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For several months, DukeEngage staff members have been part of a University working group trying to answer a question that has been asked in higher education for many years: Where are the men in civic engagement?

DukeEngage programs, like the majority of service- and volunteer-related programs across the country, skew heavily towards female-identified participants. On January 16, 2019, our team was part of a conversation that explored topics such as the meaning of civic engagement, why alums chose to become involved, and how we can reach more students who are not currently engaged. The event was open to all students and faculty, not just those who identify as male.

Faculty and staff conversation panelists included:

  • Eric Mlyn, the executive director of DukeEngage
  • Thomas Phillips, a member of the DukeEngage programming team
  • Alec Greenwald, one of Duke’s directors of academic engagement
  • David Malone, Professor of the Practice of Education, the director of Duke’s Service Learning Program and the program director of DukeEngage-Boston
  • Thomas Williams, the Law & Biosciences Fellow in Science and Society and the program director of DukeEngage-Washington, DC
  • Adam Petty, the program coordinator of the Rubenstein-Bing Student-Athlete Civic Engagement Program (ACE) and a DukeEngage-Uganda alum

Approximately 50 people attended the event.

“Students were definitely engaged in the conversation,” says Thomas Phillips, “and they had great suggestions as to why and what we could potentially do about it—but this is just scratching the surface. I still have more questions, including a big one: is this really a problem?”

Eric Mlyn agrees this topic is more complicated that it seems on the surface, noting that answers to the question have eluded educators and program leaders for decades. Even so, he is pleased with how the conversation progressed and intrigued by the student perspectives that were shared. “It became clear that this topic is not just interesting from an “academic” perspective,” Mlyn says, “but also from the impact it has on our students and the communities they serve.”