Celebrate UAA’s first Democracy & Civic Action Week

Democracy & Civic Action Week is an eight-day event filled with activities aimed to engage participants in learning about their rights and responsibilities as U.S. citizens.

The week begins on Sep. 17, Constitution Day, and ends on Sep. 25, National Voter Registration Day. The week of events is open to all students, staff and community members.

The various events will cover topics about the roles of democracy and civic engagement in the United States. Campus departments, clubs and professors of all kinds will take part in hosting the week’s events, each sharing their perspectives through the lens of their expertise.

This is UAA’s first year hosting the event. Donna Aguiniga, associate director of the Center for Community Engagement & Learning, and Marsha Olson, faculty member in the Department of Communication, originally planned to organize an event about voting stories. At a conference over the summer, they found inspiration from Miami University in Ohio about dedicating a whole week to democracy. When they presented the idea to various departments at UAA, Aguiniga and Olson found a lot of support.

“The thing that stood out to me about planning this week was there is a lot of desire for activities like this,” Olson said. “All you have to do is take initiative and ask. The interactions I’ve had with people have been overwhelmingly positive.”

Olson and Aguiniga partnered with over 20 on-campus and community organizations, including the Seawolf Debate Program, UAA Theatre and Dance and The Northern Light to bring Democracy & Civic Action week to life. With such a wide variety of participants, they hope to attract a wide variety of students and community members to the events.

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“Democracy should be action oriented, and each person should see a role for themselves in strengthening their community,” Aguiniga said.

Ian Hartman, associate professor of history, is part of multiple events within the week, including Read a Line, Get a Vine, Thwarting Democracy: The Ebb and Flow of Voting Rights in America and Movie & Panel Discussion: This Changes Everything. Hartman sees the events as a unique opportunity to share the importance of voting rights and what has been done to achieve them.

“My hope is that students will do more than just memorize the Constitution, but actually think about what it has meant for certain people at certain times and understand that only through social movements and struggles have the words of the Constitution come alive through civic action,” Hartman said.

Herminia Din, professor of art education, is giving a lecture titled How to Start the Plastic Free Challenge: A Civic Action. The event is structured as an interactive workshop, encouraging students to brainstorm ways that individuals can make a difference in terms of reducing single-use plastic pollution. Din encourages students to participate in the events in order to be aware of the issues that we’re facing as a nation.

“By participating in this event and the others in the week, you have the opportunity to be informed and take action. That’s the key,” Din said. “As a college student, being informed is really important, but to be informed, you have to come out and participate. This week is really to get things started.”

In addition to engaging and informing students on relevant issues, one of the main goals of Democracy & Civic Action Week is connecting the university with the community, Aguiniga said. The events over the weekend work together with community organizations, including Welcoming Anchorage, a nationwide initiative to foster a sense of togetherness in various cities across the U.S.

“We grow as a society when we talk and hear and learn from each other, and the university should be a place where people are exposed to new ideas and events like this,” Aguiniga said.

Democracy & Civic Action Week will span from Monday, Sep. 17 to Tuesday, Sep. 25. The Northern Light will is partnering with the Center for Community Engagement & Learning to host Pizza and the Press: A Conversation with Local Journalists. The event will feature local reporters Kyle Hopkins, Danielle Rivera, Nathaniel Herz and Mariah DeJesus-Remaklus and will take place Tuesday, Sept. 18 from 3 – 4 p.m. in the Student Union Cafeteria.