Center for Democratic Deliberation recognizes spring 2021 award winners

April 16, 2021

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 Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement essay contest winners were presented virtually April 14 in conjunction with the center’s annual Kenneth Burke Memorial Lecture, which was delivered by Ersula J. Ore, a Penn State alumna and associate professor of African and African American studies and rhetoric at Arizona State University.

Luke F. Scanlon, winner of the 2021 Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement essay contest

Luke F. Scanlon, a sophomore architecture major, won the 2021 Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement essay contest.

IMAGE: Photo provided

A new initiative this year, the Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement essay contest encouraged undergraduate students from across Penn State to examine speeches, writings and other artifacts from the civil rights era.

Luke F. Scanlon, a sophomore architecture major, won the contest’s first prize for his essay titled “Change That Costs Something,” based on Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “America’s Chief Moral Dilemma,” delivered in Atlanta in 1967. The essay will be featured on the Rhetoric of the Civil Rights Movement website.

Jack Selzer, Paterno Family Liberal Arts Professor Emeritus of Literature and the contest’s organizer, said Scanlon’s essay took into account the complexities King faced in addressing a multiracial audience in this speech.

“He showed how Dr. King achieved his rhetorical goals and confronted his challenge by controlling tone, employing characteristic repetitions, and organizing for maximum effect,” Selzer said.

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. 

Kelly Williams Nagel, winner of the 2021 Kenneth Burke Prize in Rhetoric

Kelly Williams Nagel, a doctoral candidate in communication arts and sciences, won the 2021 Kennth Burke Prize in Rhetoric.

IMAGE: Photo Provided

This year’s Burke Prize winner is Kelly Williams Nagel, a doctoral candidate in communication arts and sciences for her essay, "Unraveling Lost Cause Historiography: Places for Encounter at the Robert E. Lee Statue in Richmond, Virginia.”

“The reviewers praised this paper for its sophisticated application of contemporary rhetorical theory to a timely case study and its incisive engagement with both disciplinary and interdisciplinary research on contested spaces of public memorialization,” said Brad Vivian, professor of communication arts and sciences and Burke Prize judging coordinator.

Additionally, the judging committee recognized two papers with honorable mention distinction: "Assigning Guilt and Dispersing Blame: Conspiracy Discourse and the Limits of Law in the Nuremberg Trials," by Allison Neibauer and “(In)Visibility in the Daughters of Bilitis: From Tactical Activism to Radical Separatism,” by Jeff Nagel. Niebauer and Nagel are both doctoral candidates in communication arts and sciences.

Xiaoye You, director of the CDD, underscored the communal effort in bringing out excellent student research.

“While the CDD supports student research by providing fellowships, essay prizes, lectures and travel funding, these award-winning essays testify to the Penn State rhetoric community’s concerted efforts in training the next generation of rhetoricians," he said.

A recording of the Burke lecture and Center for Democratic Deliberation awards ceremony is available on YouTube.

Last Updated April 16, 2021