Syracuse University to launch Washington, D.C.-based Center for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship

A joint initiative of the Newhouse and Maxwell schools, the center will promote nonpartisan, evidence-based research and dialogue in the public interest and support the work of faculty and students.

Syracuse University will soon launch the new Center for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship in Washington, D.C. A joint effort of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, the center will promote nonpartisan, evidence-based research and dialogue in the public interest and support the work of faculty and students.

“At this point in the history of democracy, it is critical that our nation’s research universities lead dialogues that bring people together. We are educating the next generation of engaged citizens and producing knowledge that enables individuals, a free press and government institutions to work together in the public interest,” Vice Chancellor and Provost Gretchen Ritter says. “As a scholar and educator who has focused on the U.S. Constitution, I firmly believe that opportunities to study and work in our nation’s capitol provide an essential experience that shapes faculty engagement with key issues and students’ views of their purpose and career path.”

Ultimately, the center will create new knowledge, foster a more informed and engaged citizenry and better equip students for success in media, communications, policy, governance and citizenship.

“As a school that trains generations of future journalists, Newhouse is compelled to be at the forefront of these issues,” says Newhouse dean Mark J. Lodato. “We are obligated to tackle the challenges facing communications and journalism. Frankly, I think we would be remiss to sit idly by as our country struggles with this loss of civil discourse and distrust in journalism. With the combined strength of the Newhouse and Maxwell schools, this center will provide paths to repair what is broken while giving our students a valuable experience in the process.”

Newhouse students toured the U.S. Capitol building in March as part of the school’s Robin Toner Program in Political Reporting. (Tom Brenner)

Syracuse University already has a strong presence in the Washington area. The city is home to nearly 31,000 alumni, donors and others affiliated with the University, and hundreds of students study and intern there each semester. The University is currently reviewing its Washington, D.C. strategy and plans to strengthen and expand upon its presence and engagement, building upon years of investment and impact in the nation’s capital. The new Newhouse-Maxwell Center for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship represents the newest addition to the University’s robust Washington, D.C. portfolio. Serving as a hub for students, faculty and staff, the center will foster collaborative work and bolster already existing academic scholarship in relevant areas. It will also provide students with a “boots on the ground” experience in journalism, strategic communications, policy and governance and public diplomacy.

“This new center is a natural extension of work the University is already engaged on and research areas of national and international impact,” says Maxwell dean David Van Slyke. “The legacy of Maxwell and Newhouse alumni across a range of governance institutions and media who are making an impact on the national and international stage is a testament to the natural synergies between our two schools.”

The center will be characterized by four pillars: scholarly and applied research; facilitation and convening; teaching and instruction; and experiential learning. It will launch with a small team that includes an executive director, a research lead, a managing director for journalism and D.C.-based faculty from both Newhouse and Maxwell. The center will also include visiting fellows, and Syracuse-based faculty will have an opportunity to participate through events or limited residencies.

Searches are already underway for the executive director and managing director for journalism, and organizers will work during the summer to identify internship needs and opportunities, create a faculty hiring plan and recruit the initial cohort of students to work and study in Washington in the fall. Work will continue during the coming academic year, with faculty engagement in research and curriculum development, ongoing partnership-building with community nonprofits and governmental organizations, think tanks and corporations, and the creation of an external advisory board.

Newhouse alumnus and University Trustee Larry Kramer ’72 is supporting the executive director position with a $1 million endowment. “This country must restore the ability of people with differing opinions to respectfully debate these important issues. We must revive respect for truth and trust,” Kramer says. “The combination of two powerhouse schools—Newhouse and Maxwell—puts us in a perfect position to launch this new center and to host the debate over the biggest problems our democracy is facing today. Trust in our governing institutions, our political system and the media are at all-time lows. By raising the level of respectful debate and discussion, we will seek to find constructive solutions to restoring that trust.”