Imagining America

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The College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University is a member of Imagining America, a national consortium of colleges and universities committed to strengthening public scholarship and practice in the role of the arts, humanities, and design. 

Visit Auburn's Imagining America page.

The Imagining America 2014 Seminars are focused opportunities for individuals to participate in extended conversations around themes of particular interest to IA members. One must apply to participate in each seminar and will be notified of their status by the seminar organizers. To ensure robust and inclusive conversation, participation is capped for each session.
All seminar participants will be expected to prepare in advance of the conference as directed by the session organizers, who will contact all enrollees when session capacity has been reached (or no later than September 5). Since seminar sessions are meant to be fully participatory and dialogic, all participants will be listed as presenters in the conference program.
To apply, please submit a letter of interest via the conference registration page. You may register for up to two seminars. Questions about specific seminars should be directed to the session organizer(s).
Civic Professionalism: Innovative Driver of Change or Impossible Dream?
Seminar Organizers: Amy Koritz, Drew University; Paul Schadewald, Macalester College
What is the future for civic engagement in higher education?  Despite clear support for institutions’ public mission, educators continue to face challenges to sustaining and expanding civic engagement initiatives.  One especially timely challenge is how to balance the traditional liberal arts and a commitment to the civic and public good, with increasing pressure to produce vocational outcomes for our students.  The newest challenge, however, comes less from traditional scholars and narrow definitions of research than from increasing pressure to align liberal arts education with career outcomes.  Resistance continues in the form of promotion and tenure reward systems and discipline-based curricula, meaning that advocates for civic engagement face multiple pressure points.
Given the pressure higher education faces to be more pragmatic, new strategies for affirming and furthering the power of civic/community engaged learning in the contexts of an undergraduate liberal arts education are needed.  This seminar will explore the usefulness of “civic professionalism” as one such strategy.  Civic professionalism marks the intersection of academic knowledge, vocational exploration/development, and a commitment to the common good.  It intertwines the knowledge and skills needed for effective practice and the ability to reflect and embody values that help students seek success not only for themselves, but also for the community.
In this seminar, members of IA’s Engaged Undergraduate Education Research Group will briefly discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the civic professionalism framework and their own successes and challenges implementing civic professionalism at six diverse institutions.  Seminar participants will place readings on civic professionalism in the context of the larger challenges facing civic engagement in a liberal arts education and explore what a focus on civic professionalism means for institutional policy, pedagogy, and preparing students to be civic-minded graduates.  Participants will articulate the challenges and opportunities of civic professionalism endeavors in order to inform the future work of Imagining America and the Research Group.
Key questions may include:
  • How can civic professionalism help protect the transformative role of civic engagement in the liberal arts while also demonstrating the relevance to a skills-oriented public and student body?
  • How can civic professionalism help faculty teach students to use a critical lens in order to recognize the consequences of innovation and entrepreneurship in their future careers?
  • In light of the pressure to move toward workforce development, how can higher education institutions facilitate, value, and commit to the public purposes of education?
In preparation for the seminar, participants will be asked to read 3 essays and an overview of the work of the Engaged Undergraduate Education Research Group, including a rubric they created about students’ development of civic professionalism.  Prior to the conference, participants will be encouraged to submit 1 or 2 pressing questions to pose to the other seminar participations for discussion.
To apply, you will submit a statement of interest though IA’s registration platform.  The statement for this seminar should outline your experiences in and/or interests integrating formal knowledge, vocational exploration/development, and a commitment to the common good.  Queries should be directed to Amy Koritz ( or Paul Schadewald (
How do Cultural Shifts Towards Greater Public Engagement on Campuses Actually Happen?

Seminar Organizers:  Brigitta Brunner-Johnson, Auburn University; Ana M. López, Tulane University;Ryan McBride, Tulane University; Agnieszka Nance, Tulane University; Giovanna Summerfield, Auburn University
This seminar is aimed at drawing on the experiences and reflections of all participants to fuel a conversation about the initiatives we have taken on our campuses to develop closer connections to the wider community. Our goal is to gain insights into what has worked (and failed) at a variety of schools (we welcome contributors from liberal arts colleges, community colleges, land grant universities, and other institutions which increase that variety), so that we can better recognize the opportunities and practicable steps that we might take on our own campuses.

Participants will be encouraged to submit brief (one- or two-page) case studies. Each case study should attempt to describe a particular initiative aimed at producing a campus culture shift that you were involved in on your campus. It might also be helpful to include excerpts from critical documents associated with your initiative, such as strategic plans, mission statements, promotion and tenure review policies, program descriptions, or even brochures from admissions, development, or public service support centers. Of course, these artifacts are not the same as culture change – the real story will be your description of the cultural shift that led to their adoption and that continue shape how they are applied.
Key questions may include:
  • How exactly have students, faculty and administration initiated campus-wide cultural shifts towards stronger engagement with the wider community?
  • What sorts of concrete steps and programs have been most successful at changing campus cultures?
  • How can those who are interested in catalyzing campus change benefit from the network of IA colleagues that we are building with this seminar?
To apply, you will submit a statement of interest though IA’s registration platform. The statement for this seminar should outline your experience with culture change on your campus or your interest in the subject. We also invite you to brainstorm about how to structure our conference meeting. What do you think would be most helpful sorts of initiatives to examine and discuss? What would be the best way to set up discussions?
To apply, please submit a statement of interest though IA’s registration platform. Queries should be directed to Ryan McBride ( or Brigitta Brunner-Johnson(
2014-2015 Imagining America Institutes
To advance the collective vision, mission, values, and goals of Imagining America, members and partners are organizing institutes in various locations across the country.
The institutes cover topics and themes that relate to the work of strengthening publicly engaged scholarship in the arts, humanities, and design. To cultivate distributive leadership for institutional change across the consortium, each institute is organized by an Imagining America member school or partner organization, and teams from across the consortium are invited to engage in creative, action-oriented learning.
More information about each institute will be shared in the coming weeks and months, but here’s a glimpse of what’s to come.
Imagining America and Emory University (Atlanta/Decatur, GA)
June 20-22, 2014 (weekend organizing institute); June 23-27, 2014 (cultural organizing intensive)
Contact: Kevin Bott
In anticipation of the 2104 national conference, Imagining America and Emory University will host a three-day institute that will use grassroots and cultural organizing strategies to begin telling a “story of us” and “story of now” related to higher education and civic engagement. Immediately following the weekend institute, IA Associate Director and grassroots theater scholar/practitioner, Dr. Kevin Bott, and scholar and organizer, Dr. Maria Avila, will lead a five-day process of transforming the data derived during the institute into a participatory performance to be shared at the 2014 national conference.
Note: Weekend attendees are invited to participate in the five-day performance workshop for a nominal fee.
Appalshop (Whitesburg, KY)
Fall 2014
Contact: Dudley Cocke
Appalshop is one of the nation’s flagship organizations working at the intersection of community organizing, the arts and public humanities, and community development. It will host a five-day institute about how its theory of change and methodologies could be used to help realize the democratic purposes of higher education.
Auburn University (Auburn, AL)
Spring 2015
Auburn University and its College of Liberal Arts will host an institute focusing on civic professionalism and collaborative leadership for the liberal arts. The three-day workshop will allow academics and community members to discuss the process of transformative culture change in and beyond higher education using Marshall Ganz’s concept of public narrative. Participants will develop a plan for building civic professionalism at their home institutions and will also have mentoring and networking opportunities. Click here for registration information. 

Exciting News from Imagining America

Announcement from Jan Cohen-Cruz, Director, Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life:

I am pleased to inform you that your institution is one of six Imagining America members to directly benefit from a proposal that has just received a $150,000 grant from the Teagle Foundation, and was generated through the collaboration of the following individuals:

  • Co-PIs Amy Koritz at Drew University and Paul Schadewald at Macalester College;
  • Brigitta R. Brunner and Giovanna Summerfield, Auburn University;
  • Darby K. Ray, Millsaps College;
  • Catherine Gerard, Syracuse University;  and
  • Robin Bachin, University of Miami.

The project focuses on Civic Professionalism as a roadmap for transforming educational practice through a dual focus on faculty work and student learning. It seeks to interweave the traditional strengths of the liberal arts, the values of civic inquiry and reflection, and the practical work of sustaining and supporting our communities and ourselves. Civic professionalism takes higher education beyond the transmittal of content knowledge to include an explicit focus on the values and social purpose underlying our use of that knowledge in the world. Faculty who deploy the tools of civic professionalism, embracing engagement with the world students will inhabit upon graduation, can provide an education that is transformative for students, society, and themselves. 

The funds will support specific strategies for putting civic professionalism into action at these six institutions. IA’s Associate Research Director, Deirdra Stockmann, will work with the group in the area of evaluation. The findings will be shared with the entire consortium and more broadly in higher education communities.

The Teagle Foundation provides leadership for liberal education, mobilizing the intellectual and financial resources that are necessary if today's students are to have access to a challenging and transformative liberal education. The Foundation's commitment to such education includes its grantmaking to institutions of higher education across the country, its long-established scholarship program for the children of employees of ExxonMobil, and its work helping economically disadvantaged young people in New York City―where the Foundation is based―gain admission to college and succeed once there.

We are so grateful for your institution’s participation in Imagining America and congratulate these seven terrific collaborators for their contribution to the role of higher education for the public good.

Imagining America Collaboratories

Four faculty members in the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University have been named Imagining America Research Fellows. The fellows will serve a one-year appointment to IA, a national consortium of universities committed to artists and scholars in public life. Their appointments will include participation as members of "collaboratories," a new IA initiative that provides opportunities for members to work together around a shared focus.

Dr. Giovanna Summerfield, Associate Dean for Educational Affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Dr. Brigitta Brunner, Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Journalism, will serve on the "Engaged Undergraduate Education Collaboratory." Barb Bondy, Associate Professor in the Department of Art, and Jay Lamar, Director of the Caroline Marshall Draughon Center for the Arts and Humanities, were named IA Research Fellows for the "Public Humanities Centers and Institutes Collaboratory."

A description of each collaboratory is below:

Engaged Undergraduate Education Collaboratory: The purpose of this research collaborative is to create a baseline of information regarding the role of civic engagement in undergraduate liberal arts education. Civic Engagement connects the traditional strengths of the liberal arts with the practical work of sustaining and supporting ourselves and our communities. The collaborative seeks to develop and implement a national framework for promoting civic engagement as the connective tissue between liberal arts education in the arts and humanities and the values and skills of civic professionalism in the professional world for our graduates.

Public Humanities Collaboratory: This collaboratory's work is interested in the following questions: How can we assess our work both for our own growth and so that other colleagues, funders, etc., are able to appreciate our mission and accomplishments? What are the range of projects and courses that public humanities centers across the US have found to be most effective? How can public humanities centers across campuses support each other?

For more information on all of the collaboratories, visit the Imagining America website.

More Information Coming Soon! 

Last Updated: October 06, 2016