“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.” – David Welch, Institute Director


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.


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.


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 David Welch at 304-876-5005 to discuss becoming a corporate sponsor.


Coming Soon to the Stubblefield Institute

Upstream Downstream: A Radio Program and Podcast

The Stubblefield Institute is currently working to develop a podcast series, that will feature discussions with prominent experts on important political and policy issues. This is set to air on November 14th.


“Working Together” A Mini-Documentary Series

The Stubblefield Institute is presently working to produce a series of mini-documentaries featuring examples of historical bi-partisan cooperation that led to notable outcomes. Titles will be announced in the Summer of 2020, with production to begin soon thereafter.



Planning for Academic Year 20/21 now in planning stages. Stay tuned for the announcement of more exciting forums as part of The American Conversation Series.


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. The forum will be conducted on the Zoom conference platform with registered guests and carried via Facebook livestream.