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Democracy in Action

Democracy in Action

Democracy in Action is modeled after the Sustainable City Year Program (SCYP) in the Sustainable Cities Initiative at University of Oregon and is part of a larger consortium of universities and colleges that participate in the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network (EPIC-N). Whereas the Sustainable City Year Program focuses primarily on sustainability, Democracy in Action emphasizes civic learning and democratic engagement. 

In this community engagement practice, the university contracts with the city in the capacity of consultant. CSUSM faculty and students partner with a local city government to conduct research, gathering qualitative and quantitative data to benefit city projects that are back-logged or need additional attention. 

Faculty and students work closely with city officials to hone their expertise on specific scopes of work; the students provide a polished, final report to the city.  In the process, students learn about city government, attend city council meetings, become more civically engaged, and ideally consider the prospects of working in local government.

The pilot program, profiled in the CSUSM NewsCenter, launched in Spring 2017.


Spring 2017

Our inaugural Democracy in Action project is in partnership with the City of San Marcos. In our first semester CSUSM faculty worked collaboratively with the City of San Marcos on four projects:        

Emergency Medical Services Project- Dr. Matt Atherton, SSCI 495-Capstone in the Social Sciences

Habitual Emergency Medical Service users place a strain on the entire Emergency Medical System (EMS) operationally as well as financially. This impacts EMS resources, including the Fire Department, EMTs, Paramedics, Law Enforcement, Dispatch, emergency rooms, hospitals, PERT clinicians, as well as neighboring agency resources. Students are researching ways to decrease the frequency of repeat 911 callers by finding alternative options and community resources that are more appropriate to their needs rather than repeated use of EMS. Utilization of alternative options and resources for low acuity, non-emergent patients, will help increase the availability of EMS to higher acuity patients, decrease offload delays at the Emergency Room and decrease readmittance rates.

Sports Tournament Venue Project- Dr. Vassilis Dalakas, MKTG 452-Sports Marketing and Sponsorship

Students are creating a sponsorship deck and a proposal along with providing marketing recommendations for the Double Peak Challenge, a 10K, 2K and trail run to be held on Sept 30, 2017. The Double Peak Challenge is organized by the Friends of San Marcos Parks & Recreation board, a volunteer-based non-profit arm of the City of San Marcos Community Services Department the sponsorship and marketing goals for the inaugural run held Oct 1, 2016, were intentionally set low as it was a first-year event.  Students will review what was done and create a new or revised plan, incorporating everything from designing sponsorship packages to promotion, execution and evaluation. 

Storm Water Project- Dr. Robert Brown, ECON 421–The Public Economy

Trash discarded on land is a significant pollutant of California's waters that adversely affects beneficial uses, including but not limited to uses that support aquatic life, wildlife, and public health. Students will work to gather baseline data from various resources, establish and rank trash-generating areas throughout the City of San Marcos.  This task conceptually involves GIS/mapping analysis, review of street sweeping and storm drain cleaning data, fieldwork verification, and conducting potential interviews.  Based on this research, an appropriate scale will be developed to rank each trash generation area.  Information will be summarized in a report and/or tabular format. Students will evaluate existing and/or generate new creative outreach and education materials that can be utilized for different audiences throughout the City of San Marcos.

San Marcos Video Project- Jonathan Berman, VSAR 328-Video Art History and Theory

As part of a new identity initiative, the City of San Marcos would like to incorporate a video package that is capable of capturing the spirit of San Marcos while highlighting how the community is a place where people can live, work, play and do business. Students are creating a video that will cater to a wide audience, both current and prospective residents, visitors and businesses. 


Launch Event

launch event students

On February 28, 2017, the Democracy in Action Launch brought participating CSUSM students, faculty, and staff together with San Marcos City Council and staff at San Marcos City Hall to celebrate the inaugural semester of the program. The reception-style event featured remarks from the Honorable Jim Desmond, Mayor of San Marcos and Dr. Patricia Prado-Olmos, Vice President for Community Engagement at CSUSM.  Students also toured City Hall and learned about the functions of city government in small-group conversations with city representatives.