Longwood’s innovative Civitae Core Curriculum awarded major national grant

A prominent national foundation that supports innovative educational initiatives in civics and the liberal arts has announced a major grant to Longwood in support of the university’s distinctive new Civitae Core Curriculum.

The $100,000 grant from the New York-based Teagle Foundation will fund a faculty development program in partnership with the R.R. Moton Museum, the National Historic Landmark and Virginia’s only civil rights museum. The program will help prepare faculty developing Civitae courses teach about the foundations and mechanics of American democracy.

“This is of course just one of a number of exciting grants for Longwood this year,” President W. Taylor Reveley IV said in a recent campus update that shared the news. “But I hope this announcement in particular – funding dedicated to Civitae from a prominent national source – will do more than create a noteworthy faculty program and strengthen our own teaching. It should also serve as a powerful reminder that what we’re doing here is truly distinctive, noble, important for the country, and a model for others to follow.”

The weeklong program will bring in recognized scholars and make use of founding texts of American democracy to help Longwood faculty across a range of disciplines develop Symposium courses for the new curriculum.

“We have an incredible resource for teaching civic engagement —indeed one that no other university can claim—in the Moton Museum. The history of civil rights in Prince Edward County is an important case study for exploring how ordinary citizens drew upon the founding principles and levers of our democracy to make extraordinary change,” said Dr. Larissa M. Smith, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Longwood’s unique Civitae Core Curriculum debuted in the fall of 2018 as an innovative, mission-focused general education uniquely designed to prepare students for 21st century careers while developing citizen leaders equipped to serve their own communities. Civitae’s hallmarks are small, communication-intensive classes taught by some of the university’s most innovative professors.

Unlike many general education programs, Civitae courses are taken throughout a Longwood student’s four-year tenure, building from exploratory “Foundation” classes in rhetoric, citizenship, and different liberal arts and sciences disciplines to “Perspectives” classes that form connections between areas of study to broaden horizons and foster scholarly inquiry. Civitae culminates in a “Symposium for the Common Good,” an intense, semester-long study of the campus-wide theme E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One), taught from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.

Founded in 1944, Teagle is prominent in philanthropic circles for its work to strengthen liberal arts education by supporting innovative curricula, teaching and assessment, and it has a long track record of partnering with well-known institutions. Grantees awarded this year in addition to Longwood include Yale, Brandeis, Columbia and NYU.

The award to Longwood comes under Teagle’s “Education for American Civic Life” program. The unique program will give first priority to Longwood faculty developing Symposium courses engaging them in the study of civics and democratic engagement through the lens of the history of the civil rights movement in Prince Edward County. There are plans to include faculty teaching other Civitae courses, particularly those who teach the first-year Inquiry into Citizenship seminar, in the program as well.

A day during the program will coincide with Longwood’s annual Teaching and Learning Institute, open to all Longwood faculty. With the support from Teagle, plans are developing to invite faculty from across Virginia to attend the institute, which will be focused on civic engagement. With particular encouragement from Longwood, the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) now requires all public universities to define and assess civic engagement as a core competency.

“Our faculty already use the museum in their courses in a variety of ways, and this award will enable us to advance that work even further, creating engaging and enlightening Symposium courses for Longwood students,” said Smith. “This award from Teagle is a great affirmation of our faculty, who have devoted years to developing and designing the Civitae curriculum and its courses. It ensures that we can continue that work at full speed and make Longwood known across the state and nation for its vital work in preparing citizens for democratic engagement.”

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