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Democracy

University Initiative

William & Mary will lead essential efforts to practice and promote democratic ideals in the pursuit of a more perfect union.

At a time when our country is deeply divided, we have the opportunity to rediscover the ideals that make pluralistic democracies strong. W&M has played a pivotal role in shaping democracy since the founding of the United States. As we prepare for our country’s 250th anniversary, W&M will ensure that our nation’s origin stories are expansive, honest and that they unite us in a commitment to knowledge as a public good. By studying, teaching and illuminating the rights and obligations of 21st-century citizenship, the Alma Mater of the Nation is uniquely positioned to ensure that democratic ideals thrive for generations to come.

Committee chairs: [[clcooper,Carrie Cooper]], Dean of University Libraries and [[vmambl,Ginger Ambler]], Vice President for Student Affairs

Democracy Initiative Podcast

Democracy Initiative Podcast

A special series designed to explore issues related to democracy, the William & Mary Democracy Initiative Podcast dives into the compelling ways democracy intersects with the other pillars of our Vision 2026 strategic plan - data, water and careers.

Democracy Update

Via university-wide initiatives, key partnerships and high-impact research, Williamsburg aims to be the destination for the country in 2026, the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.

Restoration continues on the Bray School, the oldest extant schoolhouse in the United States used for the education of Black children, earning national recognition. Together William & Mary, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the City of Williamsburg will open this extraordinary site to visitors in 2024.

The Brafferton Tercentennial, launched at Charter Day, builds on 20 years of impactful research partnerships, showcasing how collaborations with our region's tribes drive new discoveries.

W&M joined the Council of Presidents in affirming Virginia public higher education’s unwavering commitment to free speech.

This summer, W&M will cohost the high-profile NATO Youth Summit in Washington, D.C., reaching young leaders across NATO countries.

Democracy Initiative News

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Pride Points

  • Top program in U.S. Colonial History

    William & Mary's graduate program in United States Colonial history ranks first in the country.

  • Founding of Our Democracy

    W&M was instrumental in the founding of our democracy – both the best and worst of that origin story happened here. We are united in the commitment to tell our nation's origin stories fully and honestly.

  • W&M's Reconciliation

    The Williamsburg Bray School Project, Brafferton anniversary, Lemon Project, and more are yielding unique and powerful discoveries.

  • Dialogue and Shared Inquiry

    W&M's student/faculty ratio creates robust opportunities for dialogue and shared inquiry – about democratic institutions in the U.S. and globally.

Democracy Initiative Goals, Targets & Actions

Goals:
  • Elevate W&M’s voice in local, national and global conversations to uphold the democratic ideals and institutions in the 21st century.
  • Generate and disseminate research that fosters reconciliation, produces inclusive histories and models ways to engage local communities in this endeavor.
  • Strengthen W&M academic offerings through better integration of civics education, American history and worldwide democracy in the student experience, thereby attracting new and more diverse cohorts of students.
  • Partner with Indigenous and Black descendent communities, and the entire W&M community, to create a model for a more inclusive and just society.
Targets:
  • Connect expertise and academic initiatives across W&M that enhance the study of democracy and the practice of civil discourse.
  • Convene leading democratic thinkers, activists and practitioners — both physically and virtually — to engage the university and broader community in exploring relevant issues.
  • Cultivate local relationships and partnerships to develop deep human connections that engender genuine, robust dialogue and respectful debate.
  • Collaborate with community leaders to position the city of Williamsburg and the region as a hub for commemoration and generation of inclusive democracy leading up to and following the 250th anniversary of 1776.
Actions:
  • Invest in research conducted by the Lemon Project, Williamsburg Bray School Project, Brafferton Legacy, Highland, Omohundro Institute and others, to expand our nation’s origin story in an inclusive way.
  • Partner with the Aspen Institute’s Better Arguments Project to become a higher education model for advancing democracy and practicing civil discourse.
  • Integrate training in civil discourse into the Student Affairs STEP program.
  • Create new curricular and programmatic opportunities to immerse students, alumni and the public in the history and practice of democracies around the world.
  • Capitalize on the W&M Washington Center’s location and connections to generate new opportunities for students, faculty and alumni related to policy, social justice and law-making in our nation’s capital.
  • Expand the successful National Institute of American History and Democracy (NIAHD) to engage larger and more diverse cohorts of learners.
  • Showcase Williamsburg’s and the commonwealth’s centrality in the national conversation on democracy via a series of conferences in partnership with the Omohundro Institute and Colonial Williamsburg.
  • Building on the work of the Presidential Council for Community Partnerships, expand community-engaged research and opportunities for dialogue with local leaders and organizations in the region.

Support the Democracy Initiative

For further information about this initiative and ways to support the effort, please contact:

Suzie Armstrong '93, Assistant Vice President for Development, Campus Initiatives
757-221-7647
[[smarmstrong]]