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Public affairs librarian and political scientist launch “Civil Discourse” podcast

July 23, 2019

A black ink sketch of the U.S. Capitol is shown on a turquoise field. The words
Illustration by Caslin Applewhite

Many people are tired of partisan bickering and overheated, even mean-spirited, political discourse. Into that fray steps VCU Public Affairs Librarian Nia Rodgers with a simple idea: a podcast that explores how government can and should work without the rancor of partisanship but rather with understanding and expertise.

Rodgers is engaging in conversations about government documents and foundational thinking about the U.S. government. Her sources are political scientists, criminal justice professors, subject librarians and other experts. Titled “Civil Discourse,” the podcast’s content is not a lecture but a conversation, casual and sometimes meandering. “It’s not formal; it’s not particularly planned,” says Rodgers. “It’s like a conversation you might have with a knowledgeable friend or colleague.” 

Most of the conversations are with VCU political scientist and regular co-host Dr. John Aughenbaugh, whose interest in doing a podcast was as an extension of his teaching. “There are explanations about why these documents are created and what their purposes are. That was my interest in wanting to do the podcast, to explain, to teach, to have a conversation about why these documents are important. They just don’t just exist in a vacuum, so whether or not you are talking about an executive order, or an appeal submitted to the Supreme Court, what goes into getting a person’s visage on a postage stamp, they have context.” 

Why the title, “Civil Discourse?” “We want more civility in the discourse that we are having as a nation. We are seeming to struggle with that right now. We're struggling with the idea that you have to pick a side and you have to entrench on that side,” says Rodgers. “‘Civil Discourse’ is created with the idea that it is possible for all of us to learn from civics lessons and from conversations that can inform our understanding of governing and our system of government.” Aughenbaugh’s teaching style leans toward the conversational, making the ideal partner for this podcast.

The first six episodes are now available wherever you download podcasts. Twelve new episodes will be launched in the fall semester and 12 more will be introduced in spring 2020. A companion online guide provides details and links to documents mentioned in the podcasts.  

"Civil Discourse" is available wherever podcasts are available. Transcripts and audio files are also posted to Scholars Compass.

VCU Libraries welcomes ideas for future discussions and Rodgers will work with faculty who want topics covered in podcasts that they can use in their courses, or who wish to appear as guests in an episode. 

Summer season episodes are:  

  • Welcome to “Civil Discourse”
  • “15 Unicorns: Becoming a Department Secretary,” three parts 
  • “Getting a Bill Through Congress,” two parts 

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