Newhouse Foundation donates $1.5 million to endow CIRCLE directorship

The President’s Lawn is pictured on Oct. 19. Michelle Li / The Tufts Daily
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The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation has gifted the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts with a $1.5 million endowment to fund the position of its director.

The Newhouse Director of CIRCLE, Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, expressed her gratitude to the Newhouses for their generosity in endowing her position, which she has held since April 2015.

“I’m really grateful that the Newhouses see that there is a value in placing a really unique institution like CIRCLE … and decided to support a foundation for [its] director. It’s really significant that it’s not given to me, per se, as a scholar, but it’s given to the position, and it’s a really huge message to me … about how leaders see an institution like this to be a solid place within Tufts University,” Kawashima-Ginsberg said.

CIRCLE, a nonpartisan, independent research organization based out of Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life, conducts research on youth civic engagement in the United States.

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Dean of Tisch College Dayna Cunningham explained why CIRCLE is vital at Tufts and across the country.

“CIRCLE … has an incredible database [for] monitoring youth political engagement. It has a really important piece of work of what I call field building, which is to chart a possible future direction for the field of civic studies,” Cunningham said.

One of CIRCLE’s many ongoing initiatives is the Educating for American Democracy project, which aims to reimagine civics and history education. CIRCLE also works with educators across several states, including Illinois and Massachusetts, to reach youth.

CIRCLE Project Manager Sarah Keese expressed her excitement about CIRCLE’S current research work.

“[Our research] encompasses so many of our values of things like youth as assets, and overcoming that stigma of youth apathy, and I am really excited about all of the things coming up with growing voters,” Keese said.

Before becoming director in 2015, Kawashima-Ginsberg worked at CIRCLE as a lead researcher and then as deputy director.

“I was attracted to the fact that Tisch had community partnerships already established and had lots of partners. And of course, I love working with young people, so I was attracted to the fact that Tisch already had a lot of students working with them,” Kawashima-Ginsberg said.

Kawashima-Ginsberg now oversees all of the projects conducted at CIRCLE. She explained her plans for how to continue CIRCLE’s success in the coming years.

“Growing voters [is] not just talking to young people when the election is close or around the corner, and just register you and then tell you to vote and go away. That’s what we call a typical mobilization model,” Kawashima-Ginsberg said. “We think we should be growing voters from much earlier in people’s lives. That’s one example of really trying to organize a field to think differently, instead of just putting out research and [saying] ‘It’s really not working.'”

Alberto Medina, who leads CIRCLE’s communication team, highlighted another of CIRCLE’s current research projects.

“We are really trying to innovate in … research on the relationship between young people, the media and civic engagement,” Medina said. “So that goes from things like working with social media like Snapchat … on their efforts to to see how they can use digital platforms to engage young people, but it’s also thinking about how young people are dealing with the changing media landscape … The media is obviously such a huge part of everything, but especially [affects] how young people receive messages about politics, about elections, about their role within society and civic life.”

Elyse Newhouse (J’82), and her husband, Michael Newhouse (A’82), have been involved with Tufts University and Tisch College for several years. In addition to being a trustee, Elyse Newhouse has also been a member of the boards of advisors for the School of Arts and Sciences, Tisch Library and now Tisch College.

CIRCLE’s directorship is the second position at Tufts to be endowed by the Newhouse Foundation. In 2018, the Newhouses endowed the Newhouse Professor of Civic Studies position in hopes of strengthening the connection between Tisch College and the Department of Political Science.

Cunningham explained how Kawashima-Ginsberg’s new position complements the Newhouse Professor of Civic Studies position.

“They are endowing and enabling that institutional stability of this laboratory for research and tool creation to advance democracy [as well as] scholarship to understand better what the challenges are of democracy from a theoretical perspective,” Cunningham said.

Medina expressed his excitement to see how CIRCLE’s research will continue to progress under Kawashima-Ginsberg’s leadership given the Newhouse Foundation’s recent endowment of her directorship.

“This endowment is a recognition of our work as an organization and the importance of our work on our mission, but it’s also really a recognition of [Kawashima-Ginsberg’s] leadership, personally and professionally,” Medina said.

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