“Many Americans feel silenced, so they are shutting down and refusing to talk about politics. At the Stubblefield Institute, we believe that we need to talk about politics more. Not less.”

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The Stubblefield Institute places great value on conversation as an important step in bridging divergent views and learning to debate politics in an authentic, meaningful way. Only by breaking away from our partisanship and group can we minimize polarization. Our public forums are dedicated to this purpose.

The American Conversation Series (ACS) This dynamic series of public forums presents high-profile speakers from all sides of the partisan and ideological aisle to discuss competing approaches and solutions. The forums—open to students and the public alike—include elected leaders, political and media personalities, and policy experts.

Candidate Town Halls and Debates

From the White House to the Courthouse, the Stubblefield Institute will always be a safe, civil zone for a robust discussion between candidates. Here, candidates can bring their ideas, passion, and beliefs for how they see the best way forward for our community, state, and nation.

Upstream Downstream: A Radio Program and Podcast

The Stubblefield Institute has developed a radio program in partnership with Shepherd University’s 89.7 WSHC-FM radio station and a podcast series, that will feature discussions with prominent experts on important political and policy issues. The first episode aired on November 14th and continues to upload episodes every Saturday. You can listen to the program Saturdays at 11 am on 89.7 WSHC-FM or on Spotify, Google Podcasts, Breaker and Anchor.

The Stubblefield Civility Awards

Presented annually to elected leaders and members of the media for consistent displays of fairness and civility, this award calls attention to those who have consistently set a positive example of constructive debate, while also earning respect from those with whom they disagree

The American Conversation Series

This dynamic series of public forums presents high-profile speakers from all sides of the partisan and ideological aisle to discuss competing approaches and solutions. The forums—open to students and the public alike—include elected leaders, political and media personalities, and policy experts.

Coming Soon to the Stubblefield Institute

Inaugural Stubblefield Institute Civility Awards

September 13, 2022, Top of the Hill, Reserve Officers Association, 1 Constitution Avenue

The purpose of the Stubblefield Civility Awards is to recognize high-profile leaders who have demonstrated a willingness to be fair, work with all sides of an issue or topic, treat both friends and adversaries with respect, and put policy and problem-solving ahead of partisan or personal gain.

Awardees were selected by a vote of the Stubblefield Institute Board of Advisors, as follows: U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer and William Timmons, the chair and vice-chair of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress; Maryland Governor Larry Hogan; nationally acclaimed political journalists David Brooks and Mark Shields; and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark, who represents America’s private sector.

The date for the Civility Awards ceremony is September 13, 2022. It will be held at the Top of the Hill reception venue, housed at the Reserve Officers Association on Capitol Hill, beginning at 6:00 p.m. with a cocktail reception. The awards presentations will begin at 7:00 p.m. Reserve your seat starting on August 1st on Eventbrite.


Planning for future events is currently under discussion. Stay tuned for the announcement of more exciting forums as part of The American Conversation Series.


May 23rd at 7 p.m., Shepherd University Student Center Storer Ballroom

America’s Climate Change Policies: Who Will Pay, Us or Our Children

This forum will be a discussion of how our nation should approach climate change policies, especially as it relates to timing and economics, and how do these policies impact the average American worker and taxpayer? The Stubblefield Institute envisions a live, 90-minute panel discussion with divergent viewpoints to engage in a thoughtful exchange of ideas and that will challenge current narratives from all sides. And, as always, in the spirit of the Institute, pursued in a way that fosters civil debate and discourse. Watch the event here.

April 25, 2022 at 7 p.m. in the Byrd Center Auditorium

A Town Hall Meeting with Congressman David McKinley

A great opportunity for audience members to go one-on-one with Congressman David McKinley in advance of the May primary elections. Marsha ‘Kavalek’ Chwalik, News Director and Host of Panhandle Live on WEPM-1340 serves as moderator. Watch the town hall here.

January 31, 2022 7.pm. Virtual Event
The American Conversation Series: Teaching American History: Will it Change?

From generation to generation, America has struggled with how to teach its own history to elementary and high school students. This has been especially true when the debate is connected to historical issues related to race and slavery. Some have called it “The War Over America’s History.” In today’s politically divided nation, the questions surrounding the debate over how and what to teach about American history has reached the frontlines as a campaign issue, serving only to intensify the question and create public confusion. Join us as the Stubblefield Institute presents “Teaching American History,” with an all star panel consisting of nationally recognized historians and teachers. To watch the event, click here.

December 9th 7 p.m.- Virtual Event

I81: The Road to Safer Highways

The Community Engagement Committee presents their next event- I81: The Road to Safer Highways. This event will discuss the safety concerns, trucker perspectives, and potential solutions to the highway nicknamed “Crash Alley”. This panel discussion will consist of Sheriff Nate Harmon, Jim Ward, President of D.M. Bowman, and two individuals from West Virginia Department of Highways, Ken Clohan and Bill Keller. This conversation will be moderated by Amanda Carpenter. To watch this event follow this link.

November 17, 2021 6 p.m.- Frank Center Theater at Shepherd University

Premiere of “First Steps” followed by a discussion with the producers and guests from the film

The Stubblefield Institute is happy to unveil their first in person event since the pandemic began. In a divided America, Van Jones controversially works across party lines on landmark criminal justice reform and a more humane response to the addiction crisis. Attempting to be a bridge builder in a time of extreme polarization takes him deep into the inner workings of a divisive administration, internal debates within both parties, and the lives of front line activists fighting for their communities. This film will be followed by a short break and a discussion with several guests shown within the film including Doug Copenhaver, Pete White, Louis Reed and producers Brandon and Lance Kramer. CNN correspondant Amanda Carpenter will moderate the discussion. To view a trailer, click here. All guests must wear a face mask!

September 20, 2021 6 p.m.

Freedom of Speech, Censorship, and the Cancel Culture: Social Media and Politics in Today’s America

The conversation will cover topics such as censorship, cancel culture, and social media regulation. The forum will be moderated by author and CNN contributor, Amanda Carpenter. The panel will feature Professor Patricia Aufderheide, University Professor, School of Communications and Founder, Center for Media & Social Impact at American University, David Karpf, associate professor in the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University, and Dr. Matthew Kushin, communications professor at Shepherd University. If you missed the discussion you can watch on YouTube or Facebook.

June 10, 2021 7 p.m.

Redistricting at the State and Federal Level and What It Means to West Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle

Our Community Engagement Committee is hosting another event on June 10th at 7 p.m. Redistricting at the State and Federal Level and What It Means to West Virginia and the Eastern Panhandle will feature a panel of Delegate Jason Barrett, Delegate John Doyle, Gary Wine, and Dr. Kenneth Martis. This event was moderated by Hannah Geffert.


Man in the Middle: A Discussion with Senator Joe Manchin

Rarely in history has one Senator been in the position to cast deciding votes on so many vital issues as Senator Manchin is in today’s evenly divided United States Senate. This edition of the American Conversation, “Man in the Middle: A Discussion with Senator Joe Manchin,” will discuss how the Senator perceives his unique role how he approaches the partisan terrain in the current political environment. Hosted by the Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications at Shepherd University, moderated by Sarah Isgur, political analyst, staff writer and host of the legal podcast Advisory Opinions for The Dispatch, and David Welch, Director of the Stubblefield Institute with a welcome by Shepherd University President, Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix.

April 6, 2021

The ISMs: Facts and Myths of Socialism, Capitalism, and Populism

The Stubblefield Institute wishes to bring a panel of scholars together with a neutral moderator to explore the definition and philosophy of socialism, capitalism, and populism. We believe our audience is also interested in how the “isms” work together and should not always be isolated into pure economic or political theory. This event will feature an all-star panel consisting of Gary Wolfram, professor and an expert in free-market capitalism, Yascha Mounk, writer and educator who has written brilliantly on the rise of populism, and Dr. Aart Holtslag, esteemed Shepherd professor and researcher. This event will be moderated by Paul Solman, a longtime NewsHour correspondent. To view this event, click here.

February 16, 2021 7 p.m.

Meet the Author with Paul Kendrick

The American Conversation Series presents Meet the Authors with Paul Kendrick, the co-author of Nine Days: The Race Save Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life and Win the 1960 Election and “Douglass and Lincoln: How a Revolutionary Black Leader & a Reluctant Liberator Struggled to End Slavery & Save the Union”. The program host will be Peter Loge, professor at the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs and Director of the Project on Ethics in Political Communication. You can view the event here.

January 21, 2021

2021 West Virginia Legslature; What are You Going to Do For Us?

The Stubblefield Institute’s Community Engagement Committee is putting their second event, “2021 West Virginia Legislature: What are You Going to Do For Us?” on Jan 21st at 7 p.m. The forum features two West Virginia delegates, Delegate John Doyle and Delegate Paul Espinosa in a discussion on the future of West Virginia Legislature before going into session, moderated by Matthew Umstead. Watch the event here.

November 16, 2020

American Politics in a COVID-19 World: What Lies Ahead?

The forum features a panel of three nationally recognized journalists and media analysts who will share their views on the impact of the 2020 elections on our nation’s future, with a focus on how navigating the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the political and policy landscape. Panel members include Amy Walter, National Editor of the “Cook Political Report,” host of “Politics with Amy Walter” on WNYC, and a frequent analyst on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” A second panelist is Susan Glasser, co-author with husband, Peter Baker of the recently published “The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James Baker,” correspondent for the New Yorker, and co-founder of Politico. Our third panelist is Ray Suarez, former host o “Inside Story,” on Al Jazeera American, former senior correspondent on the PBS NewsHour, and host of “Talk of the Nation” on NPR. The event will be co-moderated by Kelly Johnston, former Secretary of the U.S. Senate and Jordan Jalil, a senior at Shepherd University and captain of the Shepherd Debate Team, the 2019 collegiate national champions. To watch the conversation, click here.

October 21, 2020

The CARES Act and its Effect on Education- Community Engagement Committee of the Stubblefield Institute

The Community Engagement Committee presents their first event featuring local educators and school administrators in a discussion of the CARES Act. This panel consists of Beth Marrone, Betty Anne Powell, Shawn Dilly, Jessica Salfia, and Dr. Patrick Murphy. This event will be moderated by Hans Fogle. The event will be a virtual Zoom meeting with live video and audio only for the panelists and the moderator. Observers will be able to ask questions using the Zoom chat box. The event will be recorded and posted to YouTube by the Institute for reference and for the benefit of those who cannot attend at the time of the event. To view this event click here.

October 15, 2020

Double Header Debates:16th Senatorial and Secretary of State of West Virginia

The Stubblefield Institute recognizes the importance of West Virginia issues. In doing so we have created the Double Header Debates that will showcase the 16th Senatorial Debate with Patricia Rucker and Pete Dougherty, followed by the Secretary of State of West Virginia debate with Natalie Tennant and Mac Warner. These debates will be jointly sponsored by the Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications at Shepherd University and WRNR/TV10 Martinsburg. This will be a live, no-audience event, but would be carried on WRNR 740 AM and 106.5 FM, Cable Channel 10 in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties, and streamlined on both YouTube and Facebook. The debate would be recorded for several other re-broadcasts throughout the remaining 4 weeks of the campaign. These highly anticipated debates will be for the meeting the candidates and their platforms while debating key issues of the state. You can view this program here.

September 29, 2020

Presidential Debate Scoring- Shepherd University Debate Team

Shepherd University Debate Team members will gather together virtually to score the Presidential Debate. They will create and follow a score card ranking the candidates based on key categories such as civility, clarity, and much more. In hopes to enjoy and create a larger conversation, we will be live tweeting the event.

September 21, 2020

Healthcare: An Issue of Our Time

We now intend to focus an entire event on healthcare, our first forum devoted to a single issue. The Institute’s belief is that the debate over healthcare remains one of the most important issues amongst American votes and is especially intense during a presidential election year. Our goal is to demonstrate this issue can be discussed in a civil, authentic manner and more importantly, in a way that intelligent, solutions can be reached. Three healthcare policy experts with perhaps differing views in a moderated discussion. We have Grace-Marie Turner, Len Nichols, and Wendell Potter as the panelists with Susan Dentzer as our moderator. Questions will be submitted by the Shepherd University Debate and Forensics Team as well as the audience. Watch the conversation here.

August 13, 2020

Fixing Congress: A Conversation with Derek Kilmer and Tom Graves, Chair and Cochair of the Select Committee to Modernize Congress.

This was the first American Conversation Series forum to be held “virtually.” We envisioned it as an interview question-and-answer format featuring Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Tom Graves (R-GA), the Chair and Co-Chair of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress. We wanted to explore the background about the committee, thoughts of bipartisanship today, and strategies moving towards a more bipartisan approach to politics. We have chosen a few select issues and discuss how to move toward greater compromise. Audience questions were also invited. This event was hosted on Facebook Live and Zoom, you can view the event here.

February 3, 2020

Talking Politics in An Angry America: How Do We Discuss Politics in a Divided Nation?

Moderated by Convergence founder and president Rob Fersh, this panel consisted of Frank Sesno, former CNN political correspondent, Scott Widmeyer, former media director to President Jimmy Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale, and Kelly Johnston, former Secretary of the U.S. Senate under Bob Dole. A video of the forum can be seen here.

November 4, 2019

An Evening with Donna Brazile and Mercedes Schlapp: The State of Political Discourse in Today’s America.

This exciting ACS featured former Democratic Chairwoman and President Trump’s media director discuss political civility in our divided nations. Shepherd University President, Dr. Mary J.C. Hendrix, served as moderator. These two powerful women shared views that ranged from Donna’s fried chicken recipe to the impeachment of President Trump. Although feisty at times, civility and respect ruled the day. This forum was broadcast live to a national audience by C-SPAN. It can be seen here.

October 1, 2019

The Stubblefield Institute of Civil Political Communication Dedication

U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelly Moore Capito, representing two parties but one state, come together to help dedicate the Bonnie and Bill Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications. You can view the dedication here.

Corporate ACS Sponsors

Single and multiple event sponsorships are available for foundations, companies, and associations. Sponsors will receive maximum exposure in our email and printed materials, banner, and signage display, mention from the event’s master-of-ceremonies and invitations to all pre-event presidential receptions. Please call Director Greg Fields at 304-876-5005 to discuss becoming a corporate sponsor.