Cover art for podcast Democracy Works

Democracy Works

94 EpisodesProduced by Penn State McCourtney Institute for DemocracyWebsite

Examining what it means to live in a democracy

About the Hosts

Jenna Spinelle

Jenna Spinelle

Host/Producer

Jenna Spinelle is the Communications Specialist for the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. She is responsible for shaping all of the institute’s external communication, including website content, social media, multimedia, and media outreach. She holds a B.A. in journalism from Penn State and is an instructor in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications. Prior to joining the McCourtney Institute, Spinelle worked in Penn State’s Undergraduate Admissions Office and College of Information Sciences and Technology.

Michael Berkman

Michael Berkman

Host

Michael Berkman (Ph.D., Indiana University) is a professor in the Department of Political Science and the director of the Center for American Political Responsiveness (CAPR), a center of excellence within the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. Berkman’s research focuses on American politics, particularly American state politics and policy. His most recent research, funded by the National Science Foundation, focuses on state Transitional Aid to Needy Families (TANF) programs. Along with his colleague Eric Plutzer, Berkman has published two books on state education policy: Evolution, Creationism and the Battle to Control America’s Classrooms (Cambridge University Press) and Ten Thousand Democracies: Politics and Public Opinion in America’s School Districts (Georgetown University Press). His first book, The State Roots of National Politics: Congress and the Tax Agenda, 1978–1986 (Pittsburgh University Press), looked at how state policies influence national politics.

Christopher Beem

Christopher Beem

Host

Christopher Beem (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is managing director of the McCourtney Institute for Democracy. He is the author or co-editor of five books, including The Necessity of Politics (University of Chicago Press). His latest book, Democratic Humility: Reinhold Niebuhr, Neuroscience and America’s Political Crisis (Lexington Books, 2015) argues that democracy requires a specific kind of humility to counter our natural inclination to self-delusion and self-righteousness. Before joining the Institute, Beem served as grants and communications manager for Next Door, a nonprofit organization dedicated to early childhood education in Milwaukee’s central city. Before that, he directed the Democracy and Community Program at the Johnson Foundation’s Wingspread Conference Center

What fans say about the podcast

Learning what it takes to repair democracy

It has become one of my favorite podcasts because it helps soothe my worries for our democracy by creating the feeling that we are making progress toward understanding what's going wrong, building the necessary bridges, and making the necessary repairs.

Bonnie Dixon; Winters California

A historical context for democracy

This podcast provides an understanding of how history looks at the success and failures of democratic governing practices and what may be the correct answers for civilizations going forward.

Liz Grosh; Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania

Featured episodes

Citizenship, patriotism, and democracy in the classroom

As a piece in The Atlantic recently noted, democracy is not natural. Becoming a democratic citizen involves a set of behaviors that need to be …

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