Key of Excellence Spotlight: Imagining America

In September 2015, Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life (IA) received the capstone Key of Excellence Award for its outstanding efforts to advance the civic purposes of higher education across the nation through engaged scholarship and democratic revitalization.

Imagining America is comprised of more than 100 college and university members and community partners that promote positive social change in communities while also rigorously researching the role of civic engagement in liberal arts and sciences education. IA develops an analytical framework to identify and critically consider the range of emerging artistic and scholarly endeavors. 

Phi Beta Kappa particularly applauds Imagining America’s efforts to foster a national network of campus-community collaborators in humanities, arts, and design.   

Major initiatives that engage the community with the arts, humanities, and sciences include:


  • Undergraduate Civic Professionalism is a research project that provides a roadmap for transforming educational practice through a dual focus on faculty work and student learning. It seeks to interweave the traditional strengths of the liberal arts, the values of civic inquiry and reflection, and the practical work of sustaining and supporting our communities and ourselves.
  • The Publicly Engaged Scholars Study illuminates the graduate school experiences and career aspirations and decisions of students and early career faculty and staff to deepen our understanding about the career arc for publicly engaged scholarship. 
  • Performing Our Future demonstrates how the assets of local culture enacted through theater can enable communities to imagine, construct, and own their civic and economic future. 
  • Civic Science is a method of inquiry into important contemporary issues that enriches democracy by bringing citizens from all backgrounds and disciplines – not just scientists – together in shared projects that analyze current conditions, envision a better future, and devise a pathway to that future.

Connect with Imagining America: 

About Phi Beta Kappa’s Key of Excellence Award:
Recipients of Phi Beta Kappa’s Key of Excellence Award must demonstrate a strong record of success at engaging the public across multiple disciplines in the arts and sciences. Their work must make highly visible the excellence, range, and relevance of the arts and sciences to their communities through public programming and community outreach. In addition, programs must engage diverse constituencies in program planning and execution while improving the availability of and access to the arts and sciences in their community. 


Love of learning is the guide of life.