Gift from longtime supporters expands work of civil discourse program into center
A gift from two longtime Grand Valley supporters has created the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse and ensured students will continue learning how to engage in civil discussions on controversial issues.
Shelley Padnos and Carol Sarosik recently expanded their support to establish the civil discourse center, housed in the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, which they established in 2012 with a gift to the university to endow a professorship and begin a program.
Mark Schaub, dean of Brooks College, said the gift from Padnos and Sarosik is a statement of confidence in Grand Valley, Brooks College and Lisa Perhamus' leadership. Perhamus, associate professor of education, serves as the center's director and was the inaugural endowed professor of civil discourse.
"Ms. Sarosik and Ms. Padnos have dramatically increased their support for the work of the center, which means we will better be able to educate and train undergraduate students on how to engage in and ultimately lead civil discussion on contentious societal issues," Schaub said. "These issues that need addressing are points of conflict and misunderstanding that divide us and hold us back from realizing our full potential as a peaceful and productive society governing ourselves through a healthy democracy."
Perhamus said the expansion enables the center to facilitate campus and community conversations, establish a global civil discourse map as a virtual resource, add a new one-credit civil discourse course and a new spring event. This is in addition to the course and community symposium that fall under the endowed professorship.
Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, assistant professor of multimedia journalism, is the endowed professor of civil discourse. "Jeff’s focus is on global civil discourse, with particular attention to the role of misinformation and disinformation in the field of journalism," Perhamus said.
Past endowed professors have focused on Michigan's east/west divide, immigration and climate change. Perhamus said students have reported feeling better equipped to navigate contentious conversations and described the course as transformational.
The center will host its annual Public Symposium on November 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Eberhard Center. Terri Givens, author, CEO and founder of Brighter Higher Ed, will be the keynote speaker; the theme is "Bridging Divides: Encouraging Dialogue with Radical Empathy."
Visit gvsu.edu/civildiscourse to learn more about the symposium or the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse.