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McCourtney Institute Announces Spring Media and Deliberation Speaker Series

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy, a fellow center of excellence with the CDD, has announced the spring speakers for its Media and Deliberation Series:

  • Anne Helen Petersen of BuzzFeed News will be giving a talk on “Jennifer Lawrence and the Politics of Cool Girls” on Monday, February 2nd in Foster Auditorium (102 Paterno Library) at 4pm.
  • Ian Spencer and Bret Jacobson, the founders of Red Edge, a digital-advocacy group for conservative causes, will be presenting a talk on "Conservative Advocacy for the 21st Century" on Tuesday, February 17th in Foster Auditorium (102 Paterno Library) at 4pm.
  • Evgeny Morozov, a contributing editor at The New Republic and author of The New Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom and To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism, will discuss "An Internet for the 21st Century" on Tuesday, March 17th in Foster Auditorium (102 Paterno Library) at 4pm.

McCourtnet Institute Spring 2015 Speaker Series flyer

CDD to Offer Support for Attendees at Tufts Summer Institute

The Center for Democratic Deliberation, in partnership with the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, invite applicants for grants for graduate students to attend the seventh annual Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tufts University in Medford, MA, June 15-27, 2015. The institute will be an intensive, two-week, interdisciplinary seminar bringing together faculty, advanced graduate students, and practitioners from many countries and diverse fields of study.

Organized by Peter Levine, Tufts University, and Karol Sołtan, University of Maryland, the Summer Institute features guest seminars by distinguished colleagues from various institutions and engages participants in challenging discussions such as:
- What kinds of citizens (if any) do good regimes need?
- What should such citizens know, believe, and do?
- What practices and institutional structures promote the right kinds of citizenship?
- What ought to be the relationships among empirical evidence, ethics, and strategy?

Applications for the institute need to include your resume, an electronic copy of your graduate transcript (if applicable), and a cover email about your interests.  These should be emailed to Peter Levine at For best consideration, apply no later than March 15, 2015.

The CDD's grants can be used to defer the cost of travel, lodging, and other expenses for students accepted to the institute. Interested students should submit a brief (i.e. one-page) application with a paragraph summarizing their interest in the conference and a detailed budget, indicating the exact amount requested. Applications should be submitted to J. Michael Hogan ( no later than March 9, 2015. Awards will be made pending acceptance to the institute.

For more information about the institute, please see

McCourtney Institutes Receives Gift to Create Nevins Democracy Leadership Program


The McCourtney Institute for Democracy, a center of excellence with the Center for Democratic Deliberation, has received a significant gift from David Nevins, a State College real estate executive, to create The Nevins Democracy Leaders program, a signature initiative within the institute. The Nevins Democracy Leaders program will provide education and ­training in transpartisan leadership skills by exposing participants to a variety of philosophies, viewpoints and strategies; teaching the tools of critical thinking, deliberation and dialogue; and placing students in unique internship opportunities in democratic and civic renewal.

Speech & Debate Society Hosts British National Team

Speech & Debate Society Hosts British National Team

Penn State coaches and debaters with the British national debate team.

The Penn State Speech & Debate Society hosted the British national debate team on October 28, 2014 for a public debate on the topic, "Private political donations in the United States should be banned." Melinda Formola and Jordan Todd defended the resolution. Their arguments centered on the role money plays in influencing Congressional politics and how to make politicians more accountable to their constituents. Kate Brooks and Alice Coombes-Huntley, the British team, countered Penn State and contended that private donations allow individuals to select candidates with whom they shared interests.

Following an initial round of speeches from both sides, the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions, moderated by Penn State debater, Louis Levin. A recurring theme during the audience discussion was comparing the United States political system to those around the globe and whether banning donations was the right solution. After another round of speeches from the debaters, the British team edged out Penn State in the audience vote. The event was co-sponsored by the Department of Communication Arts & Sciences at Penn State and the Committee on International Discussion and Debate, which organizes the British tour.

RCL Student Wins CDD Op-Ed Contest

RCL Student Wins CDD Op-Ed Contest

Kelly Friday

The Center for Democratic Deliberation held an essay writing contest open to students enrolled in Rhetoric & Civic Life. The topic asked students to reflect on their high school experience after being in college. The CDD is pleased to announce that Kelly Friday won the contest with her essay focusing on a standardized education model. The essay was published in the Centre Daily Times on Saturday, November 8 as part of an op-ed forum led by David Hutchinson, who is the chair of the Public Issues Forums of Centre County. The links to these op-eds can be found here:

CDD Receives NCA Advancing the Discipline Grant

National Communication Association logo

The Center for Democratic Deliberation (CDD) at Penn State has been awarded a $5,000 Advancing the Discipline Grant from the National Communication Association (NCA). The grant will be used to fund travel scholarships for students attending the CDD’s Speech & Debate as Civic Education Conference, scheduled for March 5-7, 2015 on Penn State’s University Park campus. For more information about the conference, visit

The National Communication Association (NCA) advances communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific and aesthetic inquiry.  The NCA serves approximately 8,000 scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, the NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems.

For more information, visit Follow them on Twitter at and on Facebook at

CDD to Cosponsor Public Issues Forum on the 21st Mission of Schools

As part of our commitment to local community engagement, the Center for Democratic Deliberation is co-sponsoring a public issues forum on the topic: "What is the 21st Century Mission for our Public Schools?" The forum is this Thursday, November 20 from 6:00pm to 8:30pm at the Fairmount Avenue School. Moderators will lead small group deliberation on three approaches to the question:

1) Prepare Students to be Successful in the Workplace

2) Prepare Students to be Active and Responsible Citizens

3) Help Students Discover and Develop their Talents

For more information on these approaches, the CDD, led by David Hutchinson, helped organize an op-ed forum in the Centre Daily Times. The links to these op-eds are:

Chris Calkins - Approach 1: Prepare Students for Work,

Stephanie Serriere - Approach 2: Improving Democracy Requires Responsible Citizenry

Eric Sauder - Approach 3: Allow Children to Explore, Develop Individual Talents

In addition, the CDD held an essay writing contest for students enrolled in Rhetoric & Civic Life. Kelly Friday, the winner of the contest, had her essay, "Standardized Education Model Not Serving All," published as an op-ed in this forum, and she appeared on a similarly themed mini-forum, which aired on C-Net over the weekend and will air again at 7:00pm on Tuesday.

The event is free and open to the public. Advance registration is not required but encouraged.

Public Issues Forum flyer

Voices of Democracy Launches New Website

Voices of Democracy logo

Voices of Democracy (VOD), the online journal and curriculum resource featuring great speeches and
debates in American history, has launched a new, more user-friendly website, including a new section
of educational materials for Grade 8-12 teachers. Now averaging more than 1500 visitors per day from
around the world, the site has been identified by EDSITEment ( as among
the best educational resources on the web, and it has been supported by grants from the National
Endowment for the Humanities and the National Communication Association. VOD invites contributions
both to its online journal and its growing collection of teachers’ resources. For more information,
including guidelines for contributors, visit:

Josh Lerner Wins Brown Democracy Medal

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy has selected Josh Lerner and the Participatory Budgeting Project as the inaugural recipient for the Laurence and Lynne Brown Democracy Medal. The medal celebrates the best practical innovation that is advancing democracy in the United States and around the globe. The Participatory Budgeting Project is a nonprofit organization that empowers community members to make informed decisions about public budgets. The project, starting in Brazil, now spans the globe. Josh's team has helped it become a reality in California,New York, and Illinois, with more experiments happening across the United States. “We are deeply honored to receive the Brown Democracy Medal, in recognition of our work to give thousands of people real power over real money,” said Josh Lerner, Executive Director of PBP. “In just a few years, we have shown how a small non-profit organization can bring together hundreds of partners to build a new model for local democracy.”

Speech & Debate Society Completes Week of Public Debates

Ayad Muhammad and Melinda Formola following
their victory at James Madison University.

The Penn State Speech & Debate Society traveled to both James Madison University and Clarion University for public debates last week. At JMU, the society participated in an international week debate on the topic, “Resolved: Local communities, on balance, have benefited from globalization.” Penn State joined Emory University on the negative and squared off against George Washington University and Davis & Elkins College. The Penn State debaters, Ayad Muhammad and Melinda Formola, delivered the closing speeches for the negative and argued  that globalization harmed the environment and economies of small communities around the globe. Following an audience discussion moderated a professor in political science at JMU, the audience vote came in and the negative team, led by Penn State, won by a razor thin five ballots.

At Clarion, the team participated in a friendly exchange between Pennsylvania colleges. They debated whether Division I football and basketball athletes should be paid. Clarion, a NCAA Division II school, defended the resolution while Penn State negated. The crowd was evenly split between the arguments on! both sides. Jordan Todd, the society’s president, found the topic refreshing and “a nice departure from the normal political discussions” usually accompanied in debates. He also welcomed building connections to other schools through debate. Jordan said, “This was a great opportunity to build relationships with other universities across the state, so we can continue to have these events in the future.” The Penn State Speech & Debate Society plans to continue this trend of promoting debate across Pennsylvania, including bringing the University of Pittsburgh to campus in April 2015.