Barack Obama's presidential campaign demonstrated the power of social media as a vehicle for grassroots advocacy, particularly among college students who voted in record numbers. This raises a question central to the future of American democracy: Can social media networks help students to become better citizens?

Civic engagement by Gen-Xers will be the focus of a national conference hosted by Wayne State University Nov. 12 and 13 to determine effective methods for connecting with students. The private conference kicks off "eCitizenship: New Tools, New Strategies, New Spaces," a three-year project sponsored by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities and The New York Times in partnership with Wayne State's Center for the Study of Citizenship. The center is the official research arm of the project as well as the host location for eCitizenship campuses to collaborate on the study of relationships between social networking and civic engagement.

"The eCitizenship initiative, the largest in the distinguished history of the American Democracy Project (ADP), will explore how social networking and digital media are crucial tools in stimulating civic engagement among college and university students," said Professor Marc Kruman, director of the center and chair of the Department of History. "We're very excited to help lead this initiative and to conduct subsequent research on individual campus programs. We expect that this research will uncover how digital media can be used most effectively to foster undergraduate civic engagement."

Jose Antonio Vargas, technology and innovations editor for the Huffington Post, will be the keynote speaker at the conference. Vargas will give a separate, public address, titled Brave New World of Journalism, at 7 p.m., Nov. 12, in the Law School's Spencer Partrich Auditorium at WSU.

The eCitizenship conference will be held in the university's Bernath Auditorium in the David Adamany Undergraduate Library, 5155 Gullen Mall.

The conference is the seventh initiative of the ADP. Thirty-four colleges and universities have been invited to participate in this national project to study social networking and research new ways for institutions to harness the technology in preparing students to be active and engaged members of society.

The Center for the Study of Citizenship is the premier global institution for the study and promotion of citizenship.

Founded in 2003, the ADP is a multicampus initiative focused on higher education's role in preparing the next generation of informed, engaged citizens and producing graduates who are committed to being actively involved in their communities.


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