William Ball, associate professor and department chair of political science, received the McGraw-Hill Award for Scholarship and Teaching on Civic Engagement in Political Science. The award was presented by the education section of the American Political Science Association (APSA) at a meeting in Boston in earlier this semester.
The award recognizes political scientists who advance civic engagement through the study of engagement and participation and seeks to honor a wide range of unique and new approaches to the scholarship of teaching engagement. In particular, the award is bestowed to scholars who raise political awareness, involvement, and participation of undergraduate students.
“I initially got involved in civic education as a means of permitting students to observe the political life of the community right outside the campus boundaries,” Ball said of his entry into civic engagement. “Then I came to see that students could not only observe this life but could develop as leaders by participating it, while also giving something back to the community.”
“Most recently, I have come to understand that the ‘real world’ is hungry for the very type of environment of learning and tolerance that is foundational for campus life,” Ball added. “In particular, while there are fabulous civic education programs for students in the K–12 ages and a few for college students, there is basically nothing out there for citizens 18 and older who are not in school.”
“Just at the moment that people become voters, we stop offering them a way to continue their civic education and growth,” Ball said. “Instead we leave them to fend for themselves in a world of sound bites and attack ads. So the priority for me at this point is to bring all this together, college students, the rest of the campus community, and the public, in a true learning community that is deliberative, tolerant, inquiry-based, and finds the common ground for action on problems of policy and governance. It is also a priority for me to find ways to make the boundaries between campus and outside community evaporate, at least where civic education is concerned.”
In his effort to promote civic engagement, Ball has devoted the last eight years to creating and growing the Leadership in Public Affairs (LPA) program at TCNJ. The LPA program focuses on public deliberative forums that bring students together with citizens and leaders from the surrounding community to engage on pressing policy issues. Eight large-scale forums—known as Public Issues Summits—have been held, to date, involving a total of nearly 1,000 participants discussing issues such as sprawl, immigration, property taxes, and climate change.
“I am extremely pleased to receive the award, mostly because awarding it for the work I have done recognizes the value of providing students the opportunities to develop as community leaders, of bringing them together with the public that quite literally surrounds the campus in an environment of mutual learning,” said Ball.