Journey Toward Democracy
Voice, Power, and the Public Good

Journey toward Democracy was a dialogue series that strove to connect civic engagement opportunities across the University of Michigan. The National Forum on Higher Education for the Public Good was a collaborator in this initiative as a way to spread democratic ideals to the larger campus community.

University of Michigan (UM) offers a wide range of civic engagement initiatives within the UM community as well as between the university and local communities. However, many of these programs operate independently and, as a result, programs and opportunities are decentralized across the campus. The challenge the we tackled through the Journey towards Democracy project was to effectively connect University of Michigan engagement communities without losing the creative benefits of autonomy.

With support from the Center for Liberal Education and Civic Engagement, AACU, and the University of Michigan’s Provost’s Office; the university committee hosted a series of action-focused dialogues to support University of Michigan’s efforts at creating civic engagement concentrations or “pathways” within its undergraduate and graduate curricula. These pathways would focus on the core idea of diverse democracy and attempt to create a touch-stone experience for each student. They would also be closely linked with co-curricular activities.

The dialogue series that occurred throughout the 2003-2004 academic year served as a vehicle to promote the feasibility of the pathways through the curriculum. It did so by

  • Providing the opportunity to explore the critical issues and factors that affect the engagement of faculty, staff, and students in a diverse society,
  • Exploring the question, “What kind of education prepares graduates for effective participation in a diverse, complex democracy” and,
  • Addressing the risks and benefits associated with breaking down structural, organizational, philosophical, and financial barriers that have been used to buttress civic engagement efforts at the University of Michigan.


The series was launched in October, 2003, along side of the annual Dewey Lecture, and the AACU grant culminated in May of 2004. Work on developing the concept of the curricular pathways continued through the efforts of the Provost Committee on Diverse Democracy throughout 2004-2005 and resulted in the following research report on student pathways to diverse democracy outcomes at the University of Michigan: Journey Toward Democracy: An Analysis of Student Pathways to Diverse Democracy Outcomes.


Theme in Action & Research: Civic Engagement