Dennis Donovan is the national organizer of Public Achievement at the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Donovan collaborated with Harry Boyte to develop Public Achievement, a citizen education initiative. Since 1997, Donovan has worked with K-12 schools, colleges, universities, and community groups across the country and abroad as a speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach. In Minnesota, he has worked with legislators, veterans, non-profit organizations, lifetime offenders, and elected and non-elected city leaders; Humphrey School of Public Affairs Policy Fellows, Mandela Fellows, and International Fellows; and University of Minnesota student-athletes and students from the Humphrey School, Leadership Minor Program, Somali Student Association, and Carlson School of Management, among others.
Since 2009, Donovan has worked with the staffs of the Enrollment Center and the Gage Center to create more collaborative and open environments at Augsburg University. He has worked with the special education faculty to integrate Public Achievement and citizen politics into special education K-12 curriculum and teacher development. He is working with the faculty and students from the Augsburg University general teacher education department and nursing department to develop citizen teachers and citizen nurses. Nationally, Donovan is currently working with faculty, staff, and students at Dension University, Oklahoma State University, and University of Colorado–Boulder to bring the theory and practice of citizen politics to their campuses to develop citizen professionals and solve community public problems.
Before joining the Sabo Center for Democracy and Citizenship, Donovan worked in K-12 education for 24 years as a teacher and school principal. Under his leadership, Saint Bernard’s School in St. Paul won the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocesan Social Justice Award for work done to improve the North End community of St. Paul. Donovan was also recognized for outstanding educational leadership when he was named one of “98 to Watch in ’98” by the St. Paul Pioneer Press, along with former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman. Donovan was also a founder and education chair (1990–1997) of the St. Paul Ecumenical Alliance of Congregations (SPEAC). SPEAC has since grown into a statewide organization known as ISAIAH and is one of the most active partners in the national PICO organizing network. Donovan received the 2008 University of Minnesota Community Service Award.
In 2000, Donovan was invited to participate in the Salzburg Seminar in Salzburg, Austria, a program that convenes innovative thinkers from different cultures and institutions across the world to identify critical international problems and generate creative and practical solutions to address them. He was invited back as a speaker in 2003 for a seminar on Youth and Civic Participation. Since then, he has worked with over 20 countries, with Japan, Mexico, and Ghana being the most recent.
Dennis Donovan is working to expand the higher education field of “Civic Studies,” the idea of the citizen as co-creator, and how to develop civic agency and develop students to become citizen professionals.
Donovan earned a master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas and a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from the University of Minnesota. He is collaborating with Harry Boyte and several others to write Pedagogy of the Empowered: Teaching and Learning Citizen Politics.