During the week of September 14, faculty from Alexandria’s Liberal Arts Division and Social and Professional Sciences Division, in collaboration with staff from the NOVA Institute for Public Service, Student Services and Learning and Technology Resources sponsored events in honor of Constitution and Citizenship Day.
Each year on September 17, the nation commemorates the signing of the Constitution in 1787 and recognizes those who have or are taking steps to become U.S. citizens. As part of the observance, many campus community members worked together to give students opportunities to think about the Constitution and citizenship and provide them with a meaningful platform to discuss and share thoughts throughout the week.
The week kicked off with a program designed to encourage students to think about how they are citizens of the world and challenged them to consider ways in which they could “think globally,” but “act locally.” The second event of the week brought Dr. Robert Koulish, MLaw Programs director at the University of Maryland, to campus for a guest lecture on the 14th Amendment and its citizenship clause. Koulish spoke about the history that led to the development of the amendment and specific clause and what both currently mean today for citizens and non-citizens, alike.
The next event featured members of the NOVA Forensic Team, led by Dr. Nathan Carter, who debated whether or not the U.S. should ban the sale of assault weapons in front of an audience of students, faculty and staff, bringing into focus the Second Amendment and its promise of the right to bear arms.
The week culminated with a final event on September 17 that focused on the First Amendment’s freedom of speech rights, particularly political speech rights. Dr. Jack Lechelt, professors Kelly Hebron and Nick Gaffney came together for a panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Jim McClellan, on the issue of banning state-issued license plates that convey political messages or other offensive symbols, such as the Confederate flag. Just after the panel discussion, the Alexandria Library hosted a Rock the Vote campaign allowing students to register to vote.
At all of the events, technology was used to engage the audience. Participants used Turning Point response cards (clickers) for polls and surveys that were embedded in PowerPoint presentations each day. Each event audience was asked a series of questions at the beginning, during or at the end where participants could select their answers once polling was open. Data from these multiple-choice questions were immediately displayed on screen once polling closed and served as a springboard for in-depth discussion and debate. Students were also able to register to vote using campus iPads during the Rock the Vote campaign.
Over 300 students, faculty and staff participated in the week’s events. It was exciting to see the hard work and collaboration on the Alexandria Campus result in captivating discussion and active participation. Thanks to all those involved who made this week a success.