Challenge Week


About the Theme

Hosted by UCA’s Norbert O. Schedler Honors College, Challenge Week brings to campus a wide range of regional, national, and international thinkers to discuss a specific issue or problem that impacts our society. Speakers present compelling information and arguments, challenging us to see that issue or problem from a new perspective and to take action toward thoughtful change.

Our theme for Challenge Week 2020 is Democracy, Citizenship, Governance, which will run from Friday, September 25 through Friday, October 2.

The inspiration for this year’s theme is threefold: the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the upcoming 2020 presidential election, and the protests for racial justice that swept our country this past summer. Each, in their own way, asks us to take stock and ask difficult questions about American democracy.  Who does our system of government serve?  What is working well and what is broken?  What are the major challenges facing our democracy today?  What can “we the people” do to be civically engaged, both within the system and without?

Speaker and Event Preview

Please note: because of COVID-19, our gathering place for all Honors-sponsored Challenge Week events will be Zoom. See below for individual Zoom links.

Context for the Contemporary Moment

Friday, September 25, 3:00-4:00 p.m.

Click here for Zoom link.  Meeting ID: 934 1444 8323.  Passcode: 904611

Our kickoff event, organized by Drs. Gizachew and Sullivan of UCA’s Political Science Department, will challenge us to think through basic assumptions about our political system.  We self-identify as a democratic country, but what does this mean, exactly?  Have we ever been a fully-functioning democracy and are we one today?  Drs. Gizachew and Sullivan will also establish themes and questions to keep in mind for the week ahead.

Follow-up: Dr. Gizachew shared this document he referenced in his talk.

Emotions in the Public Square

Monday, September 28, 6:00-7:00 p.m.

Click here for Zoom link.  Meeting ID: 948 8449 6901. Passcode: 276628.

Tonight we’ll explore the emotionally-charged nature of contemporary political discourse.  Dr. Paul Nail, former UCA psychology professor and Dr. Heather Yates, Assistant Professor of Political Science, will share their research on the emotions that drive political beliefs and voters’ perceptions of political candidates.  In so doing, they will show how we can use social psychology as a tool to understand political behavior and move towards productive dialogue and interaction.  What do we do with these insights into the emotional profiles of party affiliation and voting?  How do we use this information to have healthier conversations and reach bi-partisan decisions? See handouts from the Emotions in the Public Square session here.

Media and Politics: Challenges and Opportunities

Tuesday, September 29, 7:00-8:00pm

Click here for Zoom link.  Meeting ID: 985 1380 2270. Passcode: 935021

Journalists help create the “public square” we all rely on as we try to become informed citizen-voters.  Media technology helps determine how we access this information and who we talk to.  The background and experiences of the journalists and producers behind the news matters, as does the outlets they have for delivering the news.  How have changes in media and journalism shaped political conversations and divides in the U.S.?

Thanks to the sponsorship of Reynolds Theater, tonight we welcome Lee Hill, Executive Producer of The Takeaway, a National Public Radio daily news podcast.  Mr. Hill has a long behind-the-scenes career in journalism and radio and will help us think through the both the challenges and opportunities posed by the relationship between media, technology, and politics.

Special thanks to Amanda Horton, Director of Reynold’s Theater, for making this event possible. 

From the Inside: Experiences of Minority Women in Politics

Wednesday, September 30, 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Click here for Zoom link. Meeting ID: 920 8109 6133.  Passcode: 468784

This afternoon event was inspired by the anniversary of women’s suffrage and contemporary calls for racial justice in the United States, both of which raise a fundamental question for our country: who is American Democracy for?  We are honored to have Arkansas State Senator Joyce Elliott provide inside perspectives on this question and please note—in the spirit of bipartisan conversation, we are currently seeking a second panelist for this event from the other side of the aisle.

Senator Elliott has a long career in politics, having been a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 2000 to 2006; a member of the Arkansas Senate since 2009; and she is currently running for Congress.

Senator Elliott will share with us her personal experiences and insights on how our system works (or doesn’t work) for both women and minorities, but will also look to the future.  How can we move the political process forward to address social justice and equity?  What is the role of collective protest and collective action in the democratic process?

Political Science Lecture Series: Angie Maxwell & The Long Southern Strategy

Thursday, October 1, 6:00-7:15 p.m., Webinar

Click here for Zoom link.  Meeting ID: 977 6416 4253. Passcode: 142102

Please join the Political Science Department for a webinar lecture and discussion featuring Angie Maxwell, Director of the Diane Blair Center of Southern Politics and Society, associate professor of political science at the University of Arkansas, and co-author of The Long Southern Strategy: How Chasing White Voters in the South Changed American Politics.

Collective Action Workshops

Friday, October 2, 3:00-4:30 p.m.

Click here for Zoom link.  Meeting ID: 981 5014 8842.  Passcode: 393129

What now and what’s next?  How can we think about civic engagement creatively and expansively?  This collection of workshops is designed to help us address these questions.  This event is also an opportunity to reflect on the week.  Dr. Sharon Mason, from the Department of Philosophy and Religion, will help us collect our thoughts from the week and weave them into lessons learned from the workshops.

3:00-3:10: Opening remarks and discussion, Dr. Sharon Mason.
3:15-4:00: Workshops—Breakout Rooms, Zoom

The Long View: Acadia Roher and Anna Stitt

Roher and Stitt are part of the Arkansas People’s History Project, whose goal is to document “hidden histories of resistance across Arkansas,” such as sharecropper uprisings in the Delta in 1890 and labor organizing in Ozark poultry plants in the 1990s.  Roher and Stitt will help workshop attendees consider the long history of collective activism in our state, what can be learned from this history, and how this history is relevant today.

Starting a Movement from the Ground Up: Suzanne Phar

 Phar has dedicated her life to organizing social justice movements and fostering grassroots democratic action.  She helped found the Arkansas based Women’s Project in the 1980s, an organization that empowered women in rural Arkansas to have their voice heard in their local communities.  She currently is a leader in the Southern Movement Assembly, that works to “interrupt and confront extractive and exploitative economies” as well as build “new institutions like cooperatives and practices of community-based agriculture, land trusts, and participatory budgeting.”  This workshop is an opportunity to learn from Phar’s life experience.

Thinking through your Vote: Dr. Shawn Charlton

 Is the upcoming presidential election weighing on your mind?  Feeling overwhelmed by candidates’ views and policy stances?  Join Dr. Charlton of UCA’s Psychology Department for this workshop session on “Judgment and Decision Making.”