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Feb. 6: "Campus Conversations" Get Boost Thanks to Phi Beta Kappa


Jonathan Potts

Carnegie Mellon's Campus Conversations Get Boost Thanks to Phi Beta Kappa    

PITTSBURGH—The Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Carnegie Mellon University will use its share of a $100,000 grant given to the national academic honorary society from the Teagle Foundation to fund its "Deliberations About Things That Matter" project. And what matters, according to Carnegie Mellon's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, is the university's Campus Conversations program.    

Ten Phi Beta Kappa schools nationwide will share the Teagle grant, which was given to the honor society to fund programs that enhance deliberative thinking and engaged civic discourse.        

"Phi Beta Kappa wanted to use the grant as a way to embrace and harness programs that promote those kinds of skills, and to disseminate them more broadly," said Joseph Devine, associate dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at Carnegie Mellon and director of the college's Academic Advisory Center. Devine is also secretary of the university's Phi Beta Kappa chapter.      

"The perfect laboratory for this is the Phi Beta Kappa schools," he said.    

Part of Carnegie Mellon's share of the grant will go toward the Campus Conversation on April 11, which will discuss public art on campus. Twenty-six Phi Beta Kappa students will help to plan the forum. Campus Conversations are a series of events at which students, faculty and staff spend an evening discussing issues of importance to the campus community.     

"Our Campus Conversations are a paradigm of what Phi Beta Kappa is trying to promote," said Robert Cavalier, a teaching professor of philosophy at Carnegie Mellon and co-director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Program for Deliberative Democracy.

Each Campus Conversation takes the form of a Deliberative Poll®, in which a representative sample of the community studies the issue before them, discusses it among themselves and with a panel of experts, and then registers its opinion. Previous Campus Conversations have covered the faculty course evaluation system and a proposed Student Bill of Rights. The Teagle grant will also help pay for Carnegie Mellon to produce a handbook on campus deliberative polling, which can be used by other colleges and universities.