Skip to main content

The Great Debate and Civic Expo

10/30/2013 09:59AM, Published by Claudia Mosby, Categories: In Print, Community

Story by Claudia Mosby

After contentious town hall meetings in 2009, Chico’s then-Assistant City Manager, John Rucker, turned for help to the communications faculty at Chico State University. It turns out many folks do not know how to disagree without being disagreeable.

“He came to us because he was concerned about the tone at many of the city council meetings and asked how we could train the next generation to do better,” says Zach Justus, an assistant professor of communication who coordinates the university’s public speaking courses.

After consultation with city officials, Justus and his colleagues created the Great Debate & Civic Expo, a day-long event held each semester to engage students and community members on hot-button topics.  “We want to demonstrate to students that they can have a discussion without shouting,” says Justus. “There’s a real emphasis on civility. We really hope this serves as a model of civil and civic discourse.”

The event represents the culmination of semester-length student research and presentations on the chosen theme. Faculty members tie into community and campus events and bring speakers into the classroom to build on existing resources and excite and motivate students about the topic and events.

Topic selection is collaborative, and each semester, faculty members, students and representatives from local government meet to discuss and decide the next semester’s theme, which for Fall 2013 is mental health and policies that affect California. “The community is also heavily involved in choosing,” says Justus. “It’s really produced the best results for us.”

The Great Debate & Civic Expo has grown from 300 student participants at its first event in 2010 to more than 2,000 students and several hundred community members each semester. Butte and Shasta Colleges joined as partners in Fall 2010 and Spring 2013, respectively.

“These events provide students with the confidence that they can participate in meaningful discussions about important issues that affect our communities,” says Shelly Presnell, Communication Studies faculty coordinator at Shasta College. “They leave the event feeling empowered by the knowledge that they can make a difference.”

Although the event is non-partisan, Justus says it draws attendance from the Republican and Democratic parties as well as other community groups, offering tremendous value to those who sit across the table from others who hold a different point of view.

“There are lots of places to see hot-button issues talked about, but not many places to see those things talked about well,” says Justus. “If people want to see something that is a real departure from what they would find on cable news, this is the place to come.” •


All events open to the public.

THEME: Mental Health & Policies Affecting California 

The Great Debate – Chico State University (and Butte College)

Friday, Nov. 1

9 am (all day): Student debates, presentations and facilitated discussion groups. 

6:30 pm: Evening debate - Chico State University speech and debate team paired with politicians, local activists, lobbyists and other community members.

Location: City Council Chambers, City Plaza, Chico.

The Great Debate & Civic Expo – Shasta College, Redding

Thursday, Nov. 7 – Great Debate

6-7:30 pm: Shasta College Speech and Debate team. Participants can use electronic polling clickers (anonymously) and/or engage in a question-and-answer period at the conclusion of the debate.  

Location: Redding Public Library, Community Rooms A & B 

Friday, Nov. 8 – Civic Expo

9 am – 1 pm: Student-produced interactive booths with activities and opportunity to dialogue.

Location:  Shasta College Cafeteria

civil liberty john rucker civic expo non-partisan butte college shasta collegechico state university debate zach justus

  • SLFPD Pancake Breakfast

    06:30AM — 10:00AM

    Before the Boomtown Festival Parade, get the best breakfast of pancakes, sausage & scrambled eggs...

  • Love Your Pet Expo

    10:00AM — 04:00PM

    The Love Your Pet Expo is a free, pet-friendly event & super adoption day. We will have informati...

  • Boomtown Festival

    10:00AM — 08:00PM

    Enjoy the Boomtown Parade starting at 10am. Our Parade Marshal is the Wintu Tribe of Northern Cli...

  • Art in the Square

    10:00AM — 05:00PM

    Fine arts and crafts fair, hosted by ArtSmart Boutique. For more info check out our Facebook ...

  • Wildways: Discover The New Ross Ranch

    10:00AM — 01:00PM

    Be one of the first to view the McConnell Foundation’s Ross Ranch Preserve while it’s being resto...

  • Walk Against Traffick

    10:30AM — 12:00PM

    Walk Against Traffick will be Saturday, April 30th, 2016 at the Sundial Bridge in Redding, CA. ...

  • What's Your Mind/Body Story?

    11:00AM — 12:30PM

    Certified massage therapist, yoga teacher, PSYCH-K facilitator and cancer survivor Cheri Davis te...

  • For Pete's Sake Car Show & Party in the Park

    02:00PM — 08:00PM

    Car show & shine in memory of Pete Peshea. Registration starts at 2pm. Median Street will be cl...

  • Springtime in the Vineyard


    This outdoor event will occur at the beautiful Burnsini Vineyards and it will feature a live & si...

  • Springtime in the Vineyard 2016

    05:00PM — 09:00PM


  • The Blues Rollers Live at California Brewhouse

    06:30PM — 09:30PM

    The Blues Rollers - ("Local Legends" from NorCal ) are the quintessential good-time electric boog...

  • Redding Community Contra Dance

    07:00PM — 10:00PM

    What is contra? Contra dance is the American cousin to Scottish and English Country set dances. I...

  • Mornings with Mommy

    09:00AM — 10:00AM

    Mornings with Mommy isn’t preschool, and it isn’t childcare, it’s something different. Mornings w...

  • Story Time and crafts for all ages at the Redding Library, usually themed to the season. Takes pl...

See what's inside!


Wedding Style Guide—Spring/Summer 2016
Enjoy Magazine Facebook
Enjoy Magazine Instagram Instagram
Enjoy Magazine Pinterest Enjoy Magazine