Center for Democratic Deliberation announces spring 2020 award winners

April 20, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Center for Democratic Deliberation (CDD), a center of excellence in the McCourtney Institute for Democracy, recently honored the contributions of Penn State students in studying and advocating for democratic deliberation both on and off campus.

The CDD promotes research and programming focused on rhetorical aspects of democratic deliberation, examining how people use language and communication, speaking and writing, argument and persuasion, or dialogue and debate to impact the quality of civic discourse. Its annual awards recognize undergraduate and/or graduate students at University Park who help to advance that mission in exemplary ways.

The Kenneth Burke Prize in Rhetoric and the Student Engagement Award were presented virtually in lieu of the center’s annual spring banquet and awards ceremony.

The Student Engagement Award honors graduate and/or undergraduate students in the College of the Liberal Arts who have made significant efforts to enhance the state of civic engagement and public discourse concerning important issues. The 2020 recipients are Camryn Wilson, Audrey Gradzewicz and Taylor Hare.

Wilson is a senior majoring in communication arts and sciences and political science with a minor in civic and community engagement. She was part of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy’s Nevins Fellows program and served as an intern and fellow with the Campus Vote Project.

Gradzewicz and Hare are doctoral candidates in English and co-teach a course titled “Creative Writing with Shakespeare” at Quehanna Boot Camp, a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections facility in Clearfield County. This experience allows students to envision their long-term roles in society and see themselves as more than inmates.

“The CDD is proud to recognize Audrey and Taylor’s innovative course at Quehanna Boot Camp, which illustrates the vital and potentially transformative effects of higher education for their students,” said Brad Vivian, CDD director and professor of communication arts and sciences.

The Burke Prize in Rhetoric recognizes written work by a graduate student in one of Penn State’s liberal arts disciplines on the subject of rhetoric in its many forms — as historical, critical or theoretical discourse. This year’s winners are Curry Kennedy, a doctoral candidate in English, and Jeffrey Nagel, a doctoral candidate in communication arts and sciences.

Kennedy’s essay, “Not Instruction, but Provocation’: Clarity, the Divinity School Controversy, and Emerson’s Rhetorical Imaginary of Provocative Obscurity,” examines how Ralph Waldo Emerson’s July 1838 Divinity School Address attempts to “free people from stylistic, conceptual and conventional bondage and unleash them from the constraints of a rigid formal clarity — seeing language as an opportunity for bold, authentic expression.

Nagel’s essay argues that gay rights activist Franklin Kameny’s August 1963 congressional testimony represents a unique form of rhetorical delivery called embodied silence, which would become a critical part of activism and public engagement for the LGBTQ movement and other marginalized communities.

Award submissions were reviewed by faculty throughout the College of the Liberal Arts, including Stephen Browne, Liberal Arts Research Professor in communication arts and sciences; Michele Kennerly, associate professor of communication arts and sciences; Jack Selzer, Liberal Arts Professor Emeritus in English; and Xiaoye You, Liberal Arts Professor of English and Asian Studies

For more information about the Center for Democratic Deliberation, visit

Last Updated April 20, 2020