Welcome to the Duke Center for Civic Engagement. We’re in the first year of the Center in its new form. The Center was created in 2007 by the Office of the University Provost to house Duke’s then new initiative called DukeEngage as well as to coordinate Duke’s many and diverse efforts in civic engagement. Following a review of the DCCE, in February 2010, Provost Peter Lange and Dean Stephen Nowicki invited me to be the inaugural faculty director of the DCCE, a position that I would hold along with my responsibilities in the Department of Religion. The re-conceptualized DCCE, now independent of DukeEngage, is a university-wide center whose goal is to build a culture of civic engagement at Duke on a strong foundation of coursework, research, and thoughtful community partnerships.
In a world and a neighborhood challenged by inequities in many areas of life from energy to education, from poverty and infrastructure to healthcare and human rights, Duke demonstrates its civic citizenship through an impressive array of programs and initiatives dedicated to service-learning and civic engagement. And indeed, it has been a time of humbling study for me as I arrive at an understanding of these efforts at Duke and begin to develop a vision for how we can connect these efforts to collectively transform our sense of the civic, our relationships to it, and consequently, our ability to more effectively better the worlds in which we live. If we see civic engagement as the understanding and the cultivation of a sense of co-being in the world, civic engagement is never optional (one can’t say “I don’t do that” and or “I finished doing that”). To agree to co-being requires us to cultivate practices of engagement in everyday life.
It helps to acknowledge at the outset that civic engagement is always work-in-progress. The new DCCE’s key initiatives (described on other pages on this website) and its own ethos recognize that the vitality of civic engagement is in continuously examining not only what, but also how we know, how we share, how we act—and above all, how we connect these three. In this, civic engagement, like the halftone image from the world of art, is about how we perceive, arrange and connect dots. It is when we connect the dots that are outside in the world with dots inside us that engagement begins and we can arrive at a visionary understanding of the civic.
Faculty Director, DCCE, & Associate Professor, Department of Religion