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‘Coffee with the Times’ to spotlight weekly discussions

February 21, 2008

The New York Times “Coffee with the Times” discussion takes place in the UW-River Falls Davee Library breezeway weekly throughout the fall and spring semesters.

  “‘Coffee with the Times’ was developed by the New York Times which is a partner of the American Democracy Project (ADP),” series coordinator and journalism department chair Colleen Callahan said. “Coffee with the Times” has been on the UWRF campus for three years.  UWRF faculty, staff, students and community members are invited to volunteer to lead a discussion in which they pick their topic.

  The leaders of the discussion pick one or two New York Times articles they would like to discuss.  The selected articles are available on the UWRF ADP Web site and at the event.

  “The series is not a lecture, nor a presentation, nor a debate,” Callahan said in an e-mail. “Its mission is to engage people in conversation in an informal setting.”

  Generally the discussion leader talks for 10-20 minutes; the rest of the time is for discussion among participants.

  The hours and days of the sessions are determined by the leaders of each discussion.  At each session, there are light refreshments provided by the New York Times.

  “Discussion of current events led by individuals who are familiar, often experts in the area of discussion, is an excellent way to promote constructive dialogue among a variety of people on campus,” associate vice chancellor for Enrollment Management Alan Tuchtenhagen said in an e-mail.

  Tuchtenhagen led a discussion last semester on a national trend suggesting that men are less likely than women to participate in education beyond high school.

  Attendance at “Coffee with the Times” generally ranges from 10-30 people, depending on the topic and whether or not a faculty member has offered attendance as extra credit for a course.

  “[Chancellor] Don Betz gave one last semester and 50-60 people showed up at least, they overflowed the room. Sometimes the turnout is better than others,” senior Andrew Engel, member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society, said.

  Pi Sigma Alpha has helped organize three of the events this semester. Last semester, Engel organized the Betz discussion on “Transitions in the Middle East.” This semester, he organized an event with department of economics professor Jackie Brux, entitled “The Effects of Globalism on Less Developed Countries.”

  “Steph Sianko and Andy Engel have been extremely helpful in organizing the Coffee series this year. They brought energy and passion and, most importantly, suggestions for discussion leaders and topics,” Callahan said in an e-mail. “I’m very grateful for all their help.”

  Sianko was president of Pi Sigma Alpha until she graduated in December.

  “Outside of voting, it’s one of a students’ few chances to play a role,” Engel said. “‘Coffee with the Times’ gives students a chance to be in active discussion in an informal and enjoyable way.”

  There are posters on the New York Times newsstands around campus that show dates and times for the discussions. The next discussion, “Veterans Issues: Transitioning into Civilian Life,” is 3 p.m., Feb. 27, in the library breezeway.