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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, April 14, 2024

Civic research center comes to Tisch College

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), a research organization that studies the activism and civic involvement of young people, moved this summer to Tufts' Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service from the University of Maryland.

The Tisch College also added a new research division this summer, and brought in CIRCLE director Peter Levine as its research director.

The center relocated from the University of Maryland, College Park, which housed CIRCLE at the university's School of Public Policy since the center's creation in 2001, to Tufts on July 1.

Tisch originally approached CIRCLE with the offer to move to Tisch College. Tisch College Dean Robert Hollister initiated the conversation.

"I think it was a natural marriage because Tisch is, Tufts is, such a significant leader in the area of civic engagement and CIRCLE is really a premier course of research about civic learning and citizen participation," Hollister said.

Tufts is looking to expand its emphasis on research, Hollister said, and CIRCLE will add to the university's growing focus on research.

CIRCLE is best known for calculating the youth-voter turnout in U.S. elections, according to Levine. The press uses CIRCLE as its main source for these statistics, and the center produces fact sheets for public policymakers and journalists.

CIRCLE has a broader mission, however. The center studies "young people's civic participation, which includes voting but also includes a lot of other activities, such as volunteering and activism," Levine said.

Now that CIRCLE is based at Tufts, Levine said the center will begin to get involved in the surrounding area. Programs and experiments, previously conducted in Maryland, will be carried out in the Boston area.

Since CIRCLE arrived at Tufts this summer, the organization and Levine have done preliminary work on several studies and initiatives that will be conducted by the center in Tisch College.

Levine has already secured a grant that will be used to create an organization called the Boston Area Social Network, which will allow college students to "collaborate on their community change and community service work," Hollister said. The Corporation for National and Community Service will fund the grant, providing $570,000 over a three-year period.

Another CIRCLE project is the study of civic participation among young adults who do not attend college — a group of people who have received less attention that their collegiate peers, Hollister said. This new project began at the University of Maryland with funding from the Charles F. Kettering Foundation.

CIRCLE will provide a new resource for students and faculty on Tufts' campus, Levine said. The center has already worked with several professors in the political science and sociology departments, according to Levine.

One such collaboration evaluated different types of survey methods. CIRCLE will also help to provide "assistance to faculty who are preparing grant applications or preparing next steps with their research," Hollister said.

Student initiatives, such as Tufts Votes and the Institute of Political Citizenship, will be able to utilize CIRCLE. Although there are currently no job openings for Tufts students at CIRCLE, Levine anticipates that there will be opportunities for student research at the center.

"Research on civic engagement is vital for increasing understanding of the bases of healthy, positive development among today's adolescents and young adults," Professor of Child Development Richard Lerner said in a press release.

"Having CIRCLE here will be a great resource for the research that my colleagues, students, and I conduct. In fact, CIRCLE will be an invaluable asset for all Tufts faculty concerned with the health and welfare of contemporary youth and with their role in civil society."