Center for Public Deliberation students take on the future of democracy in 2023 National Student Dialogue

Two college students, Olivia Birg and Abby Brier, stand and smile with their arms around one another before a stage with a blue backdrop that reads "University of Delaware Biden School of Public Policy & Administration Stavros Niarchos Foundation Ithaca Initiative"Last month, two student interns with CSU’s Center for Public Deliberation (CPD) were invited to the annual Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Ithaca Initiative National Student Dialogue in Wilmington, Delaware. The conference is a project of the University of Delaware’s Biden School of Public Policy and Administration, and SNF covers travel costs for attendees. The National Student Dialogue launched in 2022 to engage students, faculty, and academic staff in developing civil discourse tools and skills to utilize at their universities nationwide. 

CSU students learn about anti-intellectualism’s threat to democracy

CSU students Abby Brier and Olivia Birg, as well as CPD Managing Director Sabrina Slagowski-Tipton, joined other students and faculty from over 40 universities across the country on March 25 to discuss the future of democracy. At this year’s National Student Dialogue, Brier and Birg joined in small-group conversations with other students to discuss the rise in anti-intellectualism in democracies. Valerie Biden and Brian Stelter, a former CNN media correspondent, were featured speakers at the Dialogue.

The National Student Dialogue provides an unparalleled opportunity for students like Birg and Brier to network with students, practitioners, and academics working on policy and dialogue issues across the country. Slagowski-Tipton explains, “It’s really cool for our students to recognize how unique our program is—most other folks there were more focused on policy and less [on] training students as facilitators and teaching them skills to manage tough conversations at the level we do here at the CPD.”

Student associates get “hands-on experience” in our local community

Established in 2006, the CPD is housed in the Department of Communication Studies and serves as an impartial resource for the northern Colorado community to assist in community problem-solving. Student associates facilitate on- and off-campus conversations, analyze and recap public comments on local issues through the Fort Collins Coloradoan newspaper, work on research and student recruitment, and train new facilitators.

Interning at the CPD is an opportunity to apply lessons from coursework to real life and to “develop essential skills relevant to both your personal and professional life,” says Birg, a senior majoring in communication studies. “I most enjoy getting the opportunity to discuss and work with a diverse group of people.”

Not many campus programs provide opportunities for students to engage directly with local communities. The CPD does so every semester.A group of seven college students sit at a round table in a full conference room smiling. On the table are coffee mugs and blue notebooks, and on the screen behind them is a blue image with text "University of Delaware Biden School of Public Policy & Administration Stavros Niarchos Foundation Ithaca Initiative"

Community engagement is also what draws Brier, a sophomore majoring in psychology with a concentration in clinical/counseling psychology, to the program. “My favorite part about working for the CPD is meeting people from the community and sitting in conversations where they share their experiences. It helps me feel connected to Fort Collins, to know personal faces and understand the context behind our policies or individual perspectives in this city, especially because I am from out of state,” she explains.

“If you are interested in the CPD, do it!” Birg says. “This program has given me hands-on experience that I would have otherwise never gotten.”

How to become a student associate at the CPD

CSU students in any discipline or major are welcome to become CPD student associates. Students can apply to the CPD’s Student Associate Program here, or faculty can recommend students to the program here.

Students who apply to the CPD commit to a year-long program.

During their first semester, new student associates take SPCM 408, which trains students in impartial facilitation and deliberation and introduces them to all the CPD’s community projects. For the second semester, students take one to three hours of SPCM 486, where they can be more involved in the CPD’s projects and help train new student facilitators. All students in the CPD Student Associate Program with a 3.2 GPA or higher are also eligible to apply for a special scholarship.

Learn more about the CPD’s work at their website: