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Davis & Elkins Starts Symposium for Democracy

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Davis & Elkins College launched its inaugural First-Year Symposium recently, showing off a learner-centered education model, and focusing on democracy.

D&E's Winter Term is a three-week semester, but the school said in a news release it provides for a focused, intensive study of a single subject, wherein students are asked to think critically and also creatively outside the traditional classroom model.

"It promotes authentic, independent, small group learning with professors serving as guides or mentors rather than lecturers," according to a news release from D&E.

Previous students have chosen to study a wide range of courses, but this year a team of faculty and staff is engaging all first-year students in the same theme – democracy. The study will include teamwork, panel discussions, projects and participation in simulated legislative sessions.

D&E Vice President for Academic Affairs Joseph Roidt said the idea for the symposium came about last summer when the school decided to embrace the challenge issued in the 2012 report from the National Task Force on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. The report cited a "civic deficit" facing the country and challenges colleges and universities to educate their students to serve as more capable and knowledgeable adults.

"Davis & Elkins hopes that its own initiative will provide valuable information for other colleges and universities wishing to strengthen their commitment to civic learning and engagement," according to the D&E news release.

Students will be assigned to one of 22 small groups, and the main requirement each week is for students to not only participate in the sessions but also to produce products demonstrating what they learned.

The Symposium will wrap up with an awards ceremony in Charleston.

The Symposium's progress will be tracked at the D&E Twitter feed @davisandelkins and with the hashtag #DEsymposium.