. 2000. Retrieved Feb. 13, 2005 (http://www.civicyouth.org/ research/products/fact_sheets_outside.htm).
(4.) Donovan, C., and Lopez, M. H. "Factsheet: Youth Voter Turnout in the States During the 2000 Presidential and 2002 Midterm Elections." CIRCLE, June 2004. Retrieved Feb. 13, 2005 (http://www.civicyouth.org/PopUps/FactSheets/ FS_Youth_turnout_%20states_2002.pdf).
(5.) Sax, Astin, Korn, and Mahoney (2000).
(6.) Fields, A. B. "The Youth Challenge: Participating in Democracy." Carnegie Challenge Papers, Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2003.
(7.) Astin, A. W. Keynote speech, Campus Compact's Presidents' Leadership Colloquium, Carmel, Calif., Oct. 5, 2004.
(8.) Lang, E. M. "Distinctively American: The Liberal Arts College." Daedalus: Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1999, 128(1), 133-150.
(9.) Pericles [495-429 B.C.E.] entered political life as a reformer and became recognized for his dignity, patience, and absolute integrity. Under his leadership, democracy reached its zenith in Athens. His reforms transferred state governance from a tight aristocracy to its citizens, who were encouraged to attend Athens' assemblies and, as voters, to participate in enacting legislation. Service as public officials and jurors, for the first time compensated by the state, was open to all citizens.
(10.) Mill, J. S. Considerations on Representative Government. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1958, pp. 5-6.
(11.) The ten pilot Pericleans are Allegheny College, Bethune-Cookman College, Elon University, Hampshire College, Macalester College, New England College, Pace University, Pitzer College, Swarthmore College, and Ursinus College.
(12.) Inaugural meeting of Project Pericles, Pace University, New York, Jan. 17, 2001.
(13.) Lambert, L. Address to meeting of foundation executives hosted by Vartan Gregorian at Carnegie Corporation of New York, Jan. 16, 2004.
(14.) A Periclean resolution of Hampshire College, passed on May 18, 2001, is typical: "Voted: that the College is hereby committed as an element of mission to provide a learning experience that, among its values, serves to instill in its students an active and abiding sense of civic responsibility and the conviction that the processes and institutions of our democracy offer each student an opportunity to contribute significantly to a more inclusive, just and compassionate society. The Commitment shall be deemed to include its implementation by developing and administering an ongoing Program that is designed to engage all constituencies of the institutions" [attested copy].
(15.) Retrieved Feb. 20, 2005 (www.cookman.edu/president/ Default.html).
(16.) Meeting of Executive Planning Board of Project Pericles, New York, June 15, 2004.
(17.) Arenson, K. "Benefactor Wants Colleges to Deliver a Stronger Civics Lesson." New York Times, Apr. 7, 2003, p. F5.
(18.) Young, J. R. "Persuading Students to Care: Eugene Lang's Program Aims to Prod Colleges into Encouraging Civic Involvement." Chronicle of Higher Education, Apr. 11, 2003, 49(31), A47-A49.
(19.) The nine new Pericleans are Berea College, Chatham College, Dillard University, New School University, Occidental College, Rhodes College, St. Mary's College of Maryland, Wagner College, and Widener University.
Philanthropist and entrepreneur Eugene M. Lang is founder and chairman of Project Pericles and of the Eugene M. Lang Foundation, founder and chairman emeritus of the I Have a Dream Foundation, and chairman emeritus of Swarthmore College.
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|Author:||Lang, Eugene M.|
|Publication:||National Civic Review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2005|
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