In the “Educating Students for Civic Engagement: What the Arts Have to Do With It” (vol. 20, no. 4, Nov. 2019), Barbara Jacaoby, JCC’s new Civic Engagement on Campus contributing editor writes that while literature on civic engagement in higher education is rich with examples of courses and programs that promote the development of students as engaged citizens in our democracy, few of them involve the arts. In her article, Barbara explores the civic benefits of engagement with the arts and provides modes and examples of arts engagement while offering implications for practice and resources.
She says the following about her new role as contributing editor:
There’s no doubt that this is an exceptionally challenging time for American democracy and for democracy around the world. We are divided politically and culturally, and our divisions are antagonistic. The only things that seem to unite us is a sense of powerlessness and alienation.
We are literally afraid to have political and civic conversations. In addition, most people today feel besieged and overwhelmed by mounting challenges in the world around us—including but surely not limited to poverty, global health issues, climate change, genocide, gun violence, sexual abuse, and inequality and oppression in all their forms.
I believe that if we have any chance of successfully addressing these wicked problems and making a better world, it is only by citizens acting together that we can do so.
University of Maryland
For this and many other reasons, Barbara has dedicated much of her career to educating students for engaged citizenship and democratic leadership. To this end, during more than 40 years at the University of Maryland she has directed efforts in community service-learning and developed and taught a course, “Now What? Composing a Life of Meaning and Purpose.” She has facilitated learning communities of faculty members seeking to develop courses that engage students in service-learning, civic engagement, and other forms of social impact.
Scholarship and Practice
Barbara is engaged with all types of colleges and universities to advance purposeful learning, community engagement, and student success. Her current scholarship and practice are in the areas of high-impact educational practices with a primary focus on service-learning, civic engagement, critical reflection, and the on- and off-campus partnerships that underlie this work. Her roots are in services, programs, advocacy, and research on behalf of college students, particularly the vast majority who live off campus.
While her anthology Civic Engagement in Higher Education (Jossey-Bass, 2009) comprises chapters written by colleagues about a wide range of practices to prepare students for lives of engaged citizenship, the volume does not include any aspect of the arts. Barbara noted that she regrets this omission and is pleased that she could introduce her column in the JCC with her own first article on the arts and civic engagement.
Because Barbara sees that all forms of engagement with the arts is an important and effective means of achieving our civic engagement goals for students, communities, and institutions, she is an excellent voice to share this information with colleagues through JCC’s Civic Engagement on Campus section.