From Maxwell Perspective...

Even More Connections

The Maxwell Citizenship Initiative is helping to catalyze new interdisciplinary projects on the theme of citizenship.

Graphics that relate to citizenship, political economy, and the mediaIn the spring of 2015, political science professor Audie Klotz invited her Maxwell colleagues Prema Kurien, in sociology, and Jamie Winders, in geography, to join her for a daylong symposium on multiculturalism.

“Audie and Prema and I all do research on questions related to immigration,” recalls Winders, “but it was really the first time the three of us had sat around a table talking about this topic. We really enjoyed that, and we were quite struck by the fact that we’re in this school and have similar interests, but it’s often challenging to get together and engage one another in terms of our own research. We thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to create a space where people can sit down and talk about their work and find connections across all these methodological and disciplinary divides?’”

That idea is becoming a reality thanks to the Tenth Decade Project, a wave of initiatives leading up to Maxwell’s centennial in 2024 that builds on the School’s legacy of citizenship education. Inspired by the Tenth Decade agenda, Klotz, Kurien, and Winders reached out to anthropologist John Burdick — another Maxwell professor with a longstanding interest in citizenship — and together they began laying the groundwork for a project now known as the Maxwell Citizenship Initiative (MCI).

Unlike the other Tenth Decade projects, the MCI is not focused on a specific citizenship-related topic (such as free speech or labor), nor does it create a new institutional structure that would overlap with Maxwell’s robust research institutes and academic departments. Instead, the MCI aims to identify common interests in citizenship issues among faculty and students throughout the School, and then to provide new avenues and support for sharing ideas and collaborating.

In Winders’ words, the MCI “can be a catalyst for enhancing your own projects, getting feedback, or working with someone else on a joint project. We’re building the capacity for those kinds of connections.”

“Our goal is to create faculty clusters based on research interests.”
— Prema Kurien

The first stages of the initiative are underway this spring. At this writing, the MCI steering committee, directed by Kurien, is reviewing applications for funding to develop new citizenship-focused courses — or citizenship units in existing courses — as well as grants for research on citizenship by undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. The initiative is also planning several public events next year with leading citizenship scholars including Rogers Smith, founding director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Program on Democracy, Citizenship, and Constitutionalism, which was a model for the MCI.

In keeping with its mission to nurture scholarship already underway within the School, the MCI committee surveyed the Maxwell faculty on their citizenship work and received detailed feedback from more than 50 professors in all departments. In April, a number of these faculty members came together for a workshop in which they shared ideas on citizenship teaching and research.

“Our goal,” says Kurien, “is to create faculty clusters based on research interests.” Next year these clusters will continue to meet, leading up to a writing workshop in the spring of 2017 in which faculty and students discuss their latest projects.

Even at these early stages of the initiative, Kurien is already seeing the benefits of facilitating these kinds of connections. “Just looking at the survey, I saw so many people I didn’t know had interests related to citizenship,” she says. “I learned about many, many other projects that people are working on. It was really exciting.”

— Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers

This article appeared in the spring 2016 print edition of Maxwell Perspective; © 2016 Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail