Living Democracy

Communities Become Summer Classrooms for Living Democracy Students

Group shot of 2016 Living Democracy students

Four Auburn University students participating in the College of Liberal Arts’ Living Democracy initiative will begin summer adventures in Alabama communities May 9.

The 2016 Living Democracy students who will live and work for ten weeks in diverse Alabama communities are Weston Sims, Hamilton Wasnick, Madison Chamblee and Miranda Whitten.  The students will create civic projects working with community partners in Collinsville, Elba, Linden and Roanoke.      

Two students, Wasnick and Sims, will be living in local fire stations during their summer adventure.  A 2012 Living Democracy participant, Marian Royston, will welcome Sims to serve in her hometown of Roanoke. This is the second summer Royston has continued the Living Democracy legacy by hosting an AU student in Roanoke.

She said, “I’ve had the privilege of being a part of the program since almost the beginning, and it’s amazing to be able to have Roanoke be used as a classroom. We have many wonderful lessons to teach.”

Weston Sims signing Living Democracy contractSims, a political science and economics major from Athens, Alabama, said, “I’m looking forward to seeing how democracy and society in general function on a local scale. I’m sure I’ll pick up some valuable skills along the way with the help of the citizens of Roanoke.”  He plans to focus on economic and youth development during his stay in Roanoke.


Living Democracy Fellow Madison Chamblee hopes her summer in Collinsville gives her an outlet for developing her passions for the environment and the arts.  From Trussville, Alabama, Chamblee will be working with longtime Living Democracy community partner Jennifer Wilkins at the Collinsville Public Library.

Wilkins said, “Madison will stay busy organizing a recycling program for our community, teaching adults and children about growing their own food and helping all ages to get moving with dance."

Chamblee, majoring in environmental design and interdisciplinary studies, said, “Exploring is an authentic part of the academic process. This experience is an excellent opportunity for me to discover more about myself and other people.”

In Elba, a Living Democracy community since 2012, Miranda Whitten will be working alongside community partners with the nonprofit organization Restoration154.

She will be working with teens involved in Elba High School’s Interact Club to develop projects that will have a positive impact on the community. Whitten, a sociology major from Valley, Alabama, will also be working on Restoration 154 projects such as Elba’s Giving Garden and Pea River Outdoors.

Wasnick will be the fifth Living Democracy student who has spent the summer in Linden. The sophomore history major hopes to conduct interviews with veterans in Marengo County with the goal of sending the stories of local veterans to the Library of Congress.

Wasnick, who grew up in Seattle, Washington, spent time there volunteering with the Veterans’ Administration as a high school student. He said he learned that getting to know veterans provides opportunities for a great understanding of service. His community partners will be the Marengo Extension coordinator Pam Stentz and Brenda Tuck, executive director of the Marengo County Economic Development Authority.

Group shot of students with their luggage

Living Democracy is a program of Auburn University’s College of Liberal Arts and the David Mathews Center for Civic Life. Participating students serve as Jean O'Connor Snyder Interns with the Mathews Center.

Living Democracy, started in 2010 by Dr. Mark Wilson, director of Civic Learning Initiatives, and Associate Professor Nan Fairley, started as a Kettering Foundation project focused on the role of higher education in preparing citizens for public life. Deborah Witte, in the 2012 Higher Education Exchange, described the initiative as a "pioneering approach to civic engagement" because of its community-based approach and impact on students.

In the end, the goal of Living Democracy is to teach students just that: to live democracy and show that true change, understanding and progress comes from being engaged and active in your community, wherever that may be, Dr. Wilson said.

You can follow stories 2016 Living Democracy students write about their adventures and lessons in civic life on the Living Democracy Facebook page and the Living Democracy blog.  Follow them on twitter using the handle @AuburnLD2016. 

Last Updated: May 31, 2016