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Proposal for CURE Summer 2016

Project Description

This first step of a larger research project is to gather data from our HBCU students that clarifies the base data. Over the years, I have asked students by show of hand who has had civics classes. At best, three or four out of twenty five raise their hands. As reflected in the introduction, African American student knowledge of civics scores are well below the level of proficiency. It is our goal to discover how our students stand in the area of civic knowledge, media literacy, current events, community service, and service learning. This pilot study should establish a basic understanding profile of our students allowing us to compare our students with the national average. Our ultimate goal is to add to the national conversation, increase civics understanding in the college classroom as well as impact civics education K-12.


For this first step, we will conduct research during the summer term working with Summer Bridge Freshmen and/or random students to participate in a study that would use both quantitative and qualitative methods to survey students about the civics training prior to entering college as well as attitudes toward civic engagement and social responsibility. 

Research approach

The study will use a triangulated method using both quantitative and qualitative methods to assess a random sample of students attending summer school with the goal to discover how our students compare with the national average concerning knowledge of civics. We will also explore their knowledge in media literacy, current events, as well as attitudes about community service, and service learning.


Week of May 16: Discuss over plan, experiential research journal process; assign literature readings

Week of May 23: Create survey with closed and open ended questions; identify sample

Week of May 30: Begin gathering and inputting data; begin grant research for future funding

Week of June 6: Complete gathering and inputting data; grant research ongoing

Week of June 13: Begin analysis of quantitative and qualitative data

Week of June 20: Continue analysis of data; [if possible, identify focus group]

Week of June 27:  Complete analysis of data; [if possible, conduct focus group]

Week of July 4: Begin writing literature review for final product; discuss findings on future funding

Week of July 11: Begin drafting presentation and article for possible publication

Wek of July 18: Craft presentation outline and power point; continue grant research

Week of July 25: Reflect on research experience; discuss experiential research journal

Week of May 4: Present results with plan on status of finding future funding to continue research

How project fits into overall research plan:

This first step opens the door to a variety of research projects under the Democracy Institute using both quantitative and qualitative research. The ultimate goal is to establish the Bethune Democracy Institute, a clearinghouse on civics research. Studies suggest that media literacy, current events, community service, and service learning are all connected to a working knowledge of civics and our democratic principles. Exploring communication and civics will add to the national conversation. The Institute will use rhetorical criticism of key historic speeches as one tool to increase the critical thinking skills of students and expand their grasp of the connection of public policy to daily life. Institute research will further explore civic engagement and social responsibility by examining the power of language and the use of persuasion in our democratic society. Using a variety of tools, students explore social change through public policy. The Bethune Democracy Institute is designed to create an atmosphere in which students may further develop their understanding of citizenship and activism. Considered the most influential African American woman in the twentieth century, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune worked in the fields of education, government, politics, economics, social activism, and women’s rights. She is a towering example of a strong leader who helped change the world for the better. Students are introduced to Bethune’s speech, “What does American democracy mean to me?” Topics for the Democracy Institute will include: Democracy, activism, media literacy, Social movements including civil rights and women’s rights, civic engagement principles, voting challenges, and internet freedom. Programming will include: Dr. Bethune’s Democracy Speech, An annual consortium on activism, issue forums, incubator for civic research, create a web-based e-journal the share study results, and establish an Advisory Committee comprised of prominent scholars, student and community leaders, and corporate representatives.

 Alignment with B-CU mission:

In keeping with the mission of the university, this research project will potentially assist faculty in realizing the need to add civics to class curriculum to ensure the development of our students as “global leaders committed to service, life-long learning and diversity by providing a faith-based environment of academic excellence and transformative experiences” (B-CU,BOT, 2013). 

We believe this project fits well with our administration’s commitment to civic engagement and social responsibility. President Jackson’s vision is committed to educating and empowering “people to seek their own solutions; to advocate for opportunities for all citizens to improve their quality of life” as well as his commitment to our continued connection to Project Pericles. Eugene Lang founded the organization focused on educating model citizens through cultivating civic engagement among its students on the 22 campuses nationally.

Student responsibilities:

Students will assist in creating the literature review, survey with closed and open ended questions,  identifying sample; gathering and inputting data; analyzing quantitative and qualitative data; writing literature review for final product; as well as crafting the final presentation and power point. In addition, they will assist in exploring the Foundation Center for possible grants to secure future funding for the larger project. Finally, they will develop an experiential research journal that contains reflections on the research process.

Role of student researchers: Student researcher will have hands on opportunities to participate at every level of research—from researching scholarly articles, creating questions for survey, assisting with analysis, and writing literature reviews. If time permits, students will assist with running a focus group and conducting at least one interview with local political leader.

Potential for project sustainability

The potential for project sustainability is strong. A cursory review of grant offerings found a wealth of possible matches. The Foundation Center, as well as the Philanthropic News Digest will provide access to listings of possible grants for review and consideration.

Expected Results:

We expect our first step research project to generate interest and challenge our students to want to learn about civics. This base line study will help us generate grant possibilities and go forward with our strategically planned research agenda as we build our Democracy Institute with the goal of becoming a clearing house for data and ideas to improve the current status of civics knowledge.


“Achievement Levels.” 2014 Civics Assessment. The Nation’s Report Card. Retrieved from  on March 15, 2016.

Farrell, EF (2006). “A civics lesson.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from Section: Students Volume 53, Issue 14, Page A41 on March 15, 2016

Lawless, JL and Fox, RL (2015). Running from Office: Why young American are turned off to

politics. New York: Oxford University Press.

McConnell T. (1998). “The Civic Missions of our Nation’s Schools.” Retrieved March 15, 2016 on March 15, 2016

Wattenberg, M.P. (2016). Is Voting for Yong People?: with a postscript of citizen engagement. US:

New York: Routledge.

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