Academic Partner Spotlight: UVU's Center for Constitutional Studies
We interviewed Scott Paul, new executive director of Utah Valley University’s Center for Constitutional Studies (CCS), and Axel Ramirez, PhD, UVU Professor of Secondary Education. UCLC: What does the CCS and its Constitutional Literacy Initiative (CLI) offer K-12 teachers? Scott (SP): Our mission at the CCS is to increase constitutional literacy in a non-partisan manner. To that end, we recently launched the Constitutional Literacy Initiative, which is focused on professional development for teachers, and student engagement. In collaboration with UVU’s School of Education, CCS brings school districts on campus for their teacher development days. The Utah Legislature’s Utah Federalism Commission (see full history here) sponsored a research and training initiative on Federalism, which includes a summer workshop for teachers. We will be holding the first workshop this June (the application will go online soon). Axel (AR): Knowledge empowers teachers. They are the classroom experts. They love picking the brains of our scholars, judges, and pedagogy experts. As they gain knowledge, they become more dynamic teachers because they understand more of the nuances that make the founders and their ideas engaging and relevant to what is occurring in today's world. What does the CCS offer secondary students? SP: Through our teacher networks and district social studies leaders, we invite secondary students to UVU campus for academic conferences like Constitution Week in September, a Federalism Conference in the fall, and a First Amendment Conference in the spring. We fund the buses, food, and substitute teacher expenses for the teachers that express interest in those sessions. With COVID-19, we’re live-streaming these sessions to the classrooms. What will passage of HB327 mean for the CCS and CLI? SP: HB 327 and CLI will be separate, but complementary. A possibility would be that one year, teachers can do CLI. Another year, they can do Civic Thought & Leadership Initiative (CTLI) training programs that were funded through HB327. The CTLI is still very much in the conceptual phase, so everything is speculative at this point. What are your hopes for the Utah Civic Learning Collaborative? AR: When you invited me to those civic discussions, I realized that was exactly what we need: to coordinate better all the things that are happening at the state level. The UCLC gathers input from all of stakeholders—from the USBE, to nonprofits and community groups, to teachers and students, and more. Higher ed definitely has a role to play. Besides content professors like me and UVU’s Center for Constitutional Studies, we have the Women’s Center and the Center for Social Impact. What’s been missing to date is a way to leverage all of those resources and for the practical benefit of K-12 students.