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CCCE: Facilitating Citizenship and Democracy

Prof. Lance Bennett and students in CCCE offices.
Prof. Lance Bennett and students
in CCCE offices.

When UW President Mark Emmert visited the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement (CCCE) recently, he enjoyed taking the controls of the Election 2002 Web Archive to look up the Web sites of acquaintances who ran for office in that election (see www.loc.gov/minerva/
). Led by professor Kirsten Foot, Associate Director of CCCE, the Election Web project is now investigating the role of the Web in elections in 20 countries across Europe and Asia as well as the U.S.

In a project closer to home, students in high school classes all over Seattle are participating in Student Voices, a project that uses communication technologies to help them learn about issues that affect them. CCCE director Lance Bennett says "Student Voices has enabled many UW students to learn about citizenship and civic engagement first-hand by bringing the university and the community together. It is one of the ways in which we facilitate learning through the research process."

The Election Web and Student Voices projects are examples of CCCE's mission: making communication research relevant to improving citizens' experience in a democracy. The ability to take the UW's research capacity of the university into the real world is at the core of the unique atmosphere of the CCCE, which thrives on collaboration between faculty, students, and members of communities outside the university.

Mike Xenos and Meghan Dougherty are graduate students who have worked closely with CCCE Director Lance Bennett, as well as with Kirsten Foot. Xenos is currently working with Bennett on a study of efforts to increase civic engagement among American youth through Internet communication, while Dougherty continues to work closely with Foot on the international study of online campaigning. Both credit their work with the Center as a critical part of their graduate training and scholarly development. The Learning Through Research section of the CCCE Web site (www.engagedcitizen.org) shows how students share ideas and discuss research with scholars across the quad as well as across the globe.

Andrew Waits, a senior who is double-majoring in Communication and Political Science, is also a part of the faculty-student research team comparing electoral Web spheres around the world, and is using the Center as a base for his senior honors thesis on conditions necessary for democratic deliberation to occur online. As part of her Mary Gates supported senior thesis, Christine Lee worked last year with Bennett and Xenos to create a valuable online resource for understanding youth political participation. Another Mary Gates Scholar, undergraduate David Iozzi, co-authored a paper with Bennett on the innovative uses of the Internet by presidential candidates in 2004. In addition to distributing the results of these projects through the CCCE Web site, members of the CCCE team also regularly take their projects on the road, locally, nationally and internationally.

As these activities illustrate, collaboration between departments within UW and outside community and academic institutions is central to the mission of CCCE. CCCE projects draw on expertise from Communication and Political Science, as well as other colleges, schools, departments and programs on campus. Collaborators outside the UW have included the Seattle Public Schools, the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Library of Congress, the Internet Archive, and universities around the world. The aim of CCCE is to use the communication technologies that it studies to facilitate the engagement of students in the process of learning about citizenship and democracy.

Communication Alumni e-Newsletter
Spring 2005
Editor: Victoria Sprang
Email: vsprang@u.washington.edu

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