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Learning Opportunities


Democracy & Debate Theme Semester

Hosting a presidential debate provides a unique opportunity for the University of Michigan to engage its students and community in the democratic process. The Democracy & Debate Theme Semester is an educational initiative designed to take full advantage of the presidential debate hosted on the Ann Arbor campus this fall. The theme semester seeks to explore broadly three areas: free speech and exchange of ideas, what it means to be a member of a democratic society, and democratic engagement from a global perspective.

Linking courses and events from all of the Ann Arbor campus’s 19 schools and colleges, as well as the resources from Michigan Online and other units across U-M’s three campuses, our collective goal is to provide unique opportunities for teaching and learning before, during, and after the debate on October 15, 2020.

Offerings highlight disciplinary and interdisciplinary strengths, providing a variety of perspectives on topics such as the history of presidential elections, the struggles to extend the right to vote in the United States and internationally, cybersecurity, and the ways that the arts can be mobilized in the service of democratic practice. The theme semester also provides a forum for exploration and discussion of a range of issues at play during the 2020 election season, from health care and immigration to climate change, voting rights, free speech, public education, and mass incarceration.

Special features will include a U-M Presidential Debate Signature Events Series with high profile events selected to represent the mission of the university and our collective planning for the theme semester. The initiative will also include the “Democracy & Debate Collection,” a compilation of online learning opportunities, educational materials and digital assets to be made available before and after the debate through Michigan Online for the campus and alumni communities and broader public.

a portrait of Angela Dillard
What makes Democracy & Debate distinctive is not only the contributions from across the university, but also the connection to an event broadcast worldwide. This gives us the potential to have conversations that span the campus, the state and the globe. We’ve never had a theme semester with this kind of reach.
- Angela Dillard, Professor, U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Chair, Presidential Debate Academic Advisory Committee