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Initiative Encourages Campus Dialogue on Civic Issues

10/27/2011 —

Penn State Brandywine’s Laboratory for Civic Engagement has added a new program for this academic year called Civic Issues in a Minute to further its mission to promote the integration of civic engagement into academic curricula and extracurricular activities. Civic Issues in a Minute provides a launching pad for discussion of current issues.

Under the direction of Associate Professor of Earth Sciences Laura Guertin, honors student Zanya Stephenson has been researching and adding topics almost weekly to the Civic Issues website. Minute-long podcasts and VoiceThreads introduce the topic, then anyone can weigh in via comments. Those who use Twitter are encouraged to tweet their thoughts using “#BWTakesOn.”

“I research different issues that I think are interesting and would appeal to a wide range of audiences,” notes Stephenson. Guertin added, “We work to expose students to complex issues and ideas in dynamic ways to encourage them to be more thoughtful and active citizens of the world.” 

This allows for “collaboration and asynchronous discussion” while creating “a forum to weave conversation between disconnected audiences,” Guertin said. “A K-12 teacher or college professor can play the podcast at the beginning of a class period” and then center discussions on the issues raised. In this way, Civic Issues in a Minute is a forum for adults to participate in democratic discussions while also serving as an educational tool.

Stephenson serves as the project manager and chose a wide range of topics, including banned websites, access to social media and facial recognition software. This broad spectrum of issues was purposely developed to appeal to everyone—globally and locally.

This has been a learning experience for Stephenson, too. “Having researched the issues that are added to the website, I have definitely learned a lot. These topics are new to me and make me aware of what is taking place in our society. I love how the project aims at getting everyone involved and hearing different individual’s perspectives on an issue. It’s just a great learning experience.”

Weigh in on the issues at http://www.personal.psu.edu/uxg3/blogs/civicminute online.

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