Town and Gown - The JSU American Democracy Project Seeks to Educate Students to be More Civic-Minded


By Heather Greene

In 2003, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) in conjunction with the New York Times formed a partnership called The American Democracy Project (ADP), a nationwide program created to encourage college students to become more civically active.

In 2007, Dr. Meehan authorized the formation of an ADP team on Jacksonville State University’s campus and the following year, Dr. Lori Owens attended the National ADP Convention to learn about the program.

JSU is one of 250 universities in the nation and one of four in Alabama that participate in this program.

Owens, JSU professor of political science and campus coordinator for the JSU ADP team, explains, “The beauty of the ADP program is that each university can tailor the program to best fit their needs.”

In addition to Dr. Owens, the JSU ADP board is comprised of Dr. Teresa Reed (English), Dr. Erin Rider (social work and sociology), Dr. Jeremiah Russell (political science), Dr. Benjie Blair (biology), and Ms. Becca Turner (career services).

According to Owens, the ADP team coordinates all the Constitution Day celebrations on JSU’s campus during the month of September.

Past Constitution Day events around JSU have consisted of a panel on the Fourth Amendment protection from unreasonable search and seizure; addresses by Attorney General Luther Strange and Stephen Black from Impact Alabama; an exchange on the meaning of the Constitution by two legal scholars, and a Congress to Campus event featuring two former members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

In addition to sponsoring Constitution Day events to bring political awareness to students, Owens says the JSU ADP team has also sponsored Dr. Martin Luther King Day of Service events and town hall meetings, featuring Congressman Mike Rogers, a 2012 presidential debate watch party, and oral arguments by the Alabama Supreme Court.

“It is important for young people getting ready to enter the professional world to become aware of their surroundings,” states Carlos Acosta, the graduate assistant for the ADP team at JSU. “Laws being implemented will affect how much you pay in taxes, healthcare, and being able to find a job. Also, you want to become engaged in your community. Get involved and make a difference. We can sometimes forget how important the voice of young people can actually be.”

Acosta completed his undergraduate work at JSU, majoring in political science, and returned to earn his masters in public administration with a concentration in administrative management.

In addition to his studies, Acosta works with the ADP team on the various events they plan throughout the year. He explains that the political science department at JSU has afforded him numerous opportunities specific to his major and areas of interest.

Acosta says, “I would encourage anyone to get involved in the American Democracy Project. It is not your average political group. It can be great fun…The American Democracy Project is great way to put your foot in the door. As for the program itself, it does focus on our Constitution. Sometimes, as a society, we can take that valuable document for granted. It always helps to take time and remember our liberties.”

This Thursday, February 20, 2014, at 4:00 p.m., the ADP will be sponsoring a free film screening of Inequality for All in the Leone Cole Auditorium at JSU.

Following the ninety-minute film, there will be a live webcast featuring former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

This event is open, not only to JSU students and faculty members, but to the surrounding community.

There will be a follow-up panel discussion of the film on Monday, February 24, 4:00 p.m. – 5:15 p.m., on the eleventh floor of the Houston Cole Library. The theme of this panel will be “Inequality in America: Myth or Reality?”

The panel will include Dr. Tim Barnett, political science and public administration; Dr. Doris Bennett, economics; and Dr. Jeremy Ross, sociology. The panelists will share their thoughts in regards to this film and the ongoing debate over income inequality in their opening remarks and then will take questions from the audience. Each panel member will then make brief closing remarks.

This event is also open to the public and all are invited to attend.

“It is important to have meaningful, informed dialogue on issues such as this and we hope that the film screening along with the follow-up by local experts with various opinions will provide civic-minded individuals with some valuable information,” explains Owens.

Dr. Lori Owens and the JSU ADP team would like to cordially invite the JSU and surrounding community to come be a part of this event.

For more information on the upcoming film showing or other ADP events, please contact Dr. Owens at ljowens@jsu.edu or (256)-782-5106.

This article originally appeared in the "Town and Gown" of the Jacksonville News. 

02/18/2014