NASPA Civic Engagement Initiatives

To support the field of civic learning and democatic engment (CLDE), NASPA is committed to providing resources and opportunities to enhance and develop your understanding of CLDE in higher education. 

  • Civic Action Network
  • Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Meeting
  • Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Awards

Opportunities and Initiatives

  • Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Knowledge Community

    The Civic Learning & Democratic Engagement (CLDE) Knowledge Community is a space for professional development, idea generation, scholarship, and discussion related to the field of civic education and public service. The CLDE KC supports student affairs professionals as they promote engaged citizenship and student development, encourage democratic participation in their communities, respect and appreciate diversity, and advocate applied learning and social responsibility. To get involved with the KC, click here

  • Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Publications

    NASPA publishes books, periodicals, and other media to inform student affairs professionals and assist them in their daily work to support student learning and success. NASPA publications feature the work of scholars and practitioners in the fields of higher education and student affairs. NASPA offers a curate collection of publications specific to the focus of Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. To browse this collection, click here

  • CLDE Theory of Change

    Since the publication of the A Crucible Moment report in 2012, many higher education professionals have engaged further in the CLDE field in the hopes of fulfilling the vision laid out by our colleagues to create a more socially just, civically engaged, and democratically-minded future. With this inspiration, colleagues have been engaging in the development of a framework to support our work as civic educators. This framework is based on a four question model and has been derived from work at the annual CLDE meeting and through the networks of the NASPA LEAD Initiative and AASCU’s American Democracy Project. This framework builds on the components of A Crucible Moment in how are these threads -- civic ethos, civic literacy and skill building, civic inquiry, civic action, and civic agency -- actualized on our campuses and outside of the campus community.  To learn more about the CLDE Theory of Change, click here

  • NASPA LEAD Initiative

    NASPA’s LEAD Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (LEAD Initiative) comprises a network of NASPA member colleges and universities committed to encouraging and highlighting the work of student affairs in making civic learning and democratic engagement a part of every student’s college education.

    The LEAD Initiative offers unique professional development opportunities, targeted resources, networking, and recognition for its LEAD Institutions. To learn more about the program and how your institution can get involved, click here.

  • National Student Affairs Day of Action

    The purpose of the National Student Affairs Day of Action is to encourage student affairs professionals, specifically NASPA members, to engage in advocacy and civic engagement activities in their communities on one specific day a year.  

    Engaging with our representative democracy is essential to maintaining the health and function of our nation’s government. Whether you are just getting started on your journey to becoming an engaged participant or have been active for some time, NASPA has compiled resources and suggestions for learning and engaging in local, state, and national policy conversations relevant to student affairs professionals. As legislation continues to evolve, we will keep the information here current, so please check back often for the most up-to-date information.

    We understand that student affairs professionals are sometimes hesitant to engage in active advocacy because of uncertainty about where their roles as campus employees end and their rights as private individuals begins. While we cannot offer legal advice or guidance, there are many ways for student affairs professionals to engage politically, both as institutional employees and as private individuals.

    Since there numerous ways to engage as an #SAadvocate, NASPA has created a resource page for #SAadvocates at all levels. 

  • Policy & Advocacy 

    NASPA staff regularly works with members to provide overviews and updates on key federal and state policy conversations relevant to student affairs work. NASPA’s policy and advocacy team also liaises between NASPA members and other national associations to inform higher education professionals and policymakers about the effect of passed and proposed policies on college campuses. NASPA’s policy and advocacy work is guided by the Association’s Public Policy Agenda, developed by the Public Policy Division. The current Public Policy Agenda was approved by the NASPA Board of Directors in July 2017 and will be in place through July 2020. 

    NASPA regularly represents the voices of student affairs professionals in policy conversations in Washington, D.C. along with other higher education associations. Our recent statements and letters from the higher education community that we have joined demonstrate the specific areas we are working to draw policymakers’ attention to and may be useful as you develop your own talking points and letters. The list below highlights recent statements and letters NASPA has drafted or participated in.

  • Voter Friendly Campus

    The Voter Friendly Campus designation program was started through the partnership of Campus Vote Project and NASPA in 2016. The goal of the program is to help institutions develop plans to coordinate administrators, faculty, and student organizations in civic and electoral engagement.

    The Voter Friendly Campus designation helps administrators develop a strategy to engage students and set clear goals so a path can be created in advance of upcoming elections. These activities can be institutionalized for years to come, keeping students engaged as they enter, and move through their time at school.

    After colleges and universities execute their plan to help students register and vote campuses will be evaluated and designated as an official Voter Friendly Campus.

    CAMPUS VOTE PROJECT and NASPA are proud to offer this opportunity to institutions interested in engaging students, faculty, administration, and community partners in the democratic process.  This program is endorsed by American Democracy Project, The Democracy Commitment, and Young Invincibles. 

    Visit the Voter Friendly Campus Site for more information. 

Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement Terminology

  • Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement

    Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement (CLDE) means promoting the education of students for engaged citizenship through democratic participation in their communities, respect and appreciation of diversity, applied learning and social responsibility. (

  • Civic Engagement

    Civic Engagement means working to make a difference in the civic life of our communities and developing the combination of knowledge, skills, values and motivation to make that difference. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both political and non-political processes. (Thomas Ehrlich (Ed.) Civic Responsibility and Higher Education. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 2000)

  • Community Engagement

    Community Engagement is the collaboration between institutions of higher education and their larger communities (local, regional/state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity. (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 2012)

  • Political Engagement

    Political Engagement is defined as “activity that has the intent or effect of influencing government action – either directly by affecting the making or implementation of public policy or indirectly by influencing the selection of those people who make those policies” (Verba, Schlozman and Brady,1995, p. 38). 

  • Service-Learning

    Service Learning is a form of experiential education in which students engage in activities that address human and community needs together with structured opportunities intentionally designed to promote student learning and development.  (*Service-Learning definition cited from Jacoby, Service-Learning in Higher Education, 1996)