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Whalen-Bridge and Hsu to Speak at Colloquium on Kenneth Burke and Social Movements

The Center for Democratic Deliberation, Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, and Department of English are co-sponsoring a Colloquium on Kenneth Burke and Social Movements this Friday, October 18 at 3:35-5:00 p.m. in 158 Willard Building, on Penn State’s University Park campus.  The colloquium will feature the following two speakers:

John Whalen Bridge, Associate Professor of English Literature and Language at the National University of Singapore will deliver a talk entitled, “Running on Fire: Burke’s Dramatism and Self-Immolation in Tibet.” Whalen-Bridge is the author of Political Fiction and the American Self.  He has also (co-)edited eight volumes on transpacific cultural exchange and interrelations of politics, literature, and religion.

Jo Hsu, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Penn State Department of English, will also deliver a talk entitled “Motivating the Movement: Occupy Wall Street and Kenneth Burke’s Occupation.”

This event is free and open to the public.

Gastil Offers Advanced Undergraduate Course on Deliberation

This Spring 2014, Professor John Gastil, Director of Penn State’s Democracy Institute and a faculty affiliate of the Center for Democratic Deliberation (CDD), will offer an advanced course on democratic deliberation for Penn State undergraduate students.  Gastil has studied deliberative democracy for more than twenty years and conducted research in the U.S., Australia, and Canada.

His course, CAS/PLSC 409 (Democratic Deliberation), will explore the significance of deliberation in a democratic society, with an emphasis on practical political reforms in the United States and other countries. It will introduce students to a wide range of perspectives on deliberation and will sharpen student skills at everything from informal political conversation to legislative debate. Students will participate directly in forums discussing current issues, and they will critique real political reforms that aim to transform the way we do politics. In the final project, students will make an original contribution to the public website,, which archives democratic innovations across the globe.

Penn State undergraduates interested in enrolling in CAS/PLSC 409 (Democratic Deliberation) can learn more here.

To learn more about John Gastil, click here.

Gastil Featured in NCDD Video Interview on Democratic Deliberation

John Gastil, Director of Penn State’s Democracy Institute and a faculty affiliate of the Center for Democratic Deliberation (CDD), is featured in a new video interview about deliberation produced by filmmaker Jeffrey Abelson.  Gastil was interviewed while attending the 2012 National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation Conference in Seattle, Washington.  In the video, he discusses a variety of topics pertinent to the work of the CDD: democratic deliberation, deliberative processes, and how deliberation has made a difference in local communities.

To view the video interview, click here.

To learn more about Dr. John Gastil, click here.

CDD Announces 2013 Birkle Award Winners

Through the generosity of Gretchen A Birkle ('86), each year the Nancy and Joseph Birkle Student Engagement Award recognizes at least two students in the College of Liberal Arts—either graduate or undergraduate students—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 2013 Birkle Award Winners were announced at the 21st Annual Kenneth Burke Lecture in Rhetoric.  The Center for Democratic Deliberation congratulates the award winners:

Sean Dooling is an undergraduate student majoring in French and Biological Anthropology. He is being honored with this year’s Birkle Student Engagement Award for his key leadership role in Pinwheels for Prevention, an awareness- and fund-raising campaign in support of Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania. A member of the Paterno Fellows Student Advisory Board, Sean helped recruit students, coordinate events with Penn State faculty and staff, organize a Facebook presence, and write blogs for the Paterno Fellows blog site that resulted in a stunning display of visual rhetoric.  As nominator Dr. Jack Selzer described the scene in April 2012, “A garden of over 1500 pinwheels spun in the breezes over the Sparks Building lawn, standing in for the hope of a carefree childhood for all children.” Sean, along with other students and supportive faculty and staff, “held a kind of informational vigil over their garden: as passersby wandered by, drawn by the amazing visual display, their questions could be answered by Sean and his colleagues.” The event was picked up in various local media and netted over $5000 for Prevent Child Abuse Pennsylvania. Sean has continued his advocacy this year in the Pinwheels for Prevention program, as well. The Center for Democratic Deliberation is proud to honor Sean with the Birkle Award for his commitment, which he calls “a reminder of the innocence of children and of the impact a community can make when working together.”

Lili Hadsell is an undergraduate majoring in Women’s Studies and English. She is being honored with this year’s Birkle Student Engagement Award for her role as coordinator of Penn State’s chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), an on-campus group that advocates for the rights of workers who produce Penn State’s collegiate apparel. As she explains, such advocacy is difficult because “brands purposely try to distance consumers from the labor that goes into making the products that we buy.”As her nominator, Dr. Mark Anner, notes, Lili was so determined to bridge that distance that she travelled to Central America in the spring of 2012 to witness firsthand the working conditions of local factories. She was instrumental in pointing out to Penn State administration the worker rights abuses committed by Russell Athletic, a maker of Penn State apparel, in Honduras. As Anner explains, “The Penn State administration listened to USAS’s concerns and terminated its contract with the company in order to pressure it to improve conditions. As a result, thousands of workers in Honduras are now working under better conditions.” For these efforts – in addition to her work promoting Alta Gracia, a factory in the Dominican Republic that produces Penn State clothing where workers receive wages that are triple others in the industry and have a strong union to represent their interests – the Center for Democratic Deliberation will award Lili the Birkle.

Janeetra Johnson is an undergraduate student majoring in Women’s Studies. She is being honored with this year’s Birkle Student Engagement Award for her commitment to racial, gender, and economic equality in her hometown of Philadelphia and at Penn State University. In Philadelphia, Janeetra worked with Judge Marjorie Rendell and the National Constitution Center, co-founding an organization called “Star Force” that educated minority children from underprivileged backgrounds on the importance of civic education. At Penn State, she has allied with two Women’s Studies groups on campus, Triota and Coalition, to speak out against sexual violence. Additionally, she recently founded an organization, Reaching for Greatness, that mentors young women in the community. Dr. Gabeeba Baderoon, Janeetra’s nominator, wrote that Janeetra’s “visionary, sustained and deeply ethical engagement” in her communities is a wonderful example of “empathetic, thoughtful, and effective public engagement.” The Center for Democratic Deliberation agrees with Dr. Baderoon’s sentiments, and we are pleased to honor Janeetra with the Birkle Award.

Brown Wins 2013 Kenneth Burke Prize in Rhetoric

The Center for Democratic Deliberation is pleased to announce the 2013 winner of the Kenneth Burke Prize in Rhetoric, Laura Michael Brown.  Brown, a Master’s student in the Penn State Department of English, won the prize with her essay entitled “Silent Protest: Bennett College Women and the 1960 Greensboro Student Sit-ins."

Michele Kennerly (left), CDD Advisory Board Member and 
Laura Michael Brown (right), 2013 winner of the Kenneth Burke Prize in Rhetoric.

Sanford Levinson Delivers 21st Annual Kenneth Burke Lecture in Rhetoric

On Thursday, April 18, Professor Sanford Levinson delivered the 21st Annual Kenneth Burke Lecture in Rhetoric, entitled “Four Tropes of the Federalist: What Meaning do they Have for us Today?” Levinson is Professor of Law and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair of the School of Law at the University of Texas at Austin. He is the author of more than 350 articles and book reviews in professional and popular journals, in addition to a frequent contributor to the popular blog Balkanization. Levinson has authored five books: Constitutional Faith (1988, winner of the Scribes Award); Written in Stone: Public Monuments in Changing Societies (1998); Wrestling With Diversity (2003); Our Undemocratic Constitution: Where the Constitution Goes Wrong (and How We the People Can Correct It) (2006); and, most recently, Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance (2012), in addition to editing or co-editing several other volumes on topics ranging from the morality, law, and politics of torture to the hermeneutics of reading law. In 2001, Levinson was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association in 2010.

Wilson Appears on NCA Panel Examining the March on Washington

Center for Democratic Deliberation Advisory Board Member Kirt Wilson was one of five panelists who appeared on the panel “Media, Memory, and the March on Washington: How We Teach and What We Learn about the Speech that Changed America” on July 29, 2013 in Washington, D.C. The panel was co-sponsored by the National Communication Association (NCA) and the Washington, D.C. Newseum.

Marking the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, NCA described the panel as exploring questions such as: “How have we remembered King’s speech? How have the speech and March been portrayed, represented, and understood in the media, by journalists, in popular culture? How do we teach this speech and what do we learn about this oration that changed America? What does it mean to Americans and America, fifty years later?”

The panel discussion aired on C-SPAN’s American History TV on Sunday, August 25, 2013.  An archived link to the video is available from NCA and on YouTube.

CDD-Affiliated Grad Students Publish in Voices of Democracy

Eric C. Miller and Craig Rood, both graduate students in Communication Arts and Sciences, have published curriculum units in the NEH- and CDD-sponsored online journal and curriculum resource, Voices of Democracy. Each curriculum unit in VOD explores a notable speech in U.S. history and includes an authenticated text, an interpretive essay, a list of related published and online resources, and teaching and learning materials for classroom use.

Miller’s unit examines Patrick Buchanan’s controversial “Culture Wars” speech, delivered at the Republican National Convention on August 17, 1992.

Rood’s unit analyzes Barack Obama’s commencement address at the University of Notre Dame in 2009, where he sought to deflect controversy over his view on abortion and to urge more civil and respectful public debate.

The latest volume of Voices of Democracy, as well as more information about the project, can be found here.

CDD Announces 2013-2014 Dissertation Fellows

The Center for Democratic Deliberation is pleased to announce its 2013-2014 Dissertation Fellows: Michael Bergmaier, Kristopher Lotier, and William O. Saas.

Each academic year, the Center selects three or four Dissertation Fellows whose teaching and research reflects the CDD's concern with civic life and the character and quality of public discourse.  CDD Dissertation Fellows receive a one-semester release from teaching, a research fund, and office space in the Sparks Building. They also participate in a weekly faculty-led dissertation writing group and present their research in public venues.

Here are more details about this year's CDD Dissertation Fellows:

Michael Bergmaier is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences specializing in deliberation and rhetorics of executive power. His dissertation examines how public and intergovernmental deliberations about foreign policy and national security programs are constrained by contemporary rhetorical practices. He also studies debate pedagogy, and has been awarded a grant from the Penn State Democracy Institute to investigate new, more accessible formats for high school and college debate. Bergmaier holds a B.A. in Political Science and International Relations from West Chester University (2008) and an M.A. in Communication Studies from Ball State University (2011).

Kristopher Lotier is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English. He specializes in rhetoric and composition, critical theory, and cultural studies--particularly as those fields intersect with economics. His dissertation project reconsiders the history of composition from the 1960s through the present by connecting shifts in the theory and practice of writing instruction to those occurring in the world of post-industrial work (that is, people's jobs) more broadly. Lotier holds a B.S. in Marketing and a B.A. in English, both from the University of South Carolina (2008), as well as an M.A. in English from Penn State (2010).

William O. Saas is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, where he specializes in rhetorics of war and peace. His dissertation examines how “public trust” is discursively negotiated in post-Vietnam U.S. war culture. His research on the rhetoric of war has been published in symplokēQuarterly Journal of Speech (with Dr. Jeremy Engels), and the Western Journal of Communication (with Dr. Donovan Conley). Saas holds an M.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (2010).

For more information on the CDD Fellows Program, please visit the CDD Website.

Democracy Institute Funds Two Graduate Research Projects

The Penn State Democracy Institute is supporting two research projects by graduate students Mike Bergmaier and Matt Wilson, thanks to generous support from the alumni and friends of the College of the Liberal Arts.

In the Communication Arts and Sciences Department, PhD candidate Mike Bergmaier will study a key part of civic education in American democracy. He is investigating new formats for high school and college debates that are more accessible, rather than the current specialized formats highlighted with rapid-fire delivery and dense theoretical arguments.  Specifically, Mike will explore the effectiveness of participants negotiating ground rules prior to each debate, rather than imposing a rigid format or an anything-goes approach. Funding from the Democracy Institute will enable the University to host a pilot debate tournament with student competitors to test this new approach to debate competitions.

Matt Wilson, who is pursuing a PhD in Political Science, studies how nations experience major transitions in their political systems. Funding from the Democracy Institute will allow him to research and analyze decisions of Mexico’s prominent political party, known as the Partido Revolutionario Institutional (PRI), that led to its eventual defeat after holding power from 1929 to 2000. Matt’s theory is that leaders create and change political institutions to stay in office, and their success depends on specific constraints and the type of opposition they face.

The Penn State Democracy Institute is a collaborative partnership of research, teaching, and outreach between The Center for American Political Responsiveness and The Center for Democratic Deliberation.