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Building on a Citizenship Tradition

When the Maxwell School opened on October 3, 1924, it offered an undergraduate course in citizenship — possibly the first course of its kind based at any university or college.  Over the years, that curriculum grew and changed, disappeared and returned, and seeded the public affairs and citizenship coursework of today, while informing an abiding attention to citizenship that seeps into every corner of the Maxwell School’s mission.

Dean James SteinbergThat core attention to matters of citizenship and public service is what sets Maxwell apart is.  So, as the Maxwell School’s 90th anniversary drew near in 2014, Dean James Steinberg (pictured here) decided to spotlight citizenship education, scholarship, and engagement. He announced the Tenth Decade Project — a set of initiatives intended to strengthen Maxwell’s teaching and research (particularly in citizenship and public service) as the School approaches its 2024 centennial. He laid out the Project’s goals at a gala anniversary celebration in Washington, D.C., in November 2014.

“Drawing on our multidisciplinary strengths in anthropology, economics, geography, history, international relations, political science, public affairs, and sociology,” he said, “we hope to explore such fundamental issues as the rights and responsibilities of citizens to each and to their communities; the implications of different concepts of citizenship in different cultures, societies and eras; how to improve the responsiveness and effectiveness of public and private institutions to citizens; and how concepts of citizenship can be harnessed to expand opportunity, promote inclusion, and respect diversity.” 

Innovative and forward-looking attention to citizenship, he said, has broad applicability, on topics such as aging, economic opportunity, public health, and environmental sustainability. “This work will build on the already vigorous focus we have today on citizenship. . . .,” he said. “It will draw on our research centers and institutes which are already doing innovative work on many of these issues.”

Guests at the Washington event had already lent support to the Tenth Decade Project by sponsoring tables — on top of a kick-off gift by Gerry Cramer, an alumnus of Syracuse’s management school and a long-time Maxwell supporter, and his wife Daphna. A committee of faculty members from across Maxwell’s disciplines — chaired by Tina Nabatchi, of Public Administration and International Affairs — then worked to formulate specific Tenth Decade plans and, later, to solicit specific initiatives. By fall of 2015, Steinberg had announced the first of the funded Tenth Decade initiatives and, soon thereafter, the creation of the program.

Fund raising and program development for the Tenth Decade Project are ongoing, with the expectation that new initiatives, additional scholars, and other Tenth Decade programs are just over the horizon.