The University of Michigan is happy to support the national project initiated by the White House Office of Public Engagement, “For Democracy’s Future: Higher Education Reclaims Its Civic Mission.” Professor Julie Ellison represents the University on the steering committee of “For Democracy’s Future” and leads one of its programs, Citizen Alum. The project will mark the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act by way of a set of activities and initiatives designed to foster engagement by universities and their constituents in civic life and public service. The values inherent in For Democracy’s Future (FDF) are inherent in the University’s mission as well, and it is important for us to play a significant role in this effort. Alongside our work in entrepreneurship and economic development, we seek to advance the democracy and the commonweal through facilitating active citizenship, civic engagement, and public-mindedness among our faculty, students and staff.
The development of Citizen Alum, directed by Professor Ellison, offers an exciting prospect. The Citizen Alum initiative on the University of Michigan campus has the potential to engage our alumni in a new way that could be beneficial both to them and to current students. The link to “For Democracy’s Future” ensures that our campus efforts will help to shape a national shift in how colleges and universities connect to graduates. In particular, we think that a productive relationship between Citizen Alum, the Office of the President, the office of Development, Marketing, and Communications in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (especially its College Connections strategy) can call attention to new dimensions of our civic mission. Other key units and programs may include the Arts of Citizenship Program, the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, the Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Program in American Culture. The Office of the President is pleased to support Professor Ellison’s involvement in FDF/Citizen Alum. As we look toward the University’s bicentennial in 2017, we will wish to transform U-M’s civic connections to state, region and nation in a manner befitting our era and our third century. Both “For Democracy’s Future” in general and the Citizen Alum initiative in particular offer intriguing opportunities for doing so.