College of Arts and Humanities

Clemson to lead the nation in developing civic education teaching tools


Two Clemson faculty members have been awarded a $500,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to create a national hub to support the development of civic education materials in multiple higher ed courses.

Associate Dean of Engagement and General Education Bridget Trogden along with Professor and Humanities Hub Director James Burns will lead the Civic Engagement and Voting Rights Teacher Scholars initiative.

“We see a problem right now with college students unable to make the connection between their coursework and civic outcomes from the past, present and future,” Trogden said.

“Many faculty don’t have the luxury of time to create materials that connect their coursework to real-world issues,” Burns added.

Course-embedded teaching materials are a key part of civics education that our students have been missing.

Bridget Trogden, Associate Dean of Engagement and General Education
Photo of Bridget Trogden
Bridget Trogden

The initiative will center on a Summer Institute at Clemson, which will attract higher education faculty from around the country (Teacher Scholars) and serve as a kick-off for year-long faculty learning communities. Together, the Teacher Scholars will create open-source instructional materials for use by educators on college campuses across the country. The materials will not form a single curriculum, but they will provide resources for civics education that are ready-to-deploy, cross-curricular and pro-democracy.

“We all love to see the lightbulb moments that occur when our students make a connection to how events of the past and present impact them now and in their futures,” Trogden said. “But education has become increasingly compartmentalized, which is a problem when teaching for civic engagement and democracy. Course-embedded teaching materials are a key part of civics education that our students have been missing.”

Not only will the institute support faculty in the development of materials, but it will also help with dissemination strategies.

“These exercises fit neatly into history and civics courses, but unfortunately not every college student takes those courses,” said Burns, who is a member of the Clemson history faculty. “This program will look for touchpoints to embed civic engagement across the curriculum, particularly in literature, rhetoric, art history, ethnic studies, women’s studies, interdisciplinary studies, and other allied humanities and arts fields.”

Photo of James Burns
James Burns

The Summer Institute will begin with a two-day in-person session at Clemson, and each faculty learning committee will continue to meet virtually on a three-week basis throughout the year. In the first year, the institute will invite a total of 16 Teacher Scholars, each expected to create at least 6 deliverables for improving civic and voting rights education.

The first Summer Institute is expected to convene in June 2023, and a website providing more information for potential applicants is in development. Scholars interested in participating in the program are encouraged to contact either Trogden ( or Burns ( directly.

About The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is the nation’s largest supporter of the arts and humanities. Since 1969, the Foundation has been guided by its core belief that the humanities and arts are essential to human understanding. The Foundation believes that the arts and humanities are where we express our complex humanity, and that everyone deserves the beauty, transcendence, and freedom that can be found there. Through our grants, we seek to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. Learn more at

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