Advancing Democracy

A national leader in advancing the skills and values that support a robust and inclusive democracy, Tufts prepares students for a lifetime of engagement in democratic practices while furthering an understanding of civic life and its intersections with public and private institutions.

A person holds up an “I Voted” sticker on Election Day

Promoting Practices that Strengthen Civic Life in the United States and Around the World

The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life is at the forefront of a growing academic discipline: civic studies. The intellectual complement of social movements that aim to engage citizens to make change, civic studies asks scholars to consider important questions related to individual and group identity, shared and divergent values, relationship- and trust-building, strategies for collective action, and shared and divergent norms for discourse.

The first academic institution in the world to offer a major in civic studies—along with a distinctive minor in peace and justice studies—Tufts is building a pipeline for future leaders in this space, encouraging students to focus on critical reflection, ethical thinking, nonviolent interaction, the nature of conflict, and action for social change—within and between societies.

Bolstering these academic offerings, a cluster of Tufts research centers explores the challenges and opportunities of our democracy:

  • A national leader in nonpartisan, independent research on youth voting and engagement, CIRCLE (the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) focuses on bolstering civic engagement and K–12 civics education. 
  • The Equity in America Research Group investigates aspects of equity and inequity in the United States and the world. Along with other collaborative research initiatives, the group’s ongoing project is an annual, nationally representative survey of Americans.
  • The MGGG Redistricting Lab researches data science interventions for civil rights, drawing upon interdisciplinary expertise in mathematics, algorithms, software development, geography, science and technology studies, law, and policy. 
  • A nonpartisan group designed to ensure that lawmakers and residents in Massachusetts have access to the best information on effective public policy, the Center for State Policy Analysis aims to provide real-time analysis that informs legislative debates and helps voters better understand the stakes of ballot initiatives.
  • CivicGreen explores how civic innovation can complement other forms of innovation—planning, market, regulatory, investment, insurance, ecosystem, technological, cultural, workplace—to get an optimal alignment of tools and to enhance democracy.
  • With its emphasis on community participatory and action research, the Tisch College Community Research Center advances equitable and innovative community-university research partnerships by developing resources, networks, visibility, and new opportunities for learning.
  • Through a generous $10 million gift from Lizzie and Jonathan Tisch, A76, Tisch College has long-term support of its distinctive mission and the resources to help further strategic priorities. 

Meanwhile, robust speaker series continually attract key thinkers, activists, politicians, policymakers, and public figures to campus. Featured guests have included:

  • Journalist and author Jodi Kantor 
  • New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu
  • U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley
  • School shooting survivor and activist David Hogg
  • Civil rights lawyer and author Sherrilyn Ifill
  • Speaker of the New York City Council Corey Johnson
  • U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
  • Washington correspondent Yamiche Alcindor
  • Renowned conservationist and ethologist Jane Goodall

And at Tufts, the application of research and scholarship to the support of a robust and inclusive democracy extends beyond Tisch College. As one example, the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the School of Arts and Sciences promotes engaged research, scholarship, and discussion, with a focus on the ways in which issues of race and democracy impact the lives of global citizens.