Penn State College of the Liberal Arts
Penn State College of the Liberal Arts
Fall 2020 Virtual Events

Fall 2020 Virtual Events

We are excited to host several virtual events this fall. Please click on the link associated with each event to register for the Zoom session. You will receive a confirmation email with a Zoom link upon registration.

Michael Berkman

American Democracy and the 2020 Election

Michael Berkman talks with the Penn State Alumni Association

Tuesday, October 27, 12:00 p.m. ET


Elections are the linchpin of democracy and go hand-in-hand with the peaceful transition of power. Yet, a recent McCourtney Institute for Democracy poll found that most Americans did not identify things like elections and voting as what they most value about democracy. Further, only among older Americans did a majority agree that democracy is the “best system of government.”

This talk from McCourtney Institute Director Michael Berkman considers how the American public feels about democracy, and how the 2020 election—in the context of partisan polarization, state control of election administration, and accusations of “rigging”—further risks the integrity of American democracy. 

Center for Democratic Deliberation Lecture: Jeremy Engels

The Ethics of Oneness in a World of Pain

Wednesday, October 28, 12:00 p.m. ET


“We are all one” … it’s a common refrain. Talk of oneness tends toward platitudes that make for great memes and gifs but that offer very little guidance for how we should actually live our lives. In this presentation, based on his forthcoming book The Ethics of Oneness: Emerson, Whitman, and the Bhagavad Gita Engels moves past commonplaces and bromides and inanities and hackneyed phrases to consider what it might mean to live a life of oneness. 

Engels is the Barry Director of the Paterno Fellows Program and Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Penn State. He is a rhetorical scholar who studies the rhetorical foundations of democratic culture, in all their beauty, in all their ugliness, and ultimately in all their perplexity. 

Center for Democratic Deliberation Lecture: Ana Cooke

Conflicting Trauma: Collaborative Uptake of Complex PTSD

Wednesday, November 11 12:00 p.m. ET


Contemporary public discourse is increasingly shaped by conflicts surrounding how “expert” or “technical” knowledge circulates within and through “popular” or vernacular discourse communities online. This talk addresses the literate and rhetorical practices that shape those circulations by exploring how a controversial trauma diagnosis (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or C-PTSD) is taken up in online forums.  Cook uses this case to explore how knowledge viewed as “controversial” within technical discourses is taken up through collective reading and knowledge curation, personal writing, and the structuring and sedimentation of online space.

Cooke is an assistant professor of English at Penn State. Her work focuses on how networked media shapes public and professional discourses, particularly in collaborative online environments. 

The Future of the Republican Party

Former U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent

Thursday, November 19, 4:00 p.m. ET


Rep. Dent served in the US House for 13 years representing Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. A lifelong Republican, he was the chair of the House Ethics Committee and a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations committees.

These days, he is a CNN political analyst and senior policy adviser at DLA Piper. In 2019, he received the Penn State Distinguished Alumni Award, which is the university’s highest honor presented to alumni.

We will talk with him after the November election about what the results tell us about the future of the Republican Party.

Engaged Book Cover

Virtual Book Club: Engaged by Andrew Sommers

Monday, December 7, 4:00 p.m. ET


Written by Penn State alumnus Andrew Sommers, Engaged: A Citizen’s Perspective on the Future of Civic Life provides a unique perspective on the state of our civic life today and why it matters to democracy. It explores key aspects of engagement through personal stories, vignette’s from the Shaw neighborhood in Washington, DC, and inspiring examples of those who are trying to make a difference. The book speaks to all Americans — veterans, entrepreneurs, religious leaders, community organizers, educators, parents, and everyday citizens — who want to make a difference in the country we all love.

Andrew will join us for a virtual book club discussion.  The first half of the event will be a large group Q&A session, followed by optional smaller group discussions in Zoom breakout rooms.