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, all Challenge Week events may transition to an online format.

Context for the Contemporary Moment

Friday, September 25, 3:00-4:00, College of Business Auditorium

Our kickoff event, organized by 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?  Political Science faculty will also establish themes and questions to keep in mind for the week ahead.

Reception to follow.

Emotions in the Public Square

Monday, September 28, evening

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?

The Grace of Silence and the Power of Words

Tuesday, September 29, 7:30pm, Simulcast in Ida Waldran

Thanks to the sponsorship of Reynolds Theater, we welcome award-winning journalist Michelle Norris to UCA’s campus.  Norris’s lecture, grounded in her experiences in media and as an investigative journalist, will touch on themes of central importance for Challenge Week’s exploration of Democracy, Citizenship, and Governance.  As described on Reynold’s website, “Norris sparks important dialogue on current events, social issues and the power to make change as she breaks down commonly held beliefs and attitudes on race, diversity and bias. She makes complex and taboo issues remarkably accessible. Her audiences walk away empowered to stimulate discussion around challenging topics within their communities.”

A special note for the Schedler Honors College and Honors Scholars Program: Norris has kindly agreed to engage one-on-one with the Honors community.  She will be available for a socially-distant, but intimate Q&A session from 5:00-6:00 p.m. in Ida Waldran Auditorium, Main Hall.  And all Honors College and Honors Scholars are welcome to attend her Reynolds Theater lecture via a simulcast broadcast in Ida Waldran, which will start at 7:30 p.m.

Thank you to Amanda Horton, Director of Reynold’s Theater, for making both the Q&A and simulcast possible. 

From the Inside: Experiences of Minority Women in Politics

Wednesday, September 30, 4:30-5:30, College of Business Auditorium

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 and Congressional Representative Jaime Herrera-Beutler, Washington State, provide inside perspectives on this question.

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.  Representative Herrera-Beutler also has many years of experience in the political arena: she was appointed to the Washington House of Representatives in 2007, elected in 2008, and won Washington’s 3rd congressional district seat in 2010 where she still serves.

Senator Elliott and Representative Herrera-Beutler will share with us their 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?

Reception to follow.

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

Thursday, October 1, 4:00-6:00 pm, McAstlain Ballroom

Please join the Political Science Department for a lecture, discussion, and book signing 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, College of Business Auditorium & Classrooms

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.  College of Business Auditorium

3:15-4:00: Workshops

  • The Long View: Acadia Roher

Roher is 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 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.”