Heading: Undergraduate Courses

Courses aim to strengthen students’ civil discourse skills through the study of contentious social issues from a variety of perspectives. The courses support students’ growth to become civically-engaged, fair-minded leaders in the community who practice and model civil discourse. For more detailed information about our course offerings, please contact the Center at [email protected].

IDS 180 (1-credit)

Dialogue Across Difference

Professor Lisa M. Perhamus, PhD

Offered Fall and Winter term.

This introductory course will consider a variety of social issue topics as it examines how to have difficult conversations with people whose perspective differs from one’s own. Using the tools and concepts of civil discourse, this conversational course will provide students with the knowledge-base and skill-set to navigate the current climate of polarization and divisiveness, with a particular emphasis on the role of dialogue in fostering caring relationships, building sustainable communities, and envisioning inclusive futures where people with all different world views are heard and understood.

A tree that symbolizes the leaves as perspectives and the roots as experiences.

IDS 350 (3-credits)

Global Civil Discourse

Professor Jeff Kelly Lowenstein

Offered Fall term.

This is a seminar course designed to address and discuss current issues in journalism and global civil discourse. Beginning with an exploration of what civil discourse means and how we can apply it in our class, it will go on to look at the consequences for civil discourse of the conflict between journalists trying to share accurate information and those governments, individuals and organizations who are working to misinform the public.

During the early part of the course we will focus largely on how these issues play out in the United States, with special attention to key and divisive topics in our country like the current reckoning with racial injustice, the COVID-19 vaccine, and others. At the same time, we will also see how this dynamic exists in other countries throughout the world. We will also be continuing work on a Global Civil Discourse map that last year’s Civil Discourse class worked on with a group of Computer Science students. By the end of the course students will be more engaged and critical news consumers with a broader, more informed perspective on journalism and civil discourse on local, national and international levels.

This course/seminar requires significant initiative and enterprise by its participants.

Past Classes

Professor Lisa Perhamus

This course studies community revitalization efforts in the city of Detroit. Focusing on community-based initiatives that are strengthening neighborhoods, improving schools and fostering the well-being of children, families, and neighborhoods in Detroit, this course invites students with diverse perspectives, from across content areas. The class includes two visits to Detroit.  

This class is now offered Fall semesters as IDS/EDF 325: Learning from Detroit.

Professor Jack Mangala

This course takes an interdisciplinary and grassroots approach to the study of immigration. Students are challenged to think critically about the processes and issues driving international migration (globalization, poverty, conflicts, human rights and the environment) as well as its impact on sending and host countries and communities.

A core emphasis of the course, and an area of experiential learning for students, will be on grassroots initiatives and local efforts aimed at building welcoming cities and communities for immigrants and refugees. The overarching objective of the course is to enable students to develop the skills and intellectual assets needed to engage in civil discourse on the defining issue of immigration.

This class is now offered Fall semesters as GSI/PLS 215: Global Migration.

Professor Elizabeth Arnold

A civil discourse on climate change could not be timelier in America. President Trump and his administration are pulling out of the international Paris climate agreement, severely cutting funding to clean energy programs and climate change initiatives and appointing non-scientists into key governmental positions. These actions of our government have increased skepticism, ignorance and confusion among the public on the topic and have increased the partisan divide on climate change. These actions stand in direct opposition to the broad scientific consensus that climate change is real and man-made, and affecting communities in every part of the country. The focus this semester within the larger topic of climate change will be water resources.

Professor Jeff Kelly Lowenstein

Offered Fall 2020, T/Th, 10:00 a.m. to 11:15am


The 2020-2021 Civil Discourse class at GVSU will focus on journalism and global civil discourse. This is a seminar course designed to examine the tension arising from the international assault on civil discourse, truth and democracy that is happening around the world as well as to identify how journalists and others are operating in their efforts to contribute accurate information to public understanding. Students will study the consistent methods of attacking and discrediting unfavorable information through the use of the rhetoric of fake news, attacking the journalists and the outlets that produce them, the efforts to control the information to which people have access, and the use of social media and information networks to spread viral misinformation. At the same time, they will also look into the work of those people, organizations and news outlets engaged in countering these trends. This part of the course will include investigating the developing global fact checking network, the social media strategies they are using, and their efforts to automate some of the counter information. It will also involve hearing from journalists who live and work in countries with difficult press environments who are members of the global water investigation I am leading. By the end of the semester students will be more engaged and critical news consumers with a broader, more informed perspective on this issue and its consequences for our world. They will also be more able to understand and engage in civil discourse around this and other thorny issues.

Page last modified December 6, 2022