After two years of pandemic-related disruptions, APSA was thrilled to welcome 20 new Fellows to the third annual Institute for Civically Engaged Research (ICER) this June, in-person on the campus of Tufts University. After being forced to cancel the Institute in 2020 and a move to a virtual format in 2021, APSA was able to welcome 20 political scientists from institutions ranging from community colleges to Ivy League Universities to Boston for four days of learning, reflection, and community building.
ICER is a four-day, residential institute led by Amy Cabrera-Rasmussen (California State University Long Beach), Peter Levine (Tufts University), and Valeria Sinclair-Chapman (Purdue University), with support from APSA’s Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs. The Institute provides political scientists of any rank or institutional affiliation with training to conduct ethical and rigorous civically engaged research (CER), which can be defined as an approach to inquiry that involves political scientists collaborating in a mutually beneficial way with people and groups beyond the academy to co-produce, share, and apply knowledge related to power or politics that contributes to self-governance. ICER is an initiative of APSA’s Presidential Task Force on New Partnerships and is made possible by generous financial support from the Ivywood Foundation.
Over the course of the Institute’s four days our twenty ICER Fellows had the opportunity to think deeply about how to incorporate CER into their own careers through research design exercises, guest lectures, and plenty of time to collaborate with each other. The Institute was bookended by addresses by the leaders of APSA. Former APSA president Rodgers Smith, opened the week with an address on the importance of CER as the political science profession strives to remain relevant to the public in the face of growing hostility to democracy, and Current APSA president, John Ishiyama capped off the Institute by voicing APSA’s continued support for CER.
As the Fellows worked together to create CER projects, they had lots of inspiration thanks to a fantastic lineup of guest speakers. The first guest was Dayna Cunningham, the dean of Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, who provided a theme for the Institute by observing that progress is ”co-constructed,” an observation that our fellows took to heart and often retuned to over the course of the Institute. The Fellows also received lots of examples of how academics and community groups could create both powerful research and meaningful change thanks to the other guest speakers. Celina Su of CUNY and Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation told the group about her work as part of New York City’s participatory budget Steering Committee. Fonna Forman, a professor of Political Science at UC-San Diego and the director of the university’s Center on Global Justice joined the group virtually to speak about her work as the co-leader of UCSD Community Stations, a network of field stations across the US-Mexico border region, designed for engaged research and teaching on poverty and social equity. Samantha Majic, an associate professor of Political Science at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice who has worked closely with sex workers led a discussion of the ethical considerations researchers need to make when performing CER. Last, but certainly not least, Ethel Tungohan, a scholar of immigrant politics at York University in Toronto, Canada and the founder of the “Academic Aunties” podcast visited on the final day of the Institute to talk about navigating the professional demands of academia while conducing CER.
While the Fellows were certainly busy during ICER, they also had time for making connections and having fun. From the start, ICER has been about building a community of scholars interested in CER, and this year was no exception. Whether during breaks, at lunch, or after hours in the university residence halls, you could always spot groups of Fellows chatting about navigating life in the academy. The 2022 cohort also met with representatives of the 2019 ICER Fellows cohort, who were at Tufts for an alumni event. The 2019 Fellows held a Q&A for the 2022 group in which the alumni spoke about how they used what they learned at ICER in their own work. As a bonus, the 2019 alumni also held a happy hour on Wednesday night so that everyone could unwind and chat about whatever was on their minds. By the time the Institute was finished, the 2022 Fellows had already made plans to reunite at this year’s APSA annual meeting in Montreal and were hard at work creating resources to share with other civically engaged researchers.
With the completion of this year’s Institute, there are now almost 60 ICER alumni at institutions across the United States, Mexico, China and Europe. APSA is extremely proud to have had the opportunity to support these scholars and we are very excited to see who will be joining their ranks as 2023 ICER Fellows!