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Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy

Civic Engagement Fellows Story

Dr. Timothy Shaffer, Assistant Professor of Communications Studies and Assistant Director of the Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy (ICDD) at Kansas State University, has been working in partnership with The Kettering Foundation to establish a Civic Engagement Fellows Program for Kansas State University faculty. The Civic Engagement Fellows Program launched this fall with support from the Kettering Foundation alongside other institutions such as Colorado State University and the University of Houston-Downtown. The program is made up of university faculty from different academic backgrounds and departments.

Shaffer says the entire program is based upon one question: “What would it look like if university faculty who were doing community engagement work really thought about their work and approached it in a way that was fundamentally built on and based on this idea of dialogue and deliberation.”

Staff of the ICDD worked to identify people across the university they believed would be outstanding candidates for this unique professional development program.

“It will both introduce them to this field of dialogue and deliberation if they do not know about it very well. It serves as a crash course,” said Shaffer. “It is both that and also an opportunity to be in conversation with other faculty who might be in a similar space.”

Shaffer says opportunities like the Fellows Program don’t necessarily exist at the university.

“It is this interesting group of people who would not otherwise be in conversation with each other,” said Shaffer.

The program is designed so about once a month the group of faculty members convenes for workshops and conversation related to dialogue and deliberation.  In the spring, the fellows will participate in an engagement symposium titled, “Powerful Dialogue: Engaging Community Issues in Polarizing Times.” The symposium will allow the fellows to present on what they have learned and how it has translated into their community engagement work.

“At the end of the day, The Kettering Foundation is helping to support this program and their question is what does community engagement look like if we approach it through this deliberative dialogue lens,” said Shaffer. “Hopefully The Civic Engagement Fellows can help us answer that question. The field of community engagement is continually expanding, and we hope to better understand how deliberation contributes to that work.”

The goal of the program is to introduce this group to different ideas, concepts, approaches, and then help support them in implementing these in real-world settings.