PRF 24-25: Civil Dialogue and Civic Engagement | University of Portland

PRF 24-25: Civil Dialogue and Civic Engagement

Portland, Oregon has had an outsized national image in recent decades, from quirky darling of the New York Times and Portlandia to the “urban hellscape” shown in media cautionary tales of the post-COVID era. Less visible in this shifting public imaginary is what’s more ordinary about Portland: despite a broad range of resources for unique forms of social engagement here, the city has struggled to bring citizens together across differences in identities and ideologies. University campuses could be a space for addressing these struggles, but instead students report feeling under-equipped to handle discussion and disagreement around difficult topics, while the wider public reports weakening confidence in the purpose of college.

Our 24-25 theme--Civil Dialogue and Civic Engagement--is inspired by these challenges in our local and academic contexts. The program will bring together a working group of faculty, students, and community partners to build projects and courses that engage Portland through the lens of civic life. In an era of increasing polarization and stress on democratic norms, how can we use the tools of the humanities to create hopeful and productive forms of civic engagement? And how might connecting the humanities to other academic disciplines in turn help us engage across difference and with our communities? Across the year the program will explore those questions with the goal of helping to build healthier democratic culture in our city. 

This work is part of a larger project supported by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. In the coming year, PRF will begin an expansion of its successful undergraduate research program into an Engaged Humanities Hub that will operate as a center for innovative humanities work at UP, including the development of engaged humanities curriculum, experiences, and infrastructure. The 3-year award, the largest humanities grant in UP history, will bring together interdisciplinary faculty working groups from 10 academic disciplines to focus on Civic Humanities, Environmental Humanities and Health Humanities.

You can read more about the project here