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UMass Civic Initiative celebrates 10 years of engaging students with global democracy

Massachusetts State Senator Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst), along with UMass Political Science professor and Civic Initiative program director Michael Hannahan celebrated the anniversary of the UMass Civic Initiative amongst friends, supporters, students, former staff, and partners from the program’s 10-year span at an event held on April 11.

Hosted by the UMass Campus Center, the event "Ten Years of Making Connections" honored those who've made significant contributions to the global community by fostering conversations and connections that promote democracy and civic engagement.

The Civic Initiative brings students and educators from throughout the world to the UMass Amherst campus for coursework that examines American democracy in the context of public policy, civic engagement, and grassroots community building. Alumni of the program return to their home countries, where they often become part of a vast and far-reaching network of organizers, humanitarians, and scholars

“I was inspired to create the Civic Initiative so that UMass could take part in the face-to-face dialogue that really is required to bring understanding to people,” said Mike Hannahan, who founded the Civic Initiative and still oversees its six separate programs. “By combining quality coursework but also very personal experiences, I believe the Civic Initiative has evolved, so that when people return to their home countries, they remember the people they met on campus, in the community and in their day-to-day experiences, and those people come to stand for the United States.”

The event served as fundraiser for the Civic Initiative Fellows Program, which selects UMass students to work with the Civic Initiative’s international programs over the summer and help develop new programs during the school year. Fellows accompany and assist international participants throughout their stay at UMass, often forming lasting friendships.

According to Hannahan, “The most gratifying part of the job is seeing American students understand other cultures, not just through the classroom, but in person.”

The Fellows program has had a major impact on the education, experiences, and lives of dozens of UMass students over the years, with past Fellows going on to receive Fulbright scholarships, hold positions on Congressional staffs, and pursue careers in law and academia.

"I proudly support the Civic Initiative because the people engaged in this effort are nothing more and nothing less than the guardians of civilization," Senator Rosenberg said. "Helping to build community on a global scale is ambitious, to be sure, but it also demonstrates that this generation aims to be a credit to those who came before, and an inspiration to those who will follow. Here's to another successful decade of the UMass Civic Initiative."

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