StoryCorps' One Small Step project is coming to Arizona State University

StoryCorps project coming to ASU to promote civil discourse on campus

By

Joe Martin

Arizona State University founded the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership in 2017 in part to promote civil discourse and free speech on campus.

In the more than two years since its founding, the school has developed a robust curriculum. It has expanded its academic offerings to include two bachelor's degrees, as well as a minor; expanded its public programs to include nationally renowned and politically diverse speakers from all over the country; and launched several new civic education initiatives to benefit the Arizona community. The school recently celebrated its first graduate, a Dean’s Medalist in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

To further its mission, the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership will host One Small Step at Arizona State University this August. The project, put together by national nonprofit StoryCorps, will give ASU students the opportunity to have a civil dialogue with other students with different political views.

“We’re happy to be partnered with One Small Step because it complements our curriculum and the broader experience for students, which emphasizes fundamental debate about political and civic affairs,” said Paul Carrese, director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

One Small Step will host a series of 40-minute conversations between pairs of students in August to preserve and record the stories of the ASU community. With permission, StoryCorps will then archive the conversations at the Library of Congress to be preserved for future generations.

“Arizona State University's commitment to engaging with difficult topics with respect and thoughtfulness, specifically through programming hosted by the School for Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, creates the perfect environment for having these types of conversations,” said Roselyn Almonte, manager for community partnerships for One Small Step.

One Small Step is a new project from StoryCorps, which has given over 450,000 people the opportunity to record interviews about their lives and have them preserved in the Library of Congress. The One Small Step project invites people to sit down with people with different political views and have StoryCorps-style conversations in an effort to break down the barriers created by politics.

One Small Step is open to all students from all ASU campuses. To sign up, students will need to fill out a questionnaire by July 19. The questionnaire will help StoryCorps staff to match people for discussion topics.

“We think this strengthens the intellectual foundations for our 21st-century leaders in America and beyond,” Carrese said. “It also strengthens the civic and intellectual fabric of ASU, as well as our broader community.”

One Small Step has held similar programs at other universities across the country, including Berry College in Georgia, Hamilton College in New York and Trinity College in Connecticut. Past recordings have included moving connections between two seemingly opposite people days after the 2016 election

“These conversations are not debates, but a space to learn about the life experiences that have shaped someone's worldview, and share their own, as well,” Almonte added.

Another step forward

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership encourages nonpartisan civil discourse. Through the school’s previous public programs, as well as its upcoming lecture series “Citizenship and Civic Leadership in America,” the school seeks to promote honest conversation about the principles, values and discussions that influence America today.

The school’s curriculum is designed to produce a new class of leaders. Graduates from the school will thrive in public service, journalism, law, business or elected office. Through the discussion of classic, primary texts, as well as hands-on learning through the school’s Global Intensive Experiences and Summer Leadership Institutes, students in civic and economic thought and leadership courses will be prepared to handle tomorrow’s challenges.

Carrese says partnerships like this one with One Small Step will only further the school’s mission of preparing its students. By providing a platform for civil discourse, the school is giving its students a chance to have challenging, yet meaningful conversations with their peers — something they will have to do frequently when they enter their careers and civic life.

“People who want to be leaders in the private or public sector need to be able to hear diverse points of view and respond in a civil and reasonable fashion, accepting that those who disagree with one’s own principles or policies are not always bad people,” Carrese said.

For more information on the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, or the One Small Step program taking place at ASU, contact Joe Martin.