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Nevins Fellows

TITLE: CAS/POL SCI 297H – Democratic Leadership 

INSTRUCTOR: John Gastil (CAS, POL SCI); Chris Beem, Managing Director of the MID   

ENROLLMENT: 25 students

LOCATION: 302 Pond

SHORT DESCRIPTION: This course introduces students to deliberative democratic theory and encourages them to reflect on effective strategies for changing governance and society, with an eye toward participating in Penn State’s Nevins Leaders internship program.  The internships will be arranged by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy and can be taken at any time they're available, but most students will choose to take one in the summer of 2017. 


THURS, Sept 22, 3-5pm

Intro to democracy, deliberation, and politics

THURS, Sept 29, 3-5pm

The infrastructure of democracy

FRIDAY, Sept 30, 3:45-5pm

Brown Democracy medal lecture by Pippa Norris

SUNDAY, Oct 2, 9am-4pm

Civic innovators and democratic reformers in the US
(light morning snacks and lunch provided)

THURS, Oct 20, 3-5pm

Working through scenarios

SUNDAY, Oct 23, 9am-4pm

Different organizational strategies for democratic social change and civic renewal (light morning snacks and lunch provided)

THURS, Oct 27, 3-5pm

Reflections on opportunities for making change


No class session, but final essay and internship preference rankings due

The centerpiece of this course are two day-long Sunday workshops where students get to interact directly with the kind of leaders they may aspire to become. The first workshop introduces students to two democratic innovators across the United States from government and non-profit organizations (TBD). These special guests will give public lectures (open to the wider community) and lead workshop discussions with the students in this course on the new democratic practices they have helped to create and the ideas behind them. The second workshop will bring in a new pair of leaders (TBD) who will share their strategies for creating a more deliberative kind of government and engendering democratic social change. The second workshop will also feature recent Nevins Leaders interns (Anna Foley and Brendan Lounsbury from Summer 2015), who will share their experiences in the program.Penn State has a special opportunity to create a generation of leaders who learn deliberative approaches to politics and public life. This one-credit course provides a broad background for this approach to democratic leadership, and it also prepares students for a unique Penn State paid internship program (the Nevins Leaders project). Those who complete this course will have first priority when awarding these dozen or more internships beginning in 2017.

Bracketing these workshops are two-hour seminars, which introduce ideas, discuss brief reading assignments, and reflect on the experiences of the workshop. In addition to short reaction papers due for each class session, students will produce a single six-page narrative essay at the end of the course that describes how they could see themselves advancing democracy in the United States (or elsewhere) and what kind of internship/work experience will help them prepare for such a career. For those who opt to seek an internship in 2017, this will be a supplement to their formal application.

Credit for the course requires attendance at every class meeting, workshop, and the Brown Democracy Medal lecture. Required work includes readings assigned for each class, the short reaction papers, and the final essay.

If you are interested in hosting a Nevins Fellow, read the FAQ page at: