Civic News

A new civil discourse program is launching at UD’s Biden School

After four years of turmoil and two democracy-threatening presidential elections, University of Delaware is the latest school to lean in on a civil discourse program.


(Photo by Flickr user Alan Levine, used under a Creative Commons license)

University of Delaware’s Biden School of Public Policy and Administration, named in 2018 after President Joe Biden when he was VP, has announced that it’s launching a new civil discourse pilot program supported by international private philanthropic organization the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

The program, called the SNF Ithaca Initiative after the home of Greek mythology’s Odysseus, will focus on what SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos calls “the two key pillars of our democracy” — civil discourse and civic engagement. The initiative will include a new named professorship in the Biden School, new courses focused on civil discourse, graduate and undergraduate student scholarships, a cohort of resident and visiting fellows, and a series of programs and events.

“This initiative is inspired by our confidence in the potential of our students to take ideas forward and ignite possibility, transforming societal divisiveness and challenge into hope and promise,” UD President Dennis Assanis said in a statement. “We are truly grateful for this support to unlock countless opportunities for UD students to learn and grow as leaders of the future.”

SNF began supporting civil discourse programs in colleges in response to the tumultuous 2020 U.S. presidential election and its ongoing aftermath. With an overriding view that “we all have to live with each other, somehow,” the organization has helped to establish such programs at Johns Hopkins University and University of Pennsylvania. The SNF Agora Institute at JHU, for instance, has hosted discussion events on how to “rebuild democracy together” and on “race, polarization, and life after the election.”

The size of the donation was not disclosed.

“Our goal is to empower students with not just a firm grasp on their civic duties as citizens,” Biden School Dean Maria Aristigueta said, “but also their responsibilities within a diverse, multi-partisan civil society.”


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