Exploring the Fragility of Democracy: UNCW Will Utilize $300,000 Teagle Grant to Enhance Civic Education

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

The University of North Carolina Wilmington has received a $300,000 implementation grant from The Teagle Foundation to fund a program that explores the meaning and fragility of democracy.

The Fragility, Resilience and Engaged Education in Democracy (FREED) Project is a university-wide program to enhance civic education by integrating coursework, applied learning, and community-engaged research and learning. Dr. Jeanine Mingé, associate vice chancellor for community engagement and impact, Provost James Winebrake and Dr. Donyell Roseboro, UNCW chief diversity officer, co-wrote the grant.

Students will explore what it means to participate in a democracy, how that participation is activated through civic engagement and how fragile that participation may be under certain circumstances. The project will focus on Wilmington’s history, including the 1898 coup d’état and massacre.

“UNCW strives to ensure that our students graduate with an informed understanding of our democracy, its history and its functions,” said Dr. Winebrake. “This important project uses the history of our region to educate students not only about fundamental principles of democracy but also the fragility of that democracy.” 

The pilot program will launch in January 2023 as part of the University College’s first-year seminar and the common reading assignment for second-year students. Second-year students will also participate in guided Wilmington History and Democracy tours developed by community partners. Beginning in January 2024, the program will also offer an 1898 curriculum in upper-level courses. This approach allows students to build upon their understanding of democracy and local history as they engage with the material during their time at UNCW.

“We believe strongly in applied learning at UNCW,” Dr. Winebrake added. “We also believe that it is important for students to engage with their community as part of their learning experience. We know those learning experiences are reinforced and more thoroughly understood and remembered when connected to physical place. Using the history and geography of Wilmington as an opportunity to educate students about democratic principles will make these principles real to students in ways that cannot be achieved through a textbook.”

University officials also plan to work with community and city representatives to augment existing historical markers and place new markers at some of the city’s most historically significant places. The goal is to have interactive markers with QR codes that link participants to mobile web pages or apps that provide additional content, such as photos or educational videos.

“We are grateful for the faculty, staff, students and community partners who helped to realize the vision and are now turning it into concrete action,” said Dr. Mingé. “Our students will now have the opportunity to develop their skills in civic engagement, leadership and community engagement.”

The Teagle Foundation works to support and strengthen liberal arts education, striving to serve as a catalyst for improving teaching and learning in the arts and sciences while addressing financial sustainability and accountability issues in higher education.

-- Venita Jenkins