SALISBURY, MD---A congressional candidates debate. Voter registration drives. Local leadership training seminars. A Salisbury University class trip to work with the homeless in New York City. What do these diverse activities have in common? All were sponsored by SU’s Institute for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement (PACE), a unique nonpartisan institute on the Lower Eastern Shore fostering student and community collaboration.
Over the past decade, PACE has been the organization local communities have turned to for guidance. How can recycling be improved in Salisbury? What is the best form of city government? What are the environmental views of the residents of Wicomico County? PACE and its student-faculty teams conducted survey research to find answers.
This year PACE celebrates 10 years of introducing students to the joys and challenges of public service. As part of this anniversary, the institute holds a 10th anniversary “Friend-Raiser” 4-6 p.m. Sunday, May 3, in the Miller Alumni Garden at the Alumni House. Tickets are $50 each.
The Institute began in 1999 when Drs. Harry Basehart (political science) and Fran Kane (Philosophy), discouraged by the political apathy of students, decided to try something innovative. They were convinced that if students could have hands-on experiences with local and regional officials serving the public good, they could change attitudes about politics and develop civic habits.
Funded by a grant from the Kerr Fund in Easton, MD, Basehart and Kane launched PACE with a great deal of hope.
“Today’s students, used to volunteering, were at first a bit skeptical about becoming involved in the more arcane art of governing,” said Kane. “But when they saw the even greater impact they could have in effecting policy, they jumped in with both feet.”
Today, many of PACE’s former students are successful public servants in their own right, working in government, politics and in the non-profit arena.
PACE will continue its civic engagement celebration this fall with academic events that focus on the dramatic shifts in the country’s young adults’ involvement in politics and government.
“The landscape has certainly changed over the past decade,” said Basehart. “We are happy and proud to have played some small part in creating a more engaged citizenry.”
For more information or to reserve tickets to the “Friend-Raiser,” call 410-677-5045 or visit the PACE Web site at www.salisbury.edu/pace.