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Kelly Lowenstein named new civil discourse professor

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Posted on December 02, 2019

The new faculty member to be named as Padnos/Sarosik Professor of Civil Discourse will bring his knowledge of global journalism and the impact of "fake news" to the position.

Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, assistant professor of multimedia journalism, was announced as the fourth endowed professor November 19 at the annual Padnos/Sarosik Civil Discourse Symposium. 

Housed in the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, the endowed professorship, a two-year appointment, was a gift to Grand Valley from longtime supporters Shelley Padnos and Carol Sarosik. 

Kelly Lowenstein will teach a course, "Journalism and Global Civil Discourse," in the fall semester and work with students to host a public symposium and other events focused on the implications of misinformation and what he called the rising tension from an international assault on democracy and civil discourse.

"We will look at the what, why and how these attacks on journalists and spread of fake news are happening, the impact of this, and what we can do about it," he said.

Mark Schaub, interim dean of Brooks College, said Kelly Lowenstein's course proposal was timely as 2020 is a presidential election year.

"Jeff has demonstrated a track record of successfully involving undergraduate students in cutting edge international journalism, and we trust that this will carry over into high-impact student research and learning in the realm of fake news and the importance of independent journalism to a healthy democracy," Schaub said.

Lisa Perhamus, associate professor of educational foundations, is the director of the Padnos/Sarosik Civil Discourse Program. She said the umbrella topic of civil discourse creates multiple levels of engagement for students and the public. Past themes have delved into immigration, climate change and grassroots community building.

"Civil discourse offers a way for people to develop empathy and mutual understanding, and it can help communities heal from the divisiveness of competing perspectives," Perhamus said. "Everyone has a right to be understood, and the tools of civil discourse help us to understand one another."

Perhamus was the first civil discourse professor, followed by Jack Mangala and Elizabeth Arnold.