US-Pakistan Higher Education Initiative on Civic Engagement

US-Pak Civic Engagement Project

Project Overview

Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP) received a grant in October, 2012 through the US Embassy-Islamabad Office of Public Affairs to support the US-Pakistan higher education initiative to build capacity for civic engagement. The collaborative program aimed to enhance the ability of American and Pakistani universities to engage students, senior management and faculty in activities to enhance civic engagement and social responsibility activities. It also aimed to foster people-to-people ties and continued partnerships between the two nations.

Through the project, ICP facilitated electronic and in-person exchanges of delegations from five American and five Pakistani universities.The twinned universities’ collaboration focused on civic engagement – specifically, on the role of university leadership, the development of institutional policies and programs, and the enhancement of students’ civic skills.

Over the course of a year, the twinned universities planned and executed student-led civic engagement projects in conversation with their partner university. In addition to virtual communication, representatives from the participating universities traveled to each others’ campuses. In March, 2013, American and Pakistani delegations gathered in Washington, DC for a two-day orientation conference hosted by the George Washington University. Subsequently, Pakistani delegations visited their US partner campuses for one week to learn more about civic engagement in the United States. US teams visited the campuses of their Pakistani counterparts in June 2013.  During the visit they offered trainings in civic engagement to hundreds of Pakistani students, faculty and staff.

On July 1, 2013, National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad, convened participants from partnering Pakistani and United States universities, Vice Chancellors and representatives from universities across Pakistan and representatives from the US mission to Pakistan to announce the launch of the Pakistan Chapter of the Talloires Network.  Speakers included US Ambassador to Pakistan, Mr. Richard Olson; Executive Director of Innovations in Civic Participation, Susan Stroud; Executive Director of the Center for Service-Learning at the George Washington University, Amy Cohen; Executive Director of the Talloires Network, Mr. Robert Hollister; Minister of Planning and Development, Mr. Ahsan Iqbal; the Minister for Science and Technology, Mr. Zahid Hamid; the Chairperson of the Higher Education Commission, Dr. Javaid R. Laghari; and the Executive Director of the Higher Education Commission, Professor Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed.

The trip culminated in a one-day seminar hosted by ICP.  The seminar was an opportunity to share lessons learned, reflect on experience and discuss next steps, particularly in regards to institutionalizing civic engagement.


Through this project ICP aimed to enhance the capacity of universities in Pakistan for civic engagement and social responsibility and increase people-to-people ties between US and Pakistan universities by:

  • Providing Pakistani universities with the skills, ability and knowledge to expand their out-reach capabilities and enhance capacity for student and community youth leadership for civic engagement;
  • Increasing the use of social media and other technology to reach the broader youth sector about civic engagement and social responsibility;
  • Broadening and deepening understandings of underlying cultural values related to civic engagement and social responsibility;
  • Developing partnerships between US and Pakistani universities commit-ted to civic engagement with strong prospects for sustained relationships beyond the scope of the grant.

Project Highlights

In the 2013/2014 academic term, a group of University of Minnesota students from several colleges collaborated to design a research project focused on integrating public engagement into their academic work.  The group solidified a research agenda around learning more about the student experiences of participating in publicly-engaged work, including service-learning, research, and student-initiated activities to support community learning and well-being.

The students then shared their project with their Pakistani colleagues at University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (UVAS) in Lahore and held regular Skype meetings with students at UVAS.  These meeting complemented  parallel Skype meetings between lead faculty members at the two institutions and focused broadly on student experiences of publicly-engaged activities at their respective universities.


My one-week trip to Pakistan created memories for a lifetime.  Our University, Tulane in New Orleans, was very fortunate to be connected with Fatima Jinnah Women University in Rawalpindi.  Our partners were amazing-superb as hosts, welcoming, warm, supportive, and true leaders for all of the young women receiving their education at FJWU.  During our stay, we saw the work the University is doing for and with the community:  through service, kind gestures, and its presence outside of campus.  I was impressed by these community engagement projects and by their plans to develop service-learning programs and community-based scholarship.  My colleagues and I wish that we could have stayed longer and hope to return to Pakistan to visit FJWU and work with the students and community.  The good work taking place there and the images of the people, colors,  smiles and the feeling of safety and warm welcome remain vivid in my memory. –Agnieszka Nance, Tulane University

To read more reflections on the project click here >

Project Partners

The George Washington University Washington, DC
The University of Nebraska at Omaha Nebraska, Omaha
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC
Tulane University New Orleans, LA
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus, Minneapolis, MN
National University of Sciences and Technology Islamabad, Pakistan
Fatima Jinnah Women University Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Quaid-i-Azam University  Islamabad, Pakistan
University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences  Lahore, Pakistan
Dow University of Health Sciences Karachi, Pakistan

For more information check out the US Pak Facebook page.