Professors Peter Levine and Deborah Schildkraut receive awards from the American Political Science Association

Peter Levine, Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs and Associate Dean at Tufts, received the Established Leader Award from the Civic Engagement Section of the American Political Science Association at its annual meeting in September. At the same meeting, Tufts Professor of Political Science Deborah Schildkraut received an honorable mention from APSA’s Latin Caucus for her book, “States of Belonging: Immigration Policies, Attitudes, and Inclusion.”

With more than 30 years in the field of civics and 14 years at Tufts, Levine has accomplished a lot. In addition to his academic and administrative posts, he has written eight books on philosophy and political theory, and edited several others.

Levine also helped found and run CIRCLE, a renowned research center at Tufts. CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, aims to “understand and improve the contexts and conditions that shape youth engagement,” a mission that aligns with Levine’s personal goals.

“It’s very difficult for an individual to become civic-engaged on their own,” Levine explained. “They need organizations and networks that support them…many of our civic organizations are quite weak. …They don’t have very good funding models or sources of support.

Levine stressed the importance of including young people outside of Tufts when thinking about civic engagement.

“Within Tufts itself there are groups, including all kinds of students,” he said. “Given that Tufts itself is something of an elite entity, how inclusive are we in the bigger, bigger world?”

In her own life and research, Levine has made significant attempts to represent a wide range of viewpoints and to initiate conversations about civic life with groups of people from different backgrounds.

“For about 15 years I have organized institutes for activists and professors, a mixture of activists and professors in several countries, where we discuss theories of civic life, quite intensively sometimes for two weeks at a time” , Levine said.

According to Levine, the theories presented in his most recent book, “What Should We Do? A Theory of Civic Life,” emerged largely from these “discussions with several hundred people at these institutes in the United States, Ukraine, Germany, and Mexico.”

Schildkraut was honored by APSA for her book “States of Belonging: Immigration Policies, Attitudes, and Inclusion,” which she co-authored with Tomás R. Jiménez, Yuen J. Huo, and John F. Dovidio, focuses on the contrasting experiences of immigrants in Arizona and New Mexico.

Schildkrait described his research for the book, explaining that Arizona and New Mexico are very similar, historically and demographically. Both became states in 1912. About one in eight Arizonans is an immigrant, compared to nearly one in 10 New Mexicoers. In both states, the majority of immigrants came to the United States from Mexico. Despite all the commonalities between the two states, Schildkraut acknowledged that their approaches to immigration are very different.

Although larger immigration policy decisions are usually delegated to the federal government, individual states often determine how easily residents acclimatize once they arrive. They determine what history is taught and what languages ​​are spoken in schools, who can get a driver’s license, and who can attend a public college in the state. While New Mexico has been very welcoming to immigrants, Arizona has received them with hostility, according to Schildkraut’s research.

Schildkraut referenced an account in the book by an Ecuadorian named Rafael Ortiz who lived in New Mexico but traveled frequently to Arizona for work. Despite the fact that Ortiz was a naturalized citizen of the United States, he often feared being detained by Arizona law enforcement officials, who he said “had been empowered to arrest people ‘they suspected of being undocumented’.

“He said he felt a sigh of relief every time he crossed the state line,” Schildkraut said. “To me, it was a powerful…encapsulation of what we were trying to study.”

Schildkraut credited an article she read while in graduate school at Princeton University with the root of her interest in immigration politics and identity.

“[The article] looked at public opinion on language policy: should English be the official language? Should ballots be in English only? And there were things I liked about this article and things that drove me crazy,” she said. “So just wanting to dig into the things I didn’t like about this research special motivated me.”

She also reflected on her own family history as part of her research.

“I am, in some ways, an embodiment of the mythical American dream,” Schildkraut said. “You know, poor immigrants who arrive by boat at Ellis Island with nothing, and a few small generations later, here I am: professor in an American university.

Now that “States of Belonging” is released, Schildkraut is focusing on several other projects she has in the works.

“I am currently working on a research project with [Professor Jeffrey] Berry and Dean Glaser,” she said. “We examine how ideology shapes what people think about the…everyday building blocks of democracy.”

She also explores “what whiteness means to white Americans, and under what conditions it might or might not be relevant to how they engage in politics.”

The Levine and Schildkraut Prizes reflect decades of achievement in the fields of civic engagement and political science. Nimah Mazaheri, chairman of the political science department at Tufts, called “States of Belonging” a “must-read for anyone interested in the subject” and described Levine’s award as “well-deserved recognition of his countless efforts at the over the years”.

The Levine Prize is APSA’s first-ever civic engagement award.

“I think it’s pretty significant and remarkable that the American Political Science Association has started honoring research on civic engagement,” Levine said. “Tufts has always done it.”