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Politically Themed Residential Learning Communities as Incubators of Interest in Government and Politics

Chapter 17: Politically Themed Residential Learning Communities as Incubators of Interest in Government and Politics

by John McTagueTowson University

This chapter reports findings from the inaugural semester of Towson University’s Political Engagement Community, in which students from a variety of majors interested in political engagement live together on one floor of a residence hall while also taking a section of Introduction to American Government. Using the Carnegie Foundation Political Engagement Survey, I find that students report that they are more likely to read about politics in newspapers and discuss public affairs with others after having experienced one semester participating in the Political Engagement Community. They also report higher levels of knowledge about current political issues, how political institutions work, and have an increased appreciation for the efficacy of working through political parties. In contrast, students also report that solving community problems is less central to their individual sense of self and are more likely to believe that it is difficult to solve problems on campus. While these findings speak to the promise for politically themed residential learning communities to augment other proven methods of promoting civic and political engagement among university students, there is also a clear need for further research to develop best practices to fully appreciate and leverage their potential.

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About the Author

John McTague is assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Towson University. He earned his BA (With Honors) in political science at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey and completed his PhD in the Department of Government and Politics at University of Maryland, College Park. A practitioner of service-learning pedagogy, John teaches courses in American politics, particularly the subjects of religion and politics, race and inequality, political parties, and research methodology. He has made over twenty research presentations at various professional conferences and his work has been featured in journals such as Legislative Studies Quarterly, American Politics Research, and Political Research Quarterly.

Teaching Civic Engagement Across the Disciplines / Copyright ©2017 by the American Political Science Association