American Public Square finds new home at William Jewell College

William Jewell College and American Public Square designed a new partnership to enrich civic engagement in Kansas City, including reaching into the Northland.

American Public Square is a nonpartisan nonprofit that seeks to change the tone and quality of public discourse. The organization invites communities to discuss issues of national importance. These gatherings, which occur throughout the region, foster civil discourse and attract regional and national speakers to discuss controversial topics.

Beginning in September, American Public Square will call William Jewell College its academic home and will rebrand as “American Public Square at Jewell.”

American Public Square at Jewell will have a presence on the William Jewell campus with a satellite office, but will continue to maintain its headquarters Kansas City’s Midtown.

American Public Square’s founder, former U.S. Ambassador to Portugal Allan Katz, will serve as a distinguished professor in residence in William Jewell’s Department of Political Science. Jewell faculty will contribute to programming and students will be invited to intern at the organization with emphasis on several areas including program development, civic engagement and event planning.

At least twice per year, American Public Square will host nationally recognized politicians, speakers and public figures as part of the newly formed Jewell Union, a civil debate series on Jewell’s campus in Liberty.

“There will be other activities for both the students and the community. It’s an exciting partnership. Plus, this fall, Ambassador Katz will offer a lecture on campus and will guest teach in several courses such as political science and leadership,” Cara Dahlor, college spokesman, said.

APS Executive Director Claire American Public Square Executive Director Claire Bishop said discussion to look at a satellite office in the Northland began in earnest this past spring. The college’s critical thinking directive helped as well. Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, Jewell’s president, agreed that supporting civil dialogue on challenging issues resonates with that critical thinking focus.

Bishop said both the college and American Public Square had a “general awareness of each other” prior to the partnership.

“The decision for the satellite office gives the student body accessibility to us. It’s that accessibility that we are craving to make sure that we provide opportunities across the Metro and we have not had much representation in the Northland,” she said.

Bishop said the college will be the stage for some of the larger communitywide discussions, too.

“We are going to explore Medicaid expansion in both Missouri and Kansas and hope to see the community at large,” Bishop said. “It’s about a strong partnership and that requires promoting and providing events.”

The collaboration is a beginning, Bishop said.

“It’s part of a broader effort of ours to engage in academics,” she said. “Jewell students will be interns and volunteers. I believe we will be reaching out to other members of the community such as the chamber and city leadership. We aim to bring people together even more. ... We can be the role of convener, helping weave the fabric of the community and bridge some of that divide.”

In 2020, Bishop said American Public Service will be tackling the subjects of the Me Too movement, affordable housing and the election year.

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