Doing Democracy Differently: Civic Life Summit Looks to Help Community, Church Leaders Develop Framework for Important Conversations

Civic Life Summit
May 12, 2017

Summit June 1-2 at Baylor University offers sessions, speakers on building mutual respect and understanding across race, religion, politics and more

Media Contact: Lori Fogleman, 254-710-6275
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WACO, Texas (May 12, 2017) – Baylor University’s Public Deliberation Initiative (PDI) will host a Civic Life Summit June 1-2 to help campuses, churches and concerned citizens engage their communities in important conversations that build mutual respect and understanding across race, religion, politics and other areas of public life.

The two-day summit will be held at the Mayborn Museum Complex, 1300 S. University Parks Drive on the Baylor campus. Registration is $95, which includes meals, and is available online on the PDI website.

The Civic Life Summit features breakout sessions on various topics, ranging from restorative justice, living room conversations on race, political discourse and interfaith cooperation to specific training on deliberative work in churches and classrooms, developing frameworks and questions for dialogue and running Open Space meetings.

Former U.S. Congressman Chet Edwards, W.R. Poage Distinguished Chair for Public Service at Baylor, will give the closing keynote on “Hope in an Age of Cynicism.”

“The Civic Life Summit is designed for anyone who wants to build their skills in having conversations across difference,” said Erin L. Payseur, associate director of civic learning initiatives in Baylor’s Office of Community Engagement and Service. “Those who attend will come away with tools and processes they can take back to their church, their organization and their sphere of influence, family and friends that will help them engage and help us collectively think about how we can have better kinds of conversations, how we break down the polarization and how we really talk about these issues that are so important.”

The summit will begin on June 1 at 9 a.m. with an opening session, followed by an “Introduction to Deliberative Democracy: Why This Work Is Important.” After lunch, which is World Café style, the summit will offer several breakout sessions throughout the afternoon. On June 2, breakout sessions will continue in the morning, followed by Rep. Edwards’ address.

Speakers include:

Restorative Justice & Mediation: Cheryl Miller, executive director, Perpetual Help Home

Living Room Conversations on Race: Ramona Curtis, director for Community Engagement and Initiatives Baylor University, and Rev. Bryan Dalco, senior pastor of One Fellowship United Methodist Church

Public Deliberation: Changing the Political Discourse: Erin Payseur, associate director of civic learning initiatives, and Rev. Dr. Josh Ritter, assistant director of spiritual formation, Baylor University

Deliberative Work & Church Life: A Roundtable Discussion: Dr. Gaynor Yancey, director of Center for Family and Community Ministries, Baylor University, Diana R. Garland School of Social Work

Beyond Reactions and Factions: A Pragmatic Approach: Lucas Land, community facilitator, Sustainable Waco

Better Together BU: Building Interfaith Cooperation in the Community: Rev. Sharyl Loeung, coordinator for outreach and inclusion, Department of Multicultural Affairs, and Rev. Dr. Josh Ritter, assistant director for formation, Office of Spiritual Life, Baylor University

GRIT 101: Getting Gritty Doing Civic Engagement: Sarah Ritter, case manager in the Office of the Vice President for Student Life, Baylor University

Naming & Framing Community Issues/Crafting Dialogue Nurturing Questions: Erin Payseur, associate director of civic learning initiatives, Baylor University

Public Deliberation: Basic Facilitation Training, Part 1 and 2: Dr. Martin Carcasson, executive director, Center for Public Deliberation, Colorado State University, and Erin Payseur, associate director of civic learning initiatives, Baylor University

Becoming We: Doing Life Together In a City with a Sordid Past: Elizabeth Ligawa, director of community engagement, Prosper Waco

Practical 101: Running a Meeting using Open Space: Rev. Dr. Josh Ritter, assistant director for formation, Office of Spiritual Life, Baylor University

Deliberative Work in the Classroom: A Roundtable Discussion: Dr. Craig Clarkson, Academy for Teaching and Learning, and Dr. Anne-Marie Schultz, director of Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, Baylor University, Honors College

“That’s what I love about this summit. It’s bringing together those tools and resources so that people can feel comfortable and confident having these kinds of conversations and also have opportunities to grow and develop their skills so that they can lead others,” Payseur said. “We need people who can help other people have these conversations, who can bring others with them and invite others to the table and say, ‘I care about your experience, I care about what you have to say, I want to hear and learn from you and I want us to look at this issue together how we can problem solve collectively.’”

The Public Deliberation Initiative (PDI) at Baylor University is a collaborative initiative between the Office of Community Engagement and Service and the Office of Spiritual Life that offers training and participation in critical deliberative democracy, activism, interdisciplinary collaboration, pedagogical research, student involvement and training for ongoing community engagement. This initiative engages students, staff, faculty and community members in constructive dialogue and deliberation that addresses important global and local issues and offers new perspectives for participants.

“Learning how to get to know our neighbors well involves learning a civic, intercultural and interfaith skill set that most of us simply do not possess,” said Josh Ritter, Ph.D., assistant director and chaplain in Baylor’s Office of Spiritual Life. “It involves learning to trust our neighbors and learning to trust good processes that help us to have difficult conversations. We must learn to disagree and still be able to make important decisions together as a community, and that means building our civic literacy skills that give us tools to understand both our similarities and our differences.”

Sponsors for the summit include Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (BIC), Community Engagement and Service, the W.R. Poage Legislative Library, Office of Spiritual Life, Baylor Formation, Baylor Missions and Campus Diversity Committee.

For more information about the Civic Life Summit, contact Erin Payseur at 254-710-3106 or or Josh Ritter at


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

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