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Democratic Leadership

CAS 209/PL SC 209: Democratic Leadership


John Gastil, McCourtney Institute Senior Scholar; Professor of Political Science and Communication Arts and Sciences

Course 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 summer 2018. 

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. 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.  

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 Fellows program). Those who complete this course will have first priority when awarding these dozen or more internships.  

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.

Fall 2018

The Fall 2018 course will meet at these times:
  • Thursday, September 27, 3-5 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 4, 3-5 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 18, 3-5 p.m.
  • Thursday, October 25, 3-5 p.m. 
  • SundayOctober 7, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • SundayOctober 21, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
If you wish to enroll, contact with a note saying why you want to take the course.