New College conference teaches democracy

The University’s New College partnered with the David Mathews Center for Civic Life to host a conference designed to teach democratic ways to deal with everyday life situations. Connect the Dots will last today through Saturday in Point Clear and is open to all students, teachers and other faculty members, according to a UA news release.

The conference will feature workshops such as “Preserving Free Speech and Civil Discourse on Campus: Student Rights and Responsibilities,” “Organizing Public Deliberation Programs” and “Sustained Dialogue,” according to the news release.

Lane McLelland, internship coordinator for the Mathews Center for Civic Life, said the workshops will benefit students who wish to encourage broader public participation in on-campus and local community issues, but students who attend the conference are not required to attend every workshop. Instead, they may choose to attend the workshops they think will be most helpful to their personal endeavors.

“All of these workshops are designed to be interactive skill development experiences in working with the public, on campus and off, to increase capacity for sustainable action on challenging community problems,” she said.

“The conference goal is to provide a forum for students learning about how to embed democratic practices in their everyday work and lives. These practices include public dialogue, deliberation, problem solving and action.”

Leaders for the workshops will include members from groups such as the Policy Consensus Initiative, the Deliberative Democracy Consortium and the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation.

“These [leaders] are among the most well-known researchers and practitioners in the field,” McLelland said. “Having their support has allowed us to offer this first gathering of student skill-building workshops with those who are doing some of the most effective work in communities across the nation.”

Though the conference is available to anyone who wishes to attend, McLelland said it is more specifically geared toward students.

“No one has ever offered this particular opportunity for students interested in deliberative democracy efforts to gather, network and learn from each other,” she said.

Since school is in session three of the four days of Connect the Dots, it will be left up to individual professors to determine whether a student who misses class to attend the conference will be penalized. But McLelland said professors are encouraged to take into account the valuable information students will be receiving by attending.

Some registration scholarships will be provided as there is a $150 registration fee, which McLelland said was greatly reduced for students.

“The hotel accommodations have also been greatly discounted to make lodging at the conference more affordable for students,” she said.

For more information about Connect the Dots, call 348-2642 or e-mail info@mathewscenter.org. The conference schedule and details about registration can be accessed at mathewscenter.org/2010_student_conference.

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