The Graduation With Civic Honors Story

Believing in a dream like graduation with civic honors is only the first step in the process toward advocating the creation of a graduation with civic honors program.

The story behind graduation with civic honors began in an academic setting during the spring semester of 2002 at the University of Kansas. I took a class from Dr. H. George Frederickson entitled Concepts of Civil Society. During the Concepts of Civil Society class, my collegiate interests focused on civic engagement. At one point during the class, Dr. Frederickson posed a question to the class about what colleges could do to get people involved within the community. Over the course of the next year thinking about the idea of civil society, I became interested in pursuing a degree in the field of public administration. Thanks to the faculty of the Public Administration Department at the University of Kansas, I decided to endeavor to enter graduate school. I would like to thank Dr. Raymond Davis for advice and guidance, Dr. Thomas Longoria for defining the importance of collaboration, and Dr. H. George Frederickson for a thoughtful introduction to the world of civil society.

Graduation with civic honors was only a dream until late in 2002. Dr. Charles J. Carlsen, the president of Johnson County Community College, learned of the idea from Susan Lindahl and, along with the board of trustees and civic honors steering committee, envisioned becoming the first community college in the state of Kansas to designate a graduation with civic honors. In 2004, after Johnson County Community College developed the initial graduation with civic honors pilot program, the next step was to start spreading the graduation with civic honors message. I was honored to submit an article with Dr. Charles J. Carlsen and Susan Lindahl entitled, “Civic Honors Program at Johnson County Community College,” to the Journal for Civic Commitment for publication. The resulting publication (Carlsen, Lindahl, & Lindahl, 2004) was the first step toward globally sharing the positive message of graduation with civic honors.

To realize the dream, students actually would have to graduate with civic honors. During the May 2005 graduation at Johnson County Community College, the dream became a reality when four students—including Deborah DeGrate, Carrie Donham, Chris Engle, and Jennifer Pittman-Leeper—were the first to graduate with civic honors. The story will be complete when students all over the world are graduating with civic honors.