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FSU to Mentor Other Schools in Building Student Leaders
09/29/2015

FSU to Mentor Other Schools in Building Student Leaders
FSU students and local government officials confer in March at one of the Town Hall Meetings created as part of the Lead Initiative, which encourages students to become more engaged in the democratic process. FSU will now be mentoring other schools across the country in this initiative.

Last semester, Frostburg State University created a series of Town Hall Meetings for students and elected officials that focused on government at the local, state and federal levels. Thanks to conversations students began there, the city of Frostburg and the FSU Student Government Association have partnered to create a recycling program for off-campus student residents next semester.

“That was a direct result of getting students in a room with their city officials, talking about the issues,” said Patrick O’Brien, director of the Office of Civic Engagement. “One of the big things that we’re really going for in building these citizen leaders is being knowledgeable about politics. … You have to know where to go. These Town Halls are shaped to allow students to talk about their issues but then guide them into, ‘well, that’s your issue; this is how you go about making a change in the political world.’”

The meetings began as a result of FSU’s participation in the National Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (Lead Initiative), a program run by NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and FSU has been so successful that other schools are now looking to it for advice.

“For Frostburg, it recognizes the commitment that we’ve made to civic learning and democratic engagement,” said William Mandicott, assistant vice president for the Office of Student and Community Involvement. “We have been committed to building citizen leaders.”

The Lead Initiative partners U.S. colleges and universities to share best practices in higher education on how to educate students into informed, engaged citizens of a democratic society. For the past two years, O’Brien has been learning from colleagues at other institutions about what has worked on their campuses.

This year, FSU has been named a Lead Consulting Institution, which means O’Brien and other FSU staff will act as mentors for others in the Lead Initiative, sharing lessons learned at Frostburg with prestigious colleges and universities around the country.

According to NASPA, Lead Consulting Institutions “are first among peers, having leadership responsibilities for the mentoring, guidance and support of each cohort.”

The FSU Office of Civic Engagement leads the way in that commitment, fostering active citizenship through four pillars of civic engagement: Democratic Engagement, National Service, Service Learning and Volunteerism. It administers student and community service through programs such as AmeriCorps, ECHOSTARS and Read to Succeed and days of service such as Beautify the ’Burg. It also engages students in the democratic process. Using TurboVote, a web tool recommended by another institution in the Lead Initiative, students at FSU registered 235 new voters last year, and they are starting the process again this year.

“The sharing of best practices has been really helpful,” said Mandicott. “We learned how to engage faculty in the work that we do and how we can weave the civic engagement work into their curriculums. … It’s been exciting as an educator and a practitioner to watch it all come together.” Timothy Magrath, director of the J. Glenn Beall Institute for Public Affairs, which partnered with the Office of Civic Engagement to create last semester’s Town Hall Meetings; Christine Willingham, lecturer in the Department of Communication; and Kathleen Powell, professor in the Department of Social Work, received particular appreciation from Mandicott and O’Brien.

This year, other institutions will benefit from some of FSU’s best practices, such as ECHOSTARS, which stands for Empowering Communities – Helping Others – Service Through Action, Resources and Sustainability, the AmeriCorps program for first-year FSU students.

“We have living-learning communities steeped in civic engagement that many institutions don’t have,” said Mandicott. ECHOSTARS brings interested students together into one residence hall to live, attend classes and serve the public as a dedicated community.

FSU’s students will also continue to benefit from the Lead Initiative. In the next series of Town Hall meetings, O’Brien wants to foster a conversation about the presidential candidates and their positions on important issues in the 2016 elections, ensuring that students have the information they will need to cast informed ballots on Election Day.

For information about FSU’s civic learning and democratic engagement programs, visit www.frostburg.edu/sci/civic-engagement-home or contact O’Brien at 301-687-4210 or pobrien@frostburg.edu.

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For further information on this release, contact:

Office of News and Media Services
Frostburg State University
101 Braddock Road
Frostburg, MD  21532-2303

Telephone: 301-687-3171
Fax: 301-687-7589
E-mail: news@frostburg.edu