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Citizenship class project will benefit city of Monmouth

12/11/2014
Under the direction of political science lecturer Robin Johnson, a group of Monmouth College students recently conducted a civic participation project on behalf of the City of Monmouth.
           
Students in Johnson’s Citizenship course, titled “Politics and Government in the Midwest,” examined 35 Midwestern towns similar to Monmouth, which have meat-packing industries (beef, pork or turkey) and have increasingly diverse immigrant populations.
           
Their 15-page report is titled “Immigration Integration: A Look at How Small Towns in the Midwest Handle the Massive Influx of Immigrants in an Ever-Changing, Globalized World.” Its stated goal is “to help the city of Monmouth find ways in which they can better welcome, establish and integrate immigrant communities who have come here from all over the world.”
           
The students gathered data on each city’s population and demographic trends, school enrollment trends and economic outlook. They also searched for innovative programs and policies to help integrate immigrants into the local community.
           
The class took field trips to Beardstown, where there has been a recent influx of African immigrants, and to West Liberty, Iowa, which has a majority Hispanic population. The group, which worked closely with Monmouth’s city administrator, Lowell Crow, made a formal report on its findings to the Monmouth city council on Dec. 1.
           
Some of the solutions the students suggested applied to the school system – implementing a district-wide dual language program in the schools and creating an Intercultural Day. Community programs they suggested included establishing a diversity committee, strengthening the town-gown relationship between the city and college to offer more opportunities for civic immersion and engagement and implementing microloan programs, which have been successful in two of the towns they studied.
           
“The project was an eye-opening experience,” said Phillip Buckwinkler, a senior from Gurnee. “Solving our immigration problem goes way beyond the numbers we researched. It’s a human issue and has to be handled as such.”
           
“This is exemplary work on several levels,” said Richard Longworth, a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and author of the bestselling book, “Caught in the Middle: America’s Heartland in the Age of Globalism.”
           
“First and foremost, this study brings alive for the students their academic work on immigration. Second, it’s a very solid piece of research on how a wide range of towns are dealing with the challenges of immigration, and how these methods are changing.”
           
Longworth has shown strong support for the college’s initiative to address regional issues, serving as the keynote speaker for Monmouth’s first Midwest Matters conference in 20009.
           
He concluded, “This project is terrific guidance for towns with an influx of immigrants, telling them how other towns are dealing with this situation. It’s hard to imagine an undergraduate project with more academic and practical validity.”
 
For more information, view the project resources: