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American Democracy Project Founder To Visit UCO as a Part of Presidential Inauguration Celebration

George Mehaffy

April 10, 2012

Media Contact:  Tiffany Wilson, University Relations Staff Writer, University of Central Oklahoma, (405) 974-2121,


When he’s not helping shape the state of higher education in America, George Mehaffy is an avid biker, spending most evenings biking home from work through Washington, D.C.           

“I ride through 250 years of history – through the heart of where democracy started.”           

Democracy is at the heart of what Mehaffy does everyday as vice president for academic leadership and change at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). He leads the American Democracy Project (ADP), a multi-campus program that educates informed and engaged citizens who are committed to being active in their communities.           

Mehaffy will visit the University of Central Oklahoma for the ADP’s Civic Engagement Conference on April 18, a part of a week of activities in celebration of the inauguration of Central’s 20th President, Don Betz, Ph.D., April 16-20. The conference will feature Mehaffy as its keynote speaker. AASCU's membership includes 410 universities and systems that collectively educate 3.5 million students. UCO, the Regional University System of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education are members.

The ADP’s first regional conference took place at Central in 2004, with then-Provost Betz representing Central among more than 100 chief academic officers in attendance.           

"Central has always been a place where there is a lot of ideas, a lot of people willing to try new things. So, it isn't surprising that the first regional meeting of ADP was at Central. In the same way, it's not surprising that Don is now president of Central. I'm coming back for Don's inauguration, both to thank Central and to thank Don for their contributions, and discuss where we go from here," Mehaffy said.

The ADP has grown exponentially since that first meeting on Central’s campus. Ten years later, more than 220 institutions have generated hundreds of campus-based projects and thousands of student memberships.           

Mehaffy’s presentation, “The Citizenship Imperative of the 21st Century,” is free and open to the public at 4 p.m. April 18 in Constitution Hall of the Nigh University Center. Mehaffy will look back at the ADP’s accomplishments and lessons learned, and discuss future challenges.  

Also during the conference, Michael Slackman, deputy foreign editor of The New York Times, will present a free, public lecture “Arab Spring: The Call for Change” at 6 p.m. in Constitution Hall.           

Slackman served as a correspondent in many Middle Eastern countries, Berlin, Egypt, Morocco and Iran. He covered Bahrain’s pro-democracy demonstrations and the invasion of Iraq.       

Many ADP conference events are free and open to the public, however some events require registration. For $25, all sessions are included and lunch is provided. To register, visit Central’s inauguration website at and click on “Inaugural Events,” then click “Wednesday 4/18: Civic Engagement” tab and scroll to the link for conference registration in the ADP Conference event listing.

Continuing the week’s inaugural events, Mehaffy will present his latest initiative, The Red Balloon Project, at 2 p.m. April 19 in the Forensic Science Institute Auditorium.

The Red Balloon Project is a national initiative to reimagine and redesign higher education for the 21st century.

“State funding is decreasing while expectations for educated graduates are increasing – and meanwhile technology is changing constantly,” Mehaffy said.

Leaders at more than 120 campuses are organizing Red Balloon Project activities in an effort to understand the “new normal” state of higher education in America.

For Central, Mehaffy’s discussion comes right on time, as Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin recently called upon the state’s colleges and universities to increase the number of highly skilled college graduates by 67 percent in the next 15 years, building Oklahoma’s economic future.

As Oklahoma’s metropolitan university, Central is using the Red Balloon Project as a rubric for change, as the university plays a key role in meeting the Governor’s challenge and serving its surrounding community.

The university’s week of inaugural activities April 16-20 reflect Central’s six tenets of transformative learning – Discipline Knowledge, Leadership, Problem Solving (Research, Scholarly and Creative Activities), Service Learning and Civic Engagement, Global and Cultural Competencies, and Health and Wellness.

Many events, including the Inauguration Ceremony at 2 p.m. April 20 in Hamilton Field House, are free and open to the public. A ticket is required for the ceremony, and ticket holders will be seated on a first-come basis, as space in Hamilton Field House is limited. Tickets can be picked up in person from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the information desk inside the main entrance on the east side of the Nigh University Center.

For more information about President Betz’s inauguration, including a complete list of events, visit   


Editor’s Note: Download art for publication with this release at

Cutline: George Mehaffy, founder of the American Democracy Project and vice president for academic leadership and change at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, will present two lectures at the University of Central Oklahoma as part of a week of activities celebrating the inauguration of Central’s 20th President, Don Betz, Ph.D. Mehaffy’s presentations, and Betz’ inauguration, are free and open to the public.