Students create U citizen course to start spring 2007

The course will then go under review to become a permanent University class.

Vadim Lavrusik

Students registering for a new leadership class this spring can get schooled by President Bob Bruininks.

Bruininks will be a guest lecturer in a class titled “Citizen U: Building Tomorrow’s Citizens Today” (CLA 1200), which will be offered through the College of Liberal Arts.

It will focus on engaging students as citizens at the University and teaching them the concepts of public achievement.

The course will teach the history of public engagement and citizen action at the University. It will also encourage students to become socially involved.

“There will be very little lecturing,” said program co-creator and English senior Amanda Larson.

The pilot class is scheduled for spring 2007 and will go under review after its completion to become a permanent course at the University.

The three-credit course was created by a group of five leadership minor students as part of an independent study project.

Mike Kenefick, finance and entrepreneurship junior and co-creator, said the idea to start the class originally came from a project the students did in a public affairs class last fall, which asked students to bring public achievement concepts to college students to create change in their communities.

“I didn’t realize the amount of difference you can make at the University until I took this class,” he said. “This is why we wanted to bring this same concept to students.”

The classmates wanted more programs that provided an opportunity to build citizenship qualities in students and the idea for a class began.

“My idea was to start a class, bring this to freshmen and try to get them more engaged on campus, and build up a community on campus of civically engaged, active citizens,” Kenefick said.

The group met with Bruininks on Dec. 12 to present their class proposal.

Kenefick said Bruininks was supportive of the course and even agreed to be a guest lecturer. As of press time, Bruininks is on vacation and not available for comment.

Last spring, the group continued to work on the project as part of an independent study and focused on creating a curriculum, meeting with University officials and gathering material for the course.

Political science professor James Farr said he was already working on a similar course when he learned about the project. The two groups then joined together in creating the class.

Farr, who will be one of two instructors, said the course will not only focus on public achievement but will look at “University history as well as the University as a public space for citizen action.”

The course will fulfill the Citizenship and Public Affairs liberal education theme required at the University.

June Nobbe, director of student engagement and leadership, who will be the other instructor, said the students who helped create the class are a good example of the change students can make at the University and elsewhere.

“They have done an incredible amount of work in terms of understanding what it takes to develop a course,” Nobbe said.

Larson said the original time frame the group wanted to get the course into action was virtually impossible.

Larson said there were many barriers and individuals the students had to meet with in order to receive approval for the course, but the group succeeded.

Nobbe said the course will go through a curriculum review process after this spring, and, if approved by the University curriculum review board, will become permanent and most likely a part of the political science program.

“We want students to learn by doing,” Nobbe said.

The students are all part of the continually expanding leadership minor.

Nobbe said they have had the largest student enrollment for the minor this fall with 194 students, up 30 students from last year.

She said enrollment has increased by about 30 each fall.