First Year Experience Program

Student Learning Fee Grant: Student Leaders for Chico Great Debate Production Team

This proposal requests support for wages for two student leaders, who will provide oversight for work related to the planning, delivery and assessment stages of the Chico Great Debate. The Chico Great Debate, which began in the spring of 2010, is a large scale public event that takes place both semesters in downtown Chico. It is one facet of our campus's partnership with the City of Chico and was originally brought to the First-Year Experience Program (FYE) as a request from the Chico City Manager's Office.  The event's purposes include: providing students with a public forum for their research and the practice of their developing presentation skills; providing all participants with models of civil discourse during the discussion of contentious public issues.  The event consists of multiple parts: a Civic Expo with interactive student displays focused on an umbrella issue taken up by all of our oral communication courses during a semester (e.g., education reform; immigration reform; climate change; criminal justice issues, etc.); student speeches, panel presentations and debates; facilitated discussion groups; an evening "main event" debate featuring community member and student debaters. Assessments show that the event positively affects students' academic engagement (as measured by questions from the National Survey of Student Engagement).

Our request for the funding of two student leaders for the production team for the Chico Great Debate arises due to several reasons.  The event has become more expensive over the past two years because of the large increase in the number of student participants: the event grew in one semester from about 400 students to between 1500 to 2000 participants.  This occurred because the entire CMST department decided to include the Debate day in all of the first-year oral communication requirements and because several oral communication classes at Butte Community College have also joined the event.  Due to this large growth in the event, more buildings and public spaces had to be secured to accommodate everyone; this happened at a time when the City began to experience financial troubles, causing them to move from donating the spaces for the event to charging for these spaces.  The production team for the event grew in size due to the event's increased size and complexity, and although the current team functions beautifully, most of its members will graduate by spring '17.  We are requesting funding for the two team leaders in AY ‘16-‘17 so that we can add newer members who can learn from experienced team members' expertise.   Given the increased costs of the event overall, we do not have additional funds to prepare new members to take over this work.  The leads are our most experienced and most expensive student staff members; we request funds to pay them in '16-'17 so that we can use some of our program funding to invest in the training of newer members.