Austin Community College District (ACC) aims to promote civic literacy and experience among the ACC student body through its new Civics Lab, which launched this fall.
The ultimate goal of the Civics Lab is to introduce ACC students to a variety of career and service paths through hands-on experiences and public talks.
The Lab is part of the Office of Community Engagement & Public Affairs and is the reimagining of the college's former Center for Public Policy and Political Studies, which was led by William 'Peck' Young for 12 years. Young retired from ACC in 2019.
Mohammed Elghoul, who started at ACC as the coordinator of the Student Government Association in January 2016, was tapped to lead the college's new Civics Lab.
"The Civics Lab is more of a civic action initiative than a political focus. While we want to encourage our students to get involved politically and through future government work, we do not want to see it limited to that," says Elghoul. "We aim to provide an avenue for students to take what they have academically learned at ACC, and then further explore it in deep-dive projects."
Before moving to Texas, Elghoul was the academic director of a public policy exchange program at the University of Massachusetts and taught Political Science at a couple of colleges in the northeast. He earned an undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan and he has master's degrees from Columbia University and the University of Massachusetts. Elghoul is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the University of Texas at Austin's School of Education.
The Civics Lab kicked off in September 2020 with a discussion on constitutional rights during a pandemic featuring panelists Ross Ramsey, Texas Tribune executive editor and co-founder; Gisela Triana, Texas 3rd Court of Appeals, Austin Justice Place 6; Nelson Linder, Austin NAACP president; and Michael Hannahan, University of Massachusetts, Amherst professor of Political Science. Nearly 150 students watched live and 27 watched after the fact.
This spring, the Lab and ACC Experiential Learning will co-host a three-day virtual event called Riverbat Reach to highlight community-based volunteer opportunities. Riverbat Reach will take place February 17-19.
The Civics Lab is also planning a public virtual talk in late April with a visiting Fulbright scholar.
Faculty and staff are encouraged to get involved. For more information and to share ideas for the Civics Lab, contact Elghoul at firstname.lastname@example.org.