With political climates polarizing, Grand Valley State University’s sixth annual Civic Discourse Symposium will educate students about the skills needed to have difficult conversations. The 2019 symposium, titled “Civil Discourse Cafe: Complicated Conversations,” will feature speakers focusing on water issues and climate change.
Associate professor of anthropology Elizabeth Arnold, who also holds the Padnos/Sarosik endowed professorship for civil discourse, said the speakers sharing personal stories can teach attendees how to approach tough discussions.
“Story telling can be an effective means of civil discourse because it helps establish both rapport and empathy,” Arnold said. “Storytelling is the fundamental communication skill that we have learned is missing from climate change communication.”
Attendees will have the opportunity to practice their civil discourse skills surrounding water and equity in this interactive symposium.
Videographer Peter Sinclair will speak about his experience working on climate change and renewable energy issues. Project coordinator for GVSU’s Division of Inclusion and Equity Lin Bardwell, who also serves as the Grand Rapids Community Relations commissioner, will also share stories.
While past topics have included the intersectionality of Michigan, climate change and immigration, the focus on water connects to GVSU’s two-year Making Waves About Water initiative, which emphasizes collaboration and activities relating to water issues. The symposium also ties into GVSU’s focus on democracy by exposing students to varying opinions and learning how to address them.
The Padnos/Sarosik endowed professorship is housed in the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies after being gifted from longtime supporters Shelley Padnos and Carol Sarosik. The professorship allows a professor to work with GVSU students on practicing their civil discourse skills.
The event will be held Nov. 19 from 6-8 p.m. at the Paul A. Johnson Conference Hall in Eberhard Center on Pew Campus. It is free and open to the public, and RSVPs can be submitted at gvsu.edu/civildiscourse.