Our Mission / Our Vision

Civil discourse is “robust, honest, frank and constructive dialogue and deliberation that seeks to advance the public interest” (Brosseau, 2011).  It is an exchange of ideas that simultaneously:

  • Holds individuals accountable for their voice (how we talk);
  • Remains curious about other people’s perspectives (how we hear),
  • Respects multiple realities (how we honor personhood).

Civil discourse is not polite conversation, but, rather, intentional dialogue that builds understanding across difference. As Margaret Wheatley states, “We don’t have to let go of what we believe, but we do need to be curious about what someone else believes” (2009).

As a gift from Shelley E. Padnos and Carol Sarosik, the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse in the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies will promote engagement with the concepts and tools of civil discourse. Through the initiatives of this program, Grand Valley hopes to strengthen the commitment to informed, peace-based, and respectful dialogue across the campus community and the neighboring areas of West Michigan. 

Check out the most recent edition of our Civil Discourse Newsletter!

April 2024 Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on the work of the center: Subscribe Now

Save the Date! The 2024 Civil Discourse Symposium will be on November 21, 2024.

Click Here For More Information

Take One Small Step, Grand Rapids

 with WGVU and StoryCorps

Created by StoryCorps, One Small Step is an effort to remind the country of the humanity in all of us, even those with whom we disagree. The initiative brings strangers with different political beliefs together for a 50-minute conversation—not to debate politics—but to get to know each other as people.

WGVU and their valued partners: Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse; Kaufman Interfaith Institute; Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies; Seeds of Promise; and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation as well as StoryCorps invite you to take part in One Small Step, an effort to bring communities together, one conversation at a time.

WGVU is one of just seven stations selected nationally to host One Small Step in 2024.With participant permission, these conversations will be preserved for future generations at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

We’re teaming up with civic organizations, churches, and other community groups and leaders to spread the word and connect West Michigan residents from all backgrounds who are ready to take One Small Step.  Do you want to get your group or organization involved in the effort? Contact Phil Lane at [email protected] or (616) 331-6791 for more details.

Story Corps: One Small Step

Learn more about One Small Step

We invite you to meet someone new.

Learn More

Click below to express your interest in participating!

One Small Step Participant Matching Questionnaire

Our Story

Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse video: Our Story

Building Bridges

Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse: Building Bridges Through Dialogue


Have a question about the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse at GVSU? Feel free to email us at [email protected]


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Page last modified June 6, 2024