Civil Rights to Civic Virtue Society
The mission of the Auburn University at Montgomery Civil Rights & Civic Virtue Society is to foster civic identity, commitment, and civic-mindedness through community-engaged learning experiences.
Our aim is to determine whether increases in virtue literacy, civil rights literacy, and community engagement leads to growth in civic virtue. This project addresses important needs within our university and local community by facilitating meaningful community-engaged learning experiences and deepening our capacity to act as partner in addressing the ongoing impacts of historic injustice within a city known as the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement. We begin with the creation of a Civil Rights and Civic Virtue Society for students, faculty, staff, and a community advisory board. The society will develop and implement curricular and co-curricular learning opportunities that situate the study of civic virtues within an exploration of local civil rights history. It will create curriculum for an annual summer seminar, society communities of practice, and first-year seminar experiences. It will secure community service opportunities for students and faculty. It will organize events featuring scholars and civil rights exemplars. It will host an annual conference for to advance knowledge of civil rights and civic virtues and for members to share from their learning. The society will create a website exhibiting our activities and recordings of events hosted throughout the year. These efforts will enable us to address two big questions: Does participation in a community of practice increase engagement in civic activities and generate reflective insights about civic identity and commitment? and Do civil rights centered, character-focused curricula and pedagogies increase virtue literacy and civil rights literacy? This project will strengthen our university’s role as a community partner and advance knowledge about the promises of character education initiatives in higher education.
The program is possible through a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
CRCV Faculty Fellows
Over the three-year grant period, the society will name three cohorts of faculty fellows — one for each year of the grant — with the inaugural class of faculty fellows beginning in the 2022-23 academic year. Faculty members selected as fellows will receive a stipend to spend one academic year pursuing their curriculum development projects. Fellows will present their findings at the Civil Rights and Civic Virtue Society’s annual conference.
The 2022-23 Class of Faculty Fellows will present their research findings at the society’s Spring 2023 conference.
Breuna Baine will engage students in an interactive exhibition design project for the future Mt. Zion AME Zion Church Memorial Annex, which will commemorate the creation of the Montgomery Improvement Association and the election of Martin Luther King, Jr. as its first chairman.
Elizabeth Burrows will be developing new assignments to embed within two courses. In her English Composition II course, she will use a field trip to the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice to help students identify a topic to ground their research throughout the semester. They will choose an exemplar and argue for the inclusion of this individual within a museum exhibit. In her Honors program course with a similar inquiry-based research focus and study of exemplars, students will work in groups to develop manifestos of change, some of which may be multimodal presentations such as mini-documentaries.
Clarissa Arms-Chavez regularly teaches a course on the Psychology of Prejudice and Discrimination. This course challenges all students to reflect deeply on the sources of hate and bias. A field trip to the Legacy Museum or the Civil Rights Memorial provides opportunities for students to reflect on parallels students see between this history and contemporary instances of mistreatment and injustice. Her work as a faculty fellow will enable her to extend this final reflection by helping students to develop a plan of action or service learning that can translate their ideas into positive change.
Dana Comi regularly teaches courses in the Department of English and Philosophy’s Professional and Technical Writing Certificate. Each of these courses involves engage with industry and community partners in the local area. Her central goal in this project is to work toward the development of sustainable partnerships with organizations in Montgomery that can promote “students’ identities as justice and equity-minded professional and technical communicators.”
Casey Giordano will focuses his research on applying psychological concepts to the workplace. Ultimately, this knowledge can help to make improvements in these spaces. His goal through this project is to develop a group project that enables students to identify a current or historical issue in their community and develop a plan of action to help bring about positive change.
Catherine Gooch will develop a pedagogical project in which students create a research-based group documentary about a local Civil Rights site or activist group in Montgomery. One of the goals of this project is to expose students to the city’s rich cultural history. Another goal is to encourage students to actively engage in community-based work in the process. The culminating event for this project will be a “movie night” in which students show their documentaries, describe their creative process, and explain what they hope our campus community can learn from this work.
Jessica Hayes will collaborate with the Department of History and World Cultures and the AUM Library Archives & Special Collections to develop an oral history project. Students will identify Montgomery residents who were active in the Civil Rights Movement and, with their permission, organize interviews that will be processed and digitally preserved. This result will be a public service repository of perspectives and stories that deserve to be preserved.