NEH Challenge Grant to support deliberative democracy programs

January 24, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Center for Democratic Deliberation (CDD) at Penn State has been awarded a $334,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Challenge Grant to continue and expand its successful initiatives in education, research, and public outreach and to become a national leader in the field of deliberative democracy in the 21st century. The College of the Liberal Arts and The Center for Democratic Deliberation will pursue philanthropic efforts to raise matching funds of $1 million to extend the work and influence of the Center in civic education and rhetorical scholarship and outreach nationally and internationally.

The CDD was founded in 2006 as a nonpartisan, interdisciplinary center for research, teaching, and outreach on issues of civic engagement and democratic deliberation.

''With the help of the NEH Challenge Grant and the philanthropic support of alumni and friends, we plan to create a permanent endowment for the CDD, supporting both ongoing projects and new initiatives in research, public scholarship, rhetorical and civic education, and new media,'' said J. Michael Hogan, CDD co-director and the liberal arts research professor of communication arts and sciences.

The collapse of bipartisanship in Washington, D.C., and state capitals threatens the health of our economy and our nation. As a partner in the Penn State Democracy Institute, The Center for Democratic Deliberation plans to continue developing new knowledge and training for legislators, policymakers, voters and students to improve debate, discussion and governing on key issues such the debt ceiling and gun control legislation.

The CDD has had a significant impact on undergraduate and graduate education at Penn State, experimenting with changes to basic speaking and writing courses. This fall, under the leadership of CDD co-director Debra Hawhee, the Center debuted a two-semester honors course combining writing and public speaking and focusing on written, oral, and digital modes of communication on civic and political issues.

CDD began as a collaborative partnership between prominent faculty in English and communication arts and sciences who are experts in rhetoric studies. Today, about 50 Penn State faculty from across many disciplines including political science and information technologies are affiliated with the Center. Among its projects is Voices of Democracy, an online resource with texts, audio and video clips, and other materials for undergraduate college teachers nationwide to build classroom lessons around great speeches and debates in U.S. history. In collaboration with the National Constitution Center, CDD faculty has helped to develop high-school programs using Internet videoconferencing technologies to bring together diverse group of students nationwide to discuss Constitutional controversies.

Hogan, who is the principal investigator on the grant, said, ''The NEH Challenge Grant will enable us to expand future themes such as how the rhetorics of religion and science inform or confuse public issues, and when does protest and dissent undermine deliberation or become coercive? The next step is to build on existing strengths and develop opportunities using the latest information technologies, including cloud-based technologies and Web2.0 social networking and gaming tools, to promote a new vision of civic learning and engagement.''

The College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State has a tradition of successfully raising matching funds for NEH Challenge Grants to support the Richards Civil War Era Center and the Institute for the Arts and Humanities in their pursuit of national leadership in their fields.

For more information, go to the CDD website at or to the Penn State Democracy Institute website at


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Last Updated February 08, 2013