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From Maxwell Perspective...

Citizenship and Civic Engagement and the Policy Studies Major

At first glance, the new major in citizenship and civic engagement would seem to share a lot with another Maxwell major, policy studies. Both are interdisciplinary, nurture informed citizens, and emphasize action. But the similarities end there.

Bill Coplin, who directs policy studies and who sat on the committee creating the new major, views his program as an undergraduate version of the MPA.

Hagenloh
Paul Hagenloh

"Policy studies is about skills," he says. "I view it as an undergraduate professional program. My students, when they go out into the real world for an internship or job, can write a report, set up Excel files, and make graphs."

The citizenship and civic engagement major is designed for students who want to immerse themselves in a social science and apply it as a citizen. It's unique in its stress on both academic rigor and public affairs, says Paul Hagenloh, who directs the new major.

Students are mentored by field-specific specialists while they explore the worlds of public policy and global affairs.

Hagenloh, for example, specializes in Soviet history. "A student interested in democracy in the post-socialist world could major in history with me," he says, "and work with a specialist in Maxwell's Transnational NGO Initiative. This combination is an incredible opportunity for driven, engaged undergraduates."









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The strongest similarity in the two majors is their emphasis on civic impact. Policy studies majors devote considerable time to community service and research projects for clients like the Red Cross or the city school district. The citizenship major, with its capstone Action Plan, steers students toward this type of engagement.

"I'm in favor of experiential education and applied learning," Coplin says, "and it moves in that direction. I've been trying to get kids in the real world for 40 years now, so to me it's a great victory."

— Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers  

Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers is a contributor to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and author of Rock Troubadours and other books on music.
This article appeared in the fall 2012 print edition of Maxwell Perspective; © 2012 Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.