May 20, 2024

Faculty Institute Impact

Photo from the Faculty Development Institute at Duke University

Higher education equips students for full participation and leadership in democratic life. The faculty who prepares them for those responsibilities, in turn, must be skilled, confident, and comfortable in engaging in discussions of diverse intellectual and social perspectives, creating classroom agreements, modeling them for free expression and thoughtful dialogue across differences, and sustaining the space for free inquiry.

The Faculty Institute, launched in August 2023, is a virtual and in-person community of learning and purpose. Over 18 months, Faculty are provided the resources, support, and opportunities to hear and work with experts and one another and to apply and practice civil discourse. Participants refine their understanding of free expression and civil discourse, expand their intellectual frameworks in this area, and develop courses and initiatives to help students prepare and graduate with the skill sets to engage and thrive in our diverse democracy. Naturally, faculty emerge as champions for this work at their institutions. They help scale new approaches, provide opportunities for other faculty to get involved, and positively impact their campus environment.  


The Value of the Faculty Institute  

 Percentage of faculty who said the institute achieved the objective of:   

  • 94% Gave positive responses regarding the USEFULNESS of the Institute*  

* Includes all positive responses, from “moderately useful” to “extremely useful.”   


2023 Faculty Institute Participants  

American University  

Benedict College  

Claremont McKenna College  

Columbia University  

Cornell University  

DePauw University  

Duke University  

Georgetown University  

James Madison University  

Maine College of Art  

Purdue University  

Rollins College  

Rutgers University  

Stanford University  

The New School  

University of Chicago  

University of Minnesota  

University of Notre Dame  

University of Richmond  

Wellesley College  


Examples of Courses Launched or Redesigned in 2023-2024  

  • Mass Communications  
  • Digital Literacy 
  • Media and Civic Engagement  
  • Business   
  • First Year Experience  
  • Psychology   
  • Health  
  • Performing Arts  
  • Environmental Studies  
  • Political Science  
  • Honors Program  
  • English and Creative Writing  
  • Leadership Ethics  


Faculty Spotlights 


James Madison University Professor Lori Britt  

Dr. Lori L. Britt, professor and Director of the School of Communication Studies at James Madison University, and Co-Director of JMU’s Institute for Constructive Advocacy & Dialogue, is a 2023 Faculty Institute participant. Her experience helped shape the design of her course “Facilitating Public and Organizational Engagement Processes” (SCOM 447).


“The Institute helped me see ways that I could adapt my existing course to highlight more civic topics. For many of our practice discussions, I have used [general campus] topics they all have knowledge of, but this Institute encouraged me to push students a bit more. We engaged in discussions about inviting controversial speakers to campus and talking about the political divide.  I always tell students that what they have gained is the ability to help shape any conversation they are a part of in more productive ways by modeling the habits, mindset, and skills they have gained. I also see them leave [my class] with a better sense of how people must work together in communities to address public issues.”  


Dr. Britt’s Students Reflect on their Last Day of Class:  

  • “I believe people are more tolerant and willing to listen than I initially thought. I am hopeful that with competent facilitators, it is possible to get any group of people to have a productive discussion.”  
  • “I am more hopeful. People are willing to talk and be open-minded when they are given the space to feel comfortable to do so. We want to pit one another against each other, but we are all very similar and realize that if we were willing to talk and connect.”  
  • “Honestly, I hate discussing politics and even though it wasn’t the main focus… [this class] made me see different approaches to this kind of hard conversation. When you set group agreements and are intentional, it can be a safer conversation.”   
  • “I believe that making personal connections before the controversial conversation begins helps level the playing field and allows for people to be more respectful and open-minded.”  


Benedict College Professor Alexander Gorelik 

Dr. Alexander Gorelik, Professor of Mass Communication at Benedict College, is a participant in the College Presidents for Civic Preparedness 2023 Faculty Institute. As part of his work with the Institute, he is developing two courses, one for Spring and one for Fall 2024 – Foundations of Digital Literacy and Survey of Theories of Mass Communication. In both classes, students will work on productive argumentative and persuasive techniques. In particular, the Digital Literacy course will encompass creating an aptitude for online presence, forming a personal values statement, developing skills on how to respond to adversarial or competing thoughts, and managing a virtual professional community that is a healthy and productive space for the exchange of professional ideas.