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The Civics Lab

Author: David Thomason

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The Civics Lab at St. Edward's University (Austin, TX) is a student and faculty collaborative podcast on civics life in America. We interview guests and discuss issues around the intersection of politics, economics, society, public policy, religion and other important issues to the civics life in the United States and Texas. Dr. David Thomason, on the faculty at St. Ed's, is the director of the Civics Lab. Students at St. Ed's produce, research and comment on the podcast. Students in the lab include: Caroline King (Executive Editor) Milo Cortese (producer), Niko Smith (lead economic researcher), Desi Tsacalis (lead background researcher) and Michael Baumgartner (lead commentator) and Ben Alford (contributor) and Esther Heymans (contributor). The Civics Lab is sponsored by a grant from the Hatton Sumners Foundation.
22 Episodes
You may be asking, what is the Texas Land Commission?  Texas elects a Land Commissioner?  Why?  In this episode, we have Jay Kleberg in the Civics Lab studio to discuss why he is running for this statewide office and what makes this position important in the fight against climate change, education funding,  Veterans' healthcare, and protecting and expanding our access to public lands. 
Civics Lab team members went to John P.  Ojeda Middle School, in Southeast Austin to discuss a project that teachers and students are collaborating to grow, market and finance the production of salsa.  Students and teachers have literally turned computer rooms into greenhouses and are applying the spirit of American entrepreneurship to address access to healthy foods.   Join in on this week's quick take!Websites on what Austin is doing to address food insecurity: Valle ISD Link
Join Michael Baumgartner and Esther Heymans as they attend and interview participants at the RevUP Texas (Register Educate Vote Use Your Power!) rally to promote voter registration and raising awareness of disability issues in Texas politics.  The Civics Lab team interviews Bob Kafka, organizer and advocate for RevUp.  Join them in this quick take!RevUp! Texas: for RevUP:REV UP Texas@REVUP_TexasBob Kafka
We sat down for a casual conversation revolving around some of the biggest political stories of the week, and some that might have flown under your radar. Listen in as we discuss the January 6th hearings,  Beto's defamation lawsuit,  and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict.  Episode recorded on 3/8/22
In this Quick Take, we sat down with Claire Campos-O'Neal, a candidate for state representative from an Austin district.  She discusses her passion for education and the way more women can run for office.   And check out Cosmic on South Congress!Websites:
Civic Arts is an organization that promotes equity, justice, and civic engagement through the arts. We sat down with Civic Arts' Executive Director Lynn Osgood to hear her thoughts on the state of civics in America, how we can make engagement more inclusive, and how civics and art go together and inspire communities.Civic Arts website is:
Ross Ramsey.  co-founder and chief editor of the Texas Tribune, sat down in the Civics Lab Studio this week.  A lively and information conversation, Ramsey shares his thoughts on the state of Texas politics.  We cover the primary voter turnout, controversial statements by statewide leaders, how Denton in the 1970's ended up passing liquor laws and whether Blue Bell Ice Cream is worth fighting over  Plus much more!  React to the conversation on our twitter feed:  @thecivicslab
We did a quick take with Erika Thompson (@texasbeeworks), founder of Texas Beeworks and professional bee keeper, along with advocates from UT  and the community, on a recent Austin City Council to make Austin a Bee City.  What's a Bee City?  Have a listen!  If you want to know more about the work Erika Thompson is conducting, take a look at her profile article in Texas Monthly.
In this episode, the Civics Lab team discusses the recent questions of Republican leadership and the Jan. 6 insurrection, SCOTUS vacancy,  Religion in Politics and the Russian threat to the Ukraine.  Join us this week for a great conversation in the Civics Lab.
In this episode, we discuss the nature and scope of civics education.  We sit down with Braver Angels, Generation Citizen, and the Holy Cross Institute, as we explore what it means to be a citizen and how education plays a vital role in shaping our character and identity.  
What do fishing, clean water, public land access, and conservation all have in common? That's the topic of today's discussion as we sat down with Trout Unlimited's Greg McReynolds, who arguably has the coolest job title in America, Intermountain Regional Director of the Angler Conservation Program. In the episode we discuss: what Trout Unlimited is and what they aim to accomplish, Mr. McReynolds role in Trout Unlimited, why people who don't fish should care about native populations and clean water access, how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted participation in the outdoors, and so much more! To learn more about Trout Unlimited head over to their website to this episode of The Civics Lab @TheCivicsLab on Instagram and Twitter. Stay tuned for our next episode as we sit down with Generation Citizen and Braver Angels to discuss what the term civics means and why it's paramount to our society. 
On this episode, we had a conversation with James Barragan, reporter for the Dallas Morning News who covers Texas politics and the Texas Legislature. Days after the historic winter storm that blew through Texas, we discussed power outages across the state, ERCOT hearings at the Capitol, how the Covid-19 Pandemic has affected how reporters like himself receive information and cover the legislative session, the importance of free press in our society, and much more. Respond to this weeks episode of The Civics Lab @TheCivicsLab on Instagram and Twitter.   Stay tuned for our next episode as we talk with Austinites for Progressive Reform on the future of Austin's city government, what reforms and amendments they are pushing, and how a change in Austin's government could affect the state as a whole. 
In this episode, we had the opportunity to speak with State Representative Gene Wu.  Gene Wu is a Democrat representing District 137, located in West Houston. It was an enormous pleasure to talk with Gene about the current legislative session, and we hope you enjoy his honesty and clarity as much as we did!
On this episode, we had a conversation with Andrew Allison, chair and member of the group Austinites for Progressive Reform. We discuss 5 Propositions on the May Ballot, ones that Austinites for Progressive reform introduced and are advocating for. Some of these propositions: moving to a mayor-council form of government, rank choice voting, and "Democracy Dollars", will drastically change the way the City of Austin conducts its day to day operations, or more importantly, shape the way it governs moving forward. To learn more about Austinites for Progressive Reform and propositions D, E, F, G, and H, head to their website Respond to this weeks episode of The Civics Lab @TheCivicsLab on Instagram and Twitter.   Stay tuned for our next episode as we dive deeper into the meaning of "civics", what it encompasses, and why it  is paramount to our democratic society. 
Back in early December of 2020, The Civics Lab had a discussion with Mirek Konvalina; director of the Czech Center in New York and a seasoned diplomatic professional. In addition to the work Mirek has done at the Czech Center, he has also served as the Director of the American Center - US Embassy Prague, worked as Czech Radio's correspondent in D.C. and at the United Nations, served as Director for both Czech Radio Journal and Czech Radio, served as Vice President of the European Union Cultural Institute, and has authored two books on American democracy. In our discussion we talk about the cultural importance his work at the Czech Center plays, how beer could be considered soft diplomacy, cultural ties between the Czech Republic and the U.S., and much more. Respond to this weeks episode of The Civics Lab @TheCivicsLab on Instagram and Twitter.   Stay tuned for our next episode featuring James Barragan, journalist for The Dallas Morning News. We will be covering how accessible the Texas Legislature has been amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, top issues he is following this session, and how reporting from the Texas Legislature differs from other states. 
Representative Stephanie Klick, Chair of the Texas House Elections Committee, is in the Civics Lab, discussing the 2020 Texas Elections and how her committee is preparing for the upcoming Texas legislative session.   We discuss mandatory voting, a national election law, student id's as forms of identification, and the lack of a paper trail of ballots in Harris County.Respond to this weeks Civics Lab @TheCivicsLab on Instagram and Twitter.   Next month, the Civics Lab interviews Miroslav Konvalina, the Vice President of the European Union Cultural Institute and author of two books on American democracy.  
This week, Dr. Scot Schraufnagel , Professor of Political Science at Northern Illiniois University, is in the Civics Lab and discusses his research on the cost of voting in the United States. Did you know that Texas is the most difficult state to vote in the United States?  Where does your state rank? Did you know that high voter turnout benefits both Republicans and Democrats?  “Voting and elections are at the heart of our democracy, and voting should be easy,” says Schraufnagel. “One characteristic that helps define the competency of an electoral system and the legitimacy of governing institutions is the ease in which you can cast a ballot.”Join us this week and react to the episode @TheCivicsLab on Instagram and Twitter.
This week, the civics lab explores the causes for why the media contributes to inflaming our political divide.  We discuss our groups’ solutions from an article we wrote for the Dallas Morning News Sunday Edition. The public reaction to this article included well over 150 comments on digital media and ran a full spectrum of informed to outright venomous responses.  Listen to our reaction and assessment in this week’s episode of the civics lab.   Are we united by our continued social media divsions?  Is the business of the news contributing to the inflammation of America's political divide?  React to our article on our Twitter and Instagram feeds, @TheCivicsLab
This week, the civics lab goes to the small town of Llano, Texas and discovers that healing the wounds of the Vietnam war may be the key to solving our current political divide.  In over 20 interviews, we uncover the widespread distrust in American political institutions and politicians and identify the 50 year wounds of Vietnam still penetrate the American psyche.  We discover that people in small towns trust their neighbors and want the same level of communication and trust with those that represent them.   We hope you join us for this important episode of the Civics Lab.  Healing the Wounds of Vietnam is a key to overcoming our current political impasse.  
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