Perspective: The Democracy Commitment


by Denise Fairchild

Engaging Community Colleges (CCs) in ECC's mission is a no brainer. Retrofitting these older, multi-building, multi-campus educational facilities significantly advances our efforts to "green our cities." ECC has already signed up 3 CC systems (representing 23 campuses) as partners to help implement their campus sustainability plans using high road principles and strategies. They are also important centers for training tomorrow's workforce in skills and competencies needed to "build sustainable communities," the second part of our three-tiered mission. These campuses offer of range of educational opportunities in building sciences and technologies, environmental sciences, and even environmental planning and organizing. But who would have thought that they are also taking center stage in our effort to "strengthen our democracy," the third leg of ECC's stool. ECC was an invited panelist to the joint conference of The Democracy Commitment and the American Democracy Project in San Antonio, Texas from June 7-9th. The convening, sponsored by the New York Times, involved two higher education initiatives of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (for CCs and 4 year institutions, respectively) to expand college programs committed to civic and community engagement. Colleges and Universities across the country assembled to find meaningful ways to: build college-community partnerships; to prepare students to be effective civic actors and not just economic actors (workers); and to engage the entire college community as catalysts for community change. This was a network of enlightened, energized and enthusiastic faculty, students and administrators. CCs are, without question, essential vehicles for institutionalizing the work of ECC and for building high road economies throughout the U.S.