What is Project Pericles?
Project Pericles, named after the Athenian statesman credited with articulating Athenian democracy to the ancient world, was conceived in 1999 by Eugene M. Lang to address a national concern: the growing political cynicism and civic disengagement of young people. A retired businessman well known for his philanthropic and innovative ventures in education, including the "I Have a Dream Foundation," Lang was motivated by his belief that higher education should be the primary medium for revitalizing the legacy of Pericles.
Colleges and universities recognized as Project Pericles campuses are chosen based on their commitment to civic engagement in their existing programs but are also challenged to expand those endeavors to serve as a clear model for the rest of the higher education community. Formal action and involvement by an institution's governing board are part of the unique policy requirements of Project Pericles. These requirements, designed to foster participation by the entire college community, value and encourage socially and civically-oriented initiatives.
At the time of its selection in 2005, Hendrix was the 20th institution to become part of Project Pericles. Twenty-nine colleges and universities are now member institutions.
What does it mean to Hendrix College?
The Project Pericles program at each member institution exhibits the unique culture of that college or university. At Hendrix, the program exhibits the college's commitment to active learning with a variety of endeavors that allow members of the college community to learn from each other and learn through hands-on activities. The program also exhibits the college's commitment to further an atmosphere in which the most controversial issues of the day are discussed and debated in a civil manner, an attribute of a healthy democracy.
As such, the first new program initiated by Project Pericles at Hendrix was the weekly Hendrix Forum. Held at lunchtime most Thursday, the Hendrix Forum focuses on a topic announced only a few days in advance so as to maximize the currency of the topic. An informed facilitator frames the conversation and then quickly turns the spotlight to the members of the community to exchange their own views of the topic. The Forum is designed to encourage thoughtful and passionate, yet civil, discussion.
Another defining characteristic of Hendrix is its alumni commitment to public service. From community organizing to political consulting to work in the intelligence community, innumerable Hendrix alumni from across the ideological spectrum "do democracy" either in their professional life or as committed volunteers. To celebrate these alumni's contributions and to allow present members of the Hendrix community to learn from them, Project Pericles sponsors Hendrix Alumni Doing Democracy (HADD). In this program, one or two times per semester the Project Pericles program brings to campus alums who "do democracy" in some manner either as a career (journalists, congressional staffers, etc.) or as a noncareer activity (community work, etc.). During their time on campus, these guests participate in some public lecture/presentation/panel, visit with students about a career in their field, and may engage in other activities (class visits, etc.) depending upon their schedule and expertise.
In addition to the Forum, HADD, Public Service Fellowship Program, and the Project Pericles Advisory Committee, consisting of members of all the constituencies of the college, works to design other programs that promote a healthier Hendrix community, stronger links between Hendrix and the community around it, and opportunities for all members of the Hendrix community to become more vibrant participants in democracy through learning about the political process and through engaging in democracy-promoting activities.
Be sure to like Project Pericles at Hendrix on Facebook!
Join us most Thursdays in Campbell North from 12:10 - 1 p.m. for discussions on various civic engagement topics. Whenever you miss a Forum that you want to hear, go nab the podcast of the event. They are posted here.