Michigan Humanities is pleased to announce it is the recipient of $50,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and Federation of State Humanities Councils to participate in the national “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative.  This program will explore civic participation as it relates to electoral engagement in a multivocal democracy.  This initiative will take place in 43 states across the country until the spring of 2021.

Michigan Humanities will present a series of virtual state-wide conversations that will examine the electoral process by exploring Michigan’s urban-rural divide and the influence of social media.  These conversations will bring together humanities professionals and Michiganders and provide a place for open dialogue and learning.  The first event will take place on Thursday, December 3, at 7 p.m. via a Zoom webinar format.  Registration can be found on the Michigan Humanities website:  www.michiganhumanities.org.

“We are delighted to take part in this partnership to discuss important electoral issues so relevant in our society,” said Shelly Hendrick Kasprzycki, President and CEO of Michigan Humanities.  “Our scholars will offer excellent discussion leadership about the influences on our electoral process and the differences in urban and rural civic participation.”

The first conversation on December 3 will discuss the history and impact the urban-rural divide in Michigan has had on local, state, and federal elections.  The discussion will be led by Dr. Kevin G. Lorentz II and Dr. Thomas Henthorn, both from the University of Michigan at Flint.

Kevin G. Lorentz II (Ph.D., Wayne State University) is lecturer in political science at the University of Michigan at Flint. His research focuses broadly on American constitutional law, judicial politics, and civic education, with a specific focus on constitutional attitudes. Kevin’s other research focuses on judicial decision making and behavior, civic education and pedagogical practices, and collaborative work on local government institutional structures and behaviors. Beyond his academic work, Kevin has worked extensively in local government, serving as a member of the Bay County (Michigan) Board of Canvassers (auditing and certifying election results) and as a deputy county clerk. A native of northern Michigan, Kevin received his B.A. from Saginaw Valley State University (University Center, MI) and completed master’s coursework at Central Michigan University (Mt. Pleasant, MI).

Dr. Thomas Henthorn is the Wyatt Endowed Professor of Public History at the University of Michigan at Flint and his research explores the intersection between urban history and public history. Dr. Henthorn’s research challenges audiences and his students to think about the historical differences between city and countryside.

Future conversations in early 2021 will focus on the effects social media has had on how we consume information, inform our decisions, and how it has had impacts on recent elections. These conversations will be led by Dr. Jayson Dibble.  Dr. Jayson L. Dibble, Ph.D., is currently an associate professor in the Department of Communication at Hope College, Holland, Michigan. He holds a doctorate in interpersonal communication from Michigan State University, and he researches and teaches on the topic of interpersonal communication to include communication through social media and the impact of social media on personal relationships. Dr. Dibble has published or co-published more than two dozen articles or book chapters, and his research and writing have been featured in various national outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, NBC News, The Washington Post, Fox News, The Atlantic, and Psychology Today. He will be joined by colleagues from Hope College’s departments of Communication and Political Science.