Colorado State University kicks off its Year of Democracy and Civic Engagement with an ice cream social on the Plaza, hosted by the College of Liberal Arts. September 14, 2023

Colorado State University kicked off its Thematic Year of Democracy and Civic Engagement this past Thursday with an early celebration of International Day of Democracy on the Lory Student Center Plaza. The Thematic Year is a central university initiative that serves to highlight the incredible research, programs, academic initiatives, students, faculty and staff who are accomplishing extraordinary things at CSU.The College of Liberal Arts and the Thematic Year hosted an ice cream social where attendees had the opportunity to engage in conversations and activities centered around democracy. The Plaza was bustling with university centers and organizations promoting student involvement, the Center for Public Deliberation facilitating activities on whiteboards which posed questions about the meaning of democracy and a pledge to foster democracy on campus—all while a curated democracy-themed Spotify playlist reverberated in the background.

Colorado Attorney General giving opening remarks

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser delivered opening remarks highlighting the importance of dialogue and active listening in democracy. “When you have that authentic listening—when you have that dialogue—you have Democracy. The only way we solve problems is by listening to one another,” says Weiser.

Fort Collins Mayor Jeni Arndt and ASCSU President Nick DeSalvo took turns addressing the crowd to discuss their ongoing partnership. “I couldn’t be more thoroughly excited about CSU’s chosen theme this year of Democracy,” says Arndt. Arndt remarked on the recent vote in Fort Collins to move municipal elections from the spring to the fall—a time already associated with elections—in an effort to increase voter turnout. This move aligned the city election with the Poudre School District Board of Education’s election occurring in November of odd-numbered years.

DeSalvo then spoke to attendees about the importance of getting involved in local government.”We have made the most progress in two decades as an organization by partnering with members of City Council and working together to solve these issues,” says DeSalvo. “That is what democracy is. It is not standing up and recognizing a problem without solutions. It’s coming together—and building solutions that work for everyone in the community,” he continues.

ASCSU President Nick DeSalvo addresses the Plaza alongside Fort Collins Mayor Jeni Arndt

CSU President Amy Parsons joined the celebration—participating in the CPD whiteboard activity and pausing to have conversations with students on the Plaza. Parsons has made Democracy an institutional priority—supporting the Thematic Year initiative, which aims to connect our students, faculty, staff and community members in meaningful conversation about democracy. “As a leading land grant institution, CSU is perfectly positioned to spearhead the civil discourse that is needed for a thriving democracy and productive society,” Parsons said in her letter to the CSU community last month. As a political science major here at CSU, Parsons wants the focus to be on civil dialogue and learning how to talk about difficult issues—thinking ahead to what will likely be a very contentious election year in 2024.

CSU President Amy Parsons poses next to Thematic Year of Democracy banner


Democracy around the world

Following the celebration on the Plaza, the College of Liberal Arts hosted a panel discussion examining democracy today and the challenges it faces tomorrow.  The Democracy Around the World panel gave a glimpse into what democracy looks like in other countries, what challenges democracy faces, and what can we in the U.S. learn from other countries’ experiences with democracy.

The panel was moderated by Peter Harris, an associate professor in CSU’s Department of Political Science, and featured faculty speakers from the political science, sociology and Spanish departments, including Marcela Velasco, Julia Choolwe Munsaka, KuoRay Mao, Daniel Weitzel and Antonio Pedros-Gascon. 

Colorado State University faculty engage in a panel discussion around the Year of Democracy. September 14, 2023

Additional Year of Democracy events

Throughout the 2023-24 school year, CSU will host a variety of events focused on democracy and civic engagement ranging from lectures to art exhibitions.