Empowering Students as Change Agents

UMBC is one of several universities working closely with the White House to launch a new effort to promote engaged citizenship. The initiative officially kicks off January 10 with “For Democracy’s Future: Education Reclaims Our Civic Mission,” an all-day event at the White House featuring U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and education leaders from across the country.

Catie Collins, UMBC Student Government Association president, serves as the nation’s only undergraduate student on the steering committee of the American Commonwealth Partnership (ACP), which has partnered with the U.S. Department of Education and Association of American Colleges and Universities to develop this initiative. She will attend the White House event, which will also stream live at (2:00-4:00 p.m. ET and 5:30-6:00 p.m., with Secretary Duncan’s remarks).

This will launch what the White House describes as “a national conversation about the importance of educating all students, from grade school to graduate school, for informed and engaged citizenship” (see press release). It also coincides with the release of two reports from the Department of Education, “A Crucible Moment: College Learning and Democracy’s Future” and “Civic Learning and Engagement in Democracy: A Road Map and Call to Action.”

UMBC has emerged as a leader in the movement to energize campus and community engagement. In a time of widespread skepticism about the capacity of our democracy to respond to society’s needs, UMBC programs and partnerships are demonstrating the power of individuals to foster meaningful change and renewal.  

This work is deeply embedded in a campus culture that builds community from diversity and celebrates ingenuity and resourcefulness. Over the past decade, UMBC has developed campus and civic engagement projects that have served as national models, such as Prove It!, featured in a video at the White House event.

Prove It! is an annual, campus-wide contest that funds student-led projects to improve UMBC, such as a program to convert waste oil from campus eateries into biodiesel fuel for university vehicles. Prove It! has been a powerful way to spread our student government’s core message: all UMBC students can apply their skills and energy to addressing community challenges.

In Fall 2012, UMBC will launch BreakingGround, a campaign to connect and make more visible courses, events and activities that embrace a culture of civic agency. BreakingGround will highlight the potential of UMBC students, faculty and staff to become problem solvers, resource creators, coalition builders and agents of social transformation.

To learn more about BreakingGround and UMBC’s role in the American Commonwealth Partnership, contact Communications Manager Dinah Winnick, Press inquiries for the event “For Democracy’s Future” should be sent to Sara Gast, Sara.Gast@ed-gov. To become involved in the national initiative, visit