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CDD Announces 2014 Birkle Student Engagement Award Winners

2014 Birkle Award Winners Briana Adams (left), Patrick Boynton (center), 
Suzanne Zakaria (right), and CDD Affiliate Debra Hawhee
(Photo credit: Adam Haley)

Through the generosity of Gretchen A Birkle ('86), each year the Nancy and Joseph Birkle Student Engagement Award recognizes undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts who have made significant contributions to public deliberation and debate by “speaking out” about important political or social issues, or by promoting more informed or productive public deliberation on the Penn State campus, in the State College community, or in the nation and world beyond.

The 2014 Birkle Award Winners were announced at the 22nd Annual Kenneth Burke Lecture in Rhetoric.  The Center for Democratic Deliberation congratulates the recipients:

Briana Adams
Briana Adams is a sophomore majoring in Communication Arts and Sciences. She is being honored with this year’s Nancy and Joseph Birkle Student Engagement Award for creating the Collegiate Laws of Life Essay Contest, which asked Penn State students to “explore ethical values and intercultural issues, and their talent for expressing their views in writing.” According to Catherine Wanner, the Barry Director of the Paterno Fellows Program, who nominated Briana for the Birkle award, “The Essay Contest has empowered other students to think that they too can make a difference not only in their own college experience, but in the overall culture of student life at Penn State.” Briana organized a student committee, and together they wrote six provocative essay prompts to which submitters responded. In its inaugural year, the essay contest drew more than thirty entries. The three top winning essays and three honorable mentions are featured on the Penn State Liberal Arts Voices Website, along with a podcast about the contest. The Center for Democratic Deliberation is proud to honor Briana with the Birkle Award for organizing what her nominator has aptly described as a “superb example of a student spearheading a forum where peers are encouraged to be engaged citizens of Penn State and of the world.”

Patrick Boynton and Suzanne Zakaria
Patrick Boynton is a senior majoring in International Politics, and Suzanne Zakaria is a senior majoring in International Politics and Spanish. They are being honored with this year’s Nancy and Joseph Birkle Student Engagement Award for their leadership of State of State, both an organization and an event designed to evaluate, deliberate, and improve the state of the Penn State University community. Since proposing the idea for State of State a couple of years ago, Patrick and Suzanne have recruited a thirty-five student organizing committee, secured more than $40,000 in funding from all over campus, and planned—with the help of their organizing committee—the inaugural conference, which was held on Sunday, March 30, 2014. This conference drew more than 300 students, faculty, and community members, who learned about and deliberated Penn State issues such as the massive scale of THON, race relations on campus, funding higher education, etc. The event included a series of informative talks, interspersed with energetic small group discussions, which were led by student facilitators. According to their nominator Michael Berkman, Professor of Political Science, Patrick and Suzanne “designed the day to facilitate meaningful discussion and interaction… and they have created the infrastructure for the program to continue past their graduation.” The Center for Democratic Deliberation agrees with Dr. Berkman’s sentiments, and is pleased to honor Patrick and Suzanne with the Birkle Award.

Saas Wins 2014 Kenneth Burke Prize in Rhetoric

2014 Kenneth Burke Prize in Rhetoric winner William O. Saas accepts his award 
presented by CDD Affiliate Stephen H. Browne 
(Photo credit: Adam Haley)

The Center for Democratic Deliberation offers an annual Kenneth Burke Prize in Rhetoric, awarded to the best essay written by a graduate student in one of Penn State’s liberal arts disciplines on the subject of rhetoric in its many forms—as historical, critical, or theoretical discourse.

The CDD is pleased to announce the 2014 winner of the Kenneth Burke Prize in Rhetoric, William O. Saas.  Saas, a CDD Fellow and a doctoral student in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, won the prize with his essay entitled “Money as Corporate Speech: Re-Reading Citizens United through Heterodox Money Theory."

Meira Levinson Delivers 22nd Annual Kenneth Burke Lecture in Rhetoric

On Wednesday, April 16, Dr. Meira Levinson, Associate Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, delivered the 22nd Annual Kenneth Burke Lecture in Rhetoric, entitled “Teaching as Moral Injury: The Ethics of Educational Injustice.”  Levinson, recently named a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, is author of the award-winning book, No Citizen Left Behind. Her work on civic education draws on scholarship from many disciplines and eight years of teaching in Atlanta and Boston public schools. A national leader in civic education, she has served on the advisory boards of the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, CIRCLE, Generation Citizen, the National Action Civics Collaborative, and the Civic and Moral Education Initiative at Harvard University.

A video recording of Levinson’s talk will be available for a year, on MediaSite Live.

Dr. Meira Levinson delivers the 2014 Kenneth Burke Lecture in Rhetoric
(Photo credit: Adam Haley)

CDD Cosponsors Honors English Class Spring Break Trip to Civil Rights Movement Locations

This Spring 2014, CDD Advisory Board member Jack Selzer led a group of undergraduate students enrolled in his honors “Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement” course on a week-long Spring Break bus tour of notable Civil Rights Movement locations. The trip was sponsored in part by the Center for Democratic Deliberation.

Penn State students with Civil Rights Movement leader Julian Bond.
(Photo credit: Dominique Ricciardi)

The students visited a number of storied Civil Rights Movement locations, including the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963; Greensboro, North Carolina, where the student sit-in movement began in 1960; Highlander Folk School in the mountains of Tennessee, where civil rights workers trained in non-violence; the “Sweet Auburn” district of Atlanta, home to King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Martin Luther King National Historical Site; and Birmingham, Selma, and Montgomery, Alabama, where three of the most celebrated civil rights campaigns took place. Throughout the trip, students had the opportunity to meet personally with surviving veterans of the Freedom Struggle. This trip also offered ample opportunity for discussions and activities designed to deepen students’ understanding of this significant episode in American history.

As the students traveled, they tweeted and blogged about their experiences. To view some of their photos and commentary, visit their Storify page or the “PSU Freedom Tour 2014” Course Blog.

Students visit the Civil Rights Memorial at the
Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama.  
(Photo credit: Laura Brown)

Professor Tong Zhiwei to Visit School of International Affairs

Professor Tong Zhiwei, one of China's most well-known public intellectuals and a professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai, will visit the School of International Affairs for an all-day event titled “China-Constitution-Politics” on April 9, 2014. The event, which will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Greg Sutliff Auditorium of the Lewis Katz Building, is free and open to the public.

The conference will examine issues of Chinese constitutional law and politics, and consider the current movement of government and popular sentiment. This event is made possible with support from the Center for Democratic Deliberation, the Center for Global Studies, the Rock Ethics Institute, and the Coalition for Peace and Ethics.

To view the event flyer, which includes the conference schedule, click here.

The full story is available at Penn State News.

CDD and McCourtney Institute for Democracy Offer Grants for Graduate Students to Attend Frontiers of Democracy Conference

The McCourtney Institute for Democracy and the Center for Democratic Deliberation invite applications for small grants for graduate students interested in attending the Frontiers of Democracy Conference at Tufts University in Boston, July 16-18, 2014.  This conference includes presentations and workshops featuring many of the leading figures in the deliberative democracy movement, including Peter Levine, David Matthews of the Kettering Foundation, and Penn State's own John Gastil.

Grants will be awarded to cover registration for the conference, travel and lodging, and other related expenses.  Interested students should submit a brief (i.e. one-page)  proposal with a paragraph summarizing their interest in the conference and a detailed budget, indicating the exact amount requested.  Proposals should be submitted to Mike Hogan ( by May 1, 2014.

For more information, visit the conference website at:

Major Gift to Penn State Advances the Study of Democracy

Tracy and Ted McCourtney have endowed the Penn State Institute for Democracy with a transformative gift of $3 million that will enable it to advance the study of democracy and the celebration of democratic achievements.

This will provide the Institute for Democracy with a permanent endowment that will help fund student and faculty research and public outreach programs that elevate the quality of public discussions of important issues. In appreciation, the university is now using the name McCourtney Institute for Democracy. This Institute also works closely with the Center for Democratic Deliberation and the Center for American Political Responsiveness.

The full story is available online at Penn State News.

CDD Co-Sponsors Local Public Issues Forum on Standardized Testing in Schools

A Centre County Public Issues Forum on the topic of standardized testing in schools will be held on Thursday, April 24 from 6:00-8:30 p.m. in Schlow Centre Region Library.

The central question to be addressed is:  "What should be the role of standardized state testing in our schools?"  This question will be discussed from various vantage points, which are previewed in this front-page story in the Centre Daily Times.  The forum aims to foster discussion about the role of standardized testing in schools, in light of recent major changes to the Pennsylvania law regarding state educational assessments.

This event, co-sponsored by the Center for Democratic Deliberation, is free and open to the public.

CDD Issues Call for Applications to 2014-2015 Dissertation Fellows Program

The Center for Democratic Deliberation (CDD) is pleased to announce the 2014-15 Dissertation Fellows Program, in conjunction with the College of the Liberal Arts (CLA) and the Humanities Initiative Dissertation Release program. These awards provide a one-semester release from teaching or related service and a research grant to humanities graduate students in CLA who are supported on assistantships. Awardees will have the title of CDD Dissertation Fellow.

CDD Dissertation Fellows will continue to receive their regular assistantship stipend. They will also receive a $1000 research fund provided by the CDD to use for equipment, supplies, travel, or other expenses related to the dissertation project. While the course release is for one semester, the award term is the whole academic year. Under the sponsorship of the CDD, Dissertation Fellows will have access to office space for the academic year in 210 Sparks. They also will participate in a faculty-led Dissertation Writing Group and present their research at a public colloquium during the spring semester. CDD Fellows are expected to remain in residence at University Park during the period of the Dissertation Fellows Program and to participate in the activities of the Center.

Application materials are due Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 5:00 p.m. Additional details and instructions for how to apply are available here.

CDD Fellows to Present Research at CAS Colloquium

The Center for Democratic Deliberation fellows will present their research at the Communication Arts and Sciences Colloquium on Friday, February 28 at 3:35 p.m. in 158 Willard, University Park Campus.  This event is free and open to the public.

The colloquium will feature the following presentations:

“RE: Invention--Transforming the First Canon for the Age of Peer Production"
Kristopher Lotier, CDD Fellow

“Rhetoric & Nomisa”
Billy Saas, CDD Fellow

“‘To Willie with Compliments’: Disclosing and Concealing World War I in Battle of the Somme”
John Minbiole, Rock Ethics Fellow

“‘I Welcome This Debate’: Secrecy, Disclosure, and Metadeliberation in the Edward Snowden Saga”
Mike Bergmaier, CDD Fellow