Event Details

Although ballots have been cast in the midterms, higher education’s role in fostering democratic engagement on campus is far from over. On Wednesday, November 16, join four civic experts―Alexander Edgar, UC Berkeley Vote Coalition Director; Brian Hughes, Co-founder and Associate Director, Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL); Nancy Thomas, Director, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, Tufts University; and Dawn Whitehead, Vice President, Office of Global Citizenship for Campus, Community, and Careers, American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)―for a dynamic conversation about the importance of student engagement and how to institutionalize civic participation and democratic learning year-round.




Alexander Edgar

UC Berkeley Vote Coalition Director; Undergrad Student, UC Berkeley (’25)

Alexander Edgar is a rising second-year at UC Berkeley committed to making the democratic process accessible to all students, especially within historically marginalized and underrepresented communities. He is passionate about making voting a priority for students and empowering them to become further involved with the civic process.


As the Director of the Associated Students of the University of California Vote Coalition, Alex collaborates with peers and administration to plan and execute voter registration drives and educational events. He is currently working with various student groups to plan Votechella, a music festival promoting voter registration and civic engagement at UC Berkeley.

Brian Hughes

Co-founder and Associate Director, Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL); Research Assistant Professor, Program of Justice, Law, and Criminology, American University

Brian Hughes is a Research Assistant Professor in the program of Justice, Law, and Criminology. He is also the co-founder and Associate Director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL), where he develops studies and interventions to reduce the risk of radicalization to extremism. His scholarly research explores the impact of communication technology on political and religious extremism, terrorism and fringe culture. This work seeks to identify the affective and material commonalities between extremists of differing ideologies, cultures, times, and places. His writing has appeared in the CTC Sentinel at West Point, the International Journal of Communication, CNN, and the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right.




Nancy Thomas

Director, Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, Tufts University

Dr. Nancy Thomas directs the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education (IDHE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, the nation’s leading applied research center on student political learning and participation in democracy. Her work and scholarship center on higher education’s democratic mission, college student political learning and participation in democracy, campus climates for democratic learning, inclusion, and engagement, and dialogue, free speech, inclusion, and academic freedom. She also designed and oversees the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, NSLVE (“n-solve”), a study of student voter participation involving nearly 1,200 U.S. colleges and universities nationwide. She is the author or editor of multiple book chapters, papers, articles, and collections on higher education’s role in democracy, including the monograph, Educating for Deliberative Democracy. Dr. Thomas holds a law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law and a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.




Dawn Whitehead

Vice President, Office of Global Citizenship for Campus, Community, and Careers, American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)

Dr. Dawn Michele Whitehead is the Vice President of the Office of Global Citizenship for Campus, Community, and Careers at the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). Her office focuses on advancing curricular and cocurricular initiatives and practices that advance equitable participation in global learning, integrative learning, and community-based learning for all students for preparation for life, work, and citizenship. She also serves as the program director of AAC&U’s annual meeting and draws on the broader work of AAC&U members and contemporary issues in higher education to create a compelling and timely meeting.













At AAC&U, Whitehead’s work centers on integrative global learning with an emphasis on thematic local and international experiences that provide students with a variety of global learning opportunities across their educational experience. She also works on projects that integrate high-impact practices across general education and the majors to provide students with consistent, high-quality liberal learning, and engages and collaborates across offices at AAC&U on curricular transformation. She has published several articles and book chapters on these topics.

Prior to joining AAC&U, Whitehead served as the Director of Curriculum Internationalization with teaching responsibilities in the global and international studies program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Whitehead was the faculty director for global service-learning programs in Costa Rica, Ghana, Kenya, and the Kingdom of Swaziland, and her research evolved from a focus on education and educators in Ghana to the impact of service learning on students and community partners. Whitehead also instituted the use of interactive videoconferencing as a tool to infuse globalized experiences for students on campus. As a campus leader, Whitehead facilitated interdisciplinary campus initiatives and professional development around global learning, internationalizing the curriculum, and international service learning. Finally, Whitehead guided efforts to assess global learning for students engaged with both local and international communities and for students participating in classes on the IUPUI campus and abroad.

Whitehead earned her BA in History and Afro-American Studies, her MS in International and Comparative Education, and her PhD in Education Policy Studies with a concentration in African Studies and a minor in International and Comparative Education, all from Indiana University Bloomington.

Michelle Deutchman

Executive Director, UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement

Michelle N. Deutchman is the inaugural Executive Director of the UC National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. Formed by the UC Office of the President, the Center explores how the fundamental democratic and academic principles of free speech and civic engagement should enrich the discovery and transmission of knowledge in America’s colleges and universities.

 In this role, Deutchman oversees a multidisciplinary national fellowship program and works across all 10 UC campuses to study and shape national discourse about free speech.

Before joining the Center, Deutchman served as Western States Civil Rights Counsel and National Campus Counsel for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a non-profit organization that has been a leader in combating bigotry, prejudice and anti-Semitism for over a century. As National Campus Counsel, Ms. Deutchman focused on emerging trends and challenges pertaining to free expression at colleges and universities. She trained campus stakeholders – including administrators and law enforcement – on how to safeguard free speech at universities while simultaneously maintaining a safe and inclusive campus climate.

Deutchman teaches a course on contemporary free exercise issues at UCLA School of Law.

She earned her Juris Doctor from University of Southern California Law Center, where she graduated Order of the Coif. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of University of California at Berkeley and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.

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