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UD Biden School’s Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Ithaca Initiative hosts a national leadership summit

In today’s world, it is no exaggeration to say that the health of our democracy is in jeopardy.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Ithaca Initiative at the University of Delaware’s Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration addresses this concern by bringing together academic leaders to develop effective programs and teachings that Encouraging students to be responsible, engaged citizens.

The SNSF Ithaca Initiative hosted its second annual national summit of university leaders on October 27-28 in UD. The event enabled conversations and collaboration between faculty and staff representing a variety of colleges and universities from across the country.

“One of the Biden School’s greatest honors is to serve as a national gathering of thought leaders,” said Amy Ellen Schwartz, Dean of the Biden School. “The SNSF Ithaca National Leadership Summit provided an exceptional opportunity for our faculty and staff at our Biden School to share and learn from partner institutions to ensure the next generation of student leaders have the skills and resources to support healthy democracy required are.”

Among those in attendance were representatives from nearly 20 institutions, including Ivy League schools, historically black colleges and universities, major research universities and public and private colleges, as well as SNSF partner Johns Hopkins University’s SNSF Agora Institute and the University of Pennsylvania’s SNSF Paideia Program .

Together, participants explored the intersection of media and democracy—the mediated public space—and the role of the college classroom in shaping democratic citizens. The vital urgency of this topic was palpable. To sustain a democratic society, today’s students must be able to identify disinformation and take action to protect our information ecosystem. In its second successful year, the summit will be complemented by the SNSF Ithaca National Student Dialogue, held in the spring, bringing together students from partner institutions to advance civil society dialogue.

“The focus of the summit is trust – trust in institutions, people and civil discourse. Democracy is not just a concept, it requires active participation and it is important that we recognize that we all exist in this media landscape as digital citizens,” said Timothy J. Shaffer, Chair of Civil Discourse, Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNSF) . Biden school. “It is important for educators to explicitly incorporate these topics into their coursework. Faculty has a primary role in connecting concepts and practical issues to students, so we examine what and how we teach.”

The summit program covered several topics and challenges, including two sessions on the media, democracy and public policy, and anti-intellectualism in the United States. Conversations ranged from integrating media literacy into public policy curricula and addressing anti-intellectualism on campus to ways in which civil discourse can resolve political dichotomy and create space for constructive engagement.

SNF Ithaca Fellow John Della Volpe, who also serves as Harvard Kennedy School’s polling director and is an MSNBC policy contributor, led a lunchtime presentation on interpreting poll results from Gen Z students — and offering insights into their lives, values, and priorities. The session was followed by a fact-based discussion on how to meet students where their media consumption puts them and better prepare them to be ethical leaders.

“When we look for hope for the future of democracy, the willingness of young people to get involved in the work of active citizenship shines brightly,” said SNSF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos. “In order to move forward together, it is important that the educators and leaders who foster civic engagement and civic discourse among students have opportunities like these to gather and collaborate.”

As more higher education institutions recognize the importance of educating students in fundamental democratic principles throughout their academic journey and beyond, the SNSF Ithaca Initiative will continue to expand its efforts to bring stakeholders together to discuss and develop solutions.

“The crisis of confidence in our democracy poses a real and present threat — a threat we cannot solve on our own,” said Valerie Biden Owens, chair of the Biden Institute. “Through SNF Ithaca, the Biden School brings together the brightest minds from across the country and across the political spectrum to develop the tools this new generation of leaders will need to uphold our democracy. Our mission for SNF Ithaca goes beyond the Biden School. We see this mission as vital and urgent to our national interest.”

To learn more about the Biden School’s SNF Ithaca initiative, visit

About the Ithaca Initiative of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

The SNF Ithaca Initiative at the University of Delaware’s Biden School serves as a national home base and starting point for students on their journey to responsible democratic citizenship. Through a unique combination of academic coursework and practical experience, SNF Ithaca seeks to advance civil discourse and civic engagement, protect the mediated public space, and support healthy democracy.

About the UD Biden School

Founded in 1961 and named in 2018 after the University of Delaware’s most distinguished graduate student, the 46th President of the United States, the Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration prepares students with the knowledge and skills necessary for the Participate in research and public service activities needed to improve the quality of life in communities around the world. The Biden School’s faculty, staff, students, and alumni create and use interdisciplinary, impartial research and empirically-based analysis to inform effective decision-making and policy, and to improve leadership and administration. The Biden School works with organizations from every field to find innovative and equitable solutions to the critical challenges of our time.

About the Stavros Niarchos Foundation

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) is one of the world’s leading private, international philanthropic organizations supporting charitable organizations in the fields of arts and culture, education, health and sport, and social welfare. The SNSF funds organizations and projects worldwide that aim to have a broad, sustainable and positive impact on society as a whole and demonstrate strong leadership and sound management. The SNSF also supports projects that facilitate the formation of public-private partnerships as an effective means of public service. Since 1996, the foundation has provided more than $3.4 billion through over 5,200 grants to nonprofit organizations in more than 135 countries around the world.

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