Dr. Dorcas McCoy Shares Ideas for Strengthening Democracy at Civic Learning Event

Dorcas McCoy

Bethune-Cookman University Associate Professor of Political Science & International Studies Dr. Dorcas McCoy is thinking about the state of American democracy and ways to promote civic engagement through higher education.

On Monday, May 13, she participated in a panel during a special online event hosted by the Center for Artistic Activism in partnership with Project Pericles to share her thoughts on ways to incorporate artistic activism and innovative voter education into academic courses in order to strengthen increased student participation in civic life.

McCoy joined faculty from Skidmore College in New York, the University of Maine, Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, Augsburg University in Minnesota, and Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania as they discussed Creative Civic Learning: Faculty-Led Ideas to Strengthen Democracy in 2024.

“Civic engagement is the heartbeat of our university,” she said. “Dr. Bethune was one of only three Negroes present in 1945 with the founding of the league of nations that eventually became known as the United Nations” and it is part of the university’s charge and to continue “preparing students for service, especially civic engagement.

McCoy presented on research that was funded in part by B-CU’s RISE Program, along with the Center for Artistic Activism, around increasing voter turnout here in Volusia County.

“By incorporating creative civic elements, it really does provide a more innovative and culturally relevant experience for students,” said McCoy. “It also gives them a more personal and more profound learning experience, and the possibilities of integrating the arts as it relates to an interdisciplinary experience are truly endless.”

“I was extremely delighted to see the overall level of interest in the students,” she added.

Students presented in several conferences, including the Florida Political Science Association’s annual conference, the Florida Academy of Science conference, and the Florida Undergraduate Research Conference. They also showcased their research during B-CU’s academic showcase and hosted their own Political Science Research Forum on campus.

“Many of our students received field experiences and internships as a result of their participation.”

One student in particular, recent graduate Jamar Lambert of Sunrise, Florida, really impressed her, McCoy said.

Jamar Lambert (l), a 2024 graduate of B-CU, joined Dr. Dorcas McCoy (c) and other classmates and psychology faculty at the 2024 Florida Political Science Association conference, where he presented on voter equity initiatives in Volusia County.

Lambert, who was a percussion section leader in the Marching Wildcats band this past year, leveraged his relationships on the band to expand his platform and increase political engagement among his peers. He collaborated with his bandmates and members of the 14Karat Gold dance team to produce a video about what being an American means to them.

“Being an American means hoping for a better tomorrow,” the video opens. Pride. Kindness. Inclusion. Looking out for the good in people. Justice for all. Equality. Opportunity. Acceptance. Fulfilling my potential. Working for a common good. Compassion. Respect for all humankind. Honoring my ancestors, my people. These were some of the ideals the students shared through Lambert’s project – ideals that underscore the principles and promise of democracy and highlight the importance and impact of civic engagement.

Lambert also recruited his brother to record a spoken word piece to help underscore the importance of voting in local communities, and emerged as a leader in the efforts to increase campus participation in the civic process.

“Naturally, he is a shy person and would have done anything to stray away from anything having to do with public speaking or community activism, but this project brought him to life. He turned into someone who really wanted to advocate for civic engagement and make positive changes in his community,” she said.