If you’re looking for partisan bickering or hot takes on the news, this is not the podcast for you. We aim to rise above partisan politics and the daily news grind to take a broader look at issues impacting democracy — which can be just about anything.
Why the name Democracy Works? It’s about people coming together to build things that are greater than the sum of their parts. Much like workers throughout Pennsylvania’s history built ships and trains at iron and steel works, each of us has a role to play in building and sustaining a healthy democracy.
You probably hear a lot these days about how democracy is failing. We can’t promise that the view will always be rosy on this podcast. However, we can promise an examination of how people are trying to make democracy work.
Michael Berkman, McCourtney Institute Director
Michael Berkman (Ph.D., Indiana University) is a professor in the Department of Political Science and the director of 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 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).
Christopher Beem, McCourtney Institute Managing Director
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 directed the Democracy and Community Program at the Johnson Foundation’s Wingspread Conference Center.
Jenna Spinelle, McCourtney Institute Communications Specialist
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 helped market Penn State to prospective students and families in the University’s Undergraduate Admissions Office.
Giovanni Castro, Research Assistant
Giovanni Castro is a Ph.D. student in Political Science at Penn State and an APSA Minority Fellow.
His research interests primarily involve political behavior, political participation, party identification and voting among Latino immigrants in the United States. Prior to attending Penn State, he received a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Puerto Rico in 2018.
About the McCourtney Institute for Democracy
The Democracy Works podcast is produced by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy at Penn State. Our institute draws from the humanities and social sciences to examine democracy from multiple angles. This cross-discipline collaboration is evident in our research, education, and outreach efforts.
We educate the next generation of democratic citizens through our Nevins Fellows program, monitor attitudes toward democracy with the Mood of the Nation poll, and host speakers and events that bring people from diverse backgrounds and points of view together to discuss the role of democracy in our society.
We make all of this happen in partnership with our centers of excellence, the Center for American Political Responsiveness and the Center for Democratic Deliberation, and many other organizations throughout the College of the Liberal Arts and the broader Penn State community.
For more information, visit democracy.psu.edu.