Democracy 101: A Series of Critical Conversations

Democracy 101

A series of bi-weekly co-curricular lectures, panel discussions and workshops that will focus on themes of democratic values, systems, and structures. We welcome faculty, staff, and students from all disciplines to present on topics relevant to democratic participation, founding documents, social movements, the idea of the commons, Civic Theory, student civic development and participation, the role of journalism and media in a democracy, “fake news”, how to organize for social change, and more!

All events are LIB 100/201 approved and will have pizza provided.

Coming soon!

Check back for the full 2018-19 Democracy 101 schedule, coming soon!

During fall semester, sessions will be held weekly, on Wednesdays (6-8pm) in the Mary Idema Pew Library and Learning Commons Multipurpose Room.

If you are interested in presenting for DEM 101, contact Melissa Baker-Boosamra ( 


See below for a preview of fall 2018 topics...

W 9/12/18       "American Creed" PBS documentary film screening and discussion about the values that hold us together as Americans and what happens when those values are in jeopardy. 

W 9/19/18        Ballot initiative educational forum on Michigan voting rights policies

W 9/26/18        Ballot initiative educational forum on Marijuana legalization

W 10/3/18        Ballot initiative educational forum on Independent Redistricting




Democracy 101 Videos

Do Protests Matter?



The Role of Media in Democracy

Human Rights and the Promise of Democracy

Educating Toward Direct Democracy

The Common Ground Initiative

2017-18 Democracy 101 schedule


Civicize.Me: Backyard Civics 101

Date: Wednesday, September 27

Time: 6-9pm

Location: KC 1142

Presenter: Shannon Garrett, SMG Strategies

The decisions of your local governments impact your life daily – from roads to schools to the color of your house. This program spotlights the power everyone has in local politics and encourages you to identify your own civic ambition. REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED and will open at the beginning of the 2017/2018 school year! 

Democracy as a Formative Experience

Date: Wednesday, October 11

Time: 12pm-1:30pm

Location: KC 2266

Presenter: Dr. Stephen Rowe, Philosophy Dept.

Democracy is not primarily a theory or form of government.  It is our experience of being a self in the presence of other selves, one which opens up to not only solving problems, but often also to a deeper energy of genuine selfhood, compassion, and even the wellspring of life.

Women in Politics Panel Discussion

Date: Wednesday, October 25

Time: 6pm-7:30pm

Location: Eberhard Center, Rm. 215

Co-sponsored by: GVSU Gayle R. Davis Center for Women and Gender Equity and Office for Integrative Studies.

Join us for a panel discussion about the role of women in politics. Panelists will discuss specific challenges and opportunities for women in political life.

Panelists include:

                               Winnie Brinks, State of MI House of Representatives                        Dr. Lupe Ramos-Montigny, MI Board of Education

Dr. Wendy Falb, GRPS School Board                                      Ruth Kelly,Grand Rapids City Commission            Sonya Hernandez, Latino / Hispanic Commission of Michigan



How to Get Involved and Influence Local and State Politics: A Panel Discussion

Date: Wednesday, November 8

Time: 12pm - 1:30pm

Location: KC 2266

Join us for a "HOW-TO" panel discussion with local activists, political strategists and community organizers who will share strategies for ANYONE who wants to get engaged and make an impact on local and state politics!

Panelists Include: 

Denavvia Mojet, Equity PAC                                  Shannon Garrett, SMG Strategies      

Kathi Harris, PROACTIVE                                      Eric-John Szczpaniak, Kenowa Hills School Board / GV Student Senate

Elianna Bootzin, League of Women Voters            Lorena Aguayo-Marquez, Cosecha GR



College Tuition and Food—The Maintenance of Inequality

Date: Wednesday, December 6

Time: 12pm-1:30pm

Location: KC 2270

Presenter: Dr. George Lundskow, Sociology Dept.

Why do students work more, earn less, and graduate with far more debt than in 1968? Why is overall health in the US declining? The US offers the best quality of life in the world …if you can afford it. Is that conducive to democracy?   

In this presentation, Dr. Lundskow demonstrates the socio-economic and policy reasons why students work more, earn less, and graduate with far more debt than in 1968—the best year to have been a college student. This presentation will also consider why overall health in the US is declining, and one major factor is the unequal quality of our food. Basically, socio-economic policies have made the bad calories the cheapest. So, does the US offer the best quality of life and opportunity in the world? Yes…if you can afford it. Is that conducive to democracy?    

Democracy in Classical Athens: An Organizers' Guide

Date: Wednesday, January 17

Time: 12pm-1:30pm

Location: KC 2266

Presenter: Dr. Charles Pazdernik and Dr. David Crane, Classics Dept.

We're taught that the ancient Greeks "invented" democracy, but how did they organize and perform it?  Conceptualized as isonomia ("equality before the law") and the power (kratos) of the sovereign people (demos), the political culture and value system of Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE not only gave ordinary (male) citizens a vote but also empowered them as participants and made them the political equals of their wealthy and elite neighbors. Animated less by political and constitutional theory than by a robust set of ideological premises and institutional practices, Athenians confronted a range of strikingly contemporary concerns about, for example, the influence of money in politics, the place of morality in international relations, and the power of mass media. They were disappointed by politicians and suspicious of experts. In the face of grave threats and self-inflicted reverses, their approach proved to be remarkably resilient and capable of reinvention.

We study the past not only to imagine where we come from about also to find alternatives to the way things are. Athenian democracy holds the potential to provoke and even to instruct us because it differs fundamentally from our own. Our session will investigate some original--often surprising, occasionally repellant--ways that Athenian democrats exerted, promoted, and protected themselves against opponents both external and internal, some imagined and some real.


Whose Rights? Same-sex Marriage and Religious Liberty

Date: Wednesday, January 31st

Time: 12pm-1:30pm

Location: KC 2266

Presenter: Dr. Darren Walhof, Political Science Dept.

The nation-wide legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015 has raised new questions about the relationship between religious liberty and anti-discrimination protections, most dramatically in a case before the Supreme Court about whether a baker can refuse on religious grounds to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. We will discuss the various issues at stake and the options going forward in this and similar situations involving the clash of rights.

Disentangling from the U.S.' Argument Culture: Keeping it Real about the "Sticking Points"

Date: Wednesday, February 14th

Time: 12pm-1:30pm

Location: KC 2270

Presenter: Dr. Lisa Perhamus, College of Education

This session dares to speak candidly about this historical moment’s arguably intensified argument culture and urgently calls for us to practice civil discourse skills together.   Daring to dialogically share and listen, we will collectively “dig deep” into our own narratives to better understand the narratives of societal structures.  Session participants will engage in a question-based activity that is posed by the Public Conversation Project.

Human Rights and the Promise of Democracy

Date: Wednesday, February 28th 

Time: 12pm-1:30pm

Location: KC 2266

Presenter: Dr. Karen Zivi, Frederik Meijer Honors College

What are human rights and what role do they play in a democratic society like the United States? In this session, we will explore the historical importance of human rights in expanding equality and freedom in the US and consider ways in which human rights continue to help advance social justice today. In addition, we will discuss the ways in which practices of democratic citizenship like voting and protest serve as crucial components of the human rights project.

Educating Toward Direct Democracy

Date: Wednesday, March 14th 

Time: 12pm-1:30pm

Location: KC 2266

Presenter: Dr. Kevin Kevin Holohan, College of Education

This session will explore the concept of direct democracy and the ways in which it is embraced and enacted in an alternative high school setting.  At the Dr. Pedro Albizu Campos High School, students are prepared for democratic participation and community engagement through practice!


Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity

Date: Friday, March 23rd 

Time: 12pm-1:30pm

Location: Holton-Hooker Multipurpose Room

Presenter: Jennifer Weiss-Wolf

Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equality, will visit Grand Valley to talk about the book and menstrual equality.

The Common Ground Initiative: Enhancing Community Access to National Thought Leaders

Date: Wednesday, March 28th 

Time: 12pm-1:30pm

Location: KC 2266

Presenter: Scott St. Louis, Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies

Persistent uncertainty and rapid change have exacerbated some familiar trends: among them, the tiresome melodrama of cable news and the all-too-frequent insipidity of social media feeds. In this needful time, where should one turn for ambitious – even unorthodox – conversations about the shifting political and intellectual terrain of American life?

The Hauenstein Center’s Common Ground Initiative, a long-term series of free public programs launched with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, is committed to substantive intellectual exchange, healthy democratic discourse, and principled pluralism, as progressives and conservatives alike explore and redefine their traditions at a disruptive moment. This presentation will explore the relationship of the Common Ground Initiative to the broader mission of the Hauenstein Center: building a community of ethical, effective leaders for the twenty-first century.

Student Senate: Roles, Responsibilities and Possibilities

Date: Wednesday, April 11th

Time: 12pm-1:30pm

Location: KC 0073

Presenter:  GVSU Student Senate panel, including Carly Aller, Rachel Jenkin, Anna Szalay

Topic: Join GVSU Student Senators for a panel discussion and talk back about the role and responsibility of Student Senate at GVSU. Come to ask questions, share your ideas and discuss how Student Senate can best represent YOU!

Page last modified May 10, 2018