Discussion Groups

Some of our most refreshing events are weekly discussion groups at the Dole Institute. Hosted by Dole Fellows, each weekly discussion focuses on a specific topic or issue and features an expert in that field. These events are oriented toward KU students, but are also open to the public.

These small discussion groups provide hands-on knowledge and direct interaction with experts.

Past Discussion Groups

What’s the Matter with American Politics: How Fake News, Black Women, COVID-19, Presidents 45 and 46, and Protests Might Shape Politics in 2022


War Room 2022- Forecasting the Future of American Politics

November 03, 2021

What’s the Matter with American Politics: How Fake News, Black Women, COVID-19, Presidents 45 and 46, and Protests Might Shape Politics in 2022

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A Black Woman's Place is in Politics

October 27, 2021

What’s the Matter with American Politics: How Fake News, Black Women, COVID-19, Presidents 45 and 46, and Protests Might Shape Politics in 2022

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Flipping States

October 20, 2021

What’s the Matter with American Politics: How Fake News, Black Women, COVID-19, Presidents 45 and 46, and Protests Might Shape Politics in 2022

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Who you Wit? – Political Identity Today

October 13, 2021

What’s the Matter with American Politics: How Fake News, Black Women, COVID-19, Presidents 45 and 46, and Protests Might Shape Politics in 2022

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Talk Politics to Me

October 06, 2021

What’s the Matter with American Politics: How Fake News, Black Women, COVID-19, Presidents 45 and 46, and Protests Might Shape Politics in 2022

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Say it Loud - From Protest to Politics

September 29, 2021

What’s the Matter with American Politics: How Fake News, Black Women, COVID-19, Presidents 45 and 46, and Protests Might Shape Politics in 2022

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2020 Politics in Review

September 22, 2021

What’s the Matter with American Politics: How Fake News, Black Women, COVID-19, Presidents 45 and 46, and Protests Might Shape Politics in 2022

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The Modern American City: Past, Present, and Future


Poverty in American Cities

April 07, 2021

Cities large and small are facing some existential issues, as we’ve covered over the past several weeks. Often they are saddled with outdated approaches or just simply bad habits. How can cities and towns learn from their mistakes and develop…

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Opportunities in the Gig Economy

March 31, 2021

Technology companies such as Uber and Lyft have created opportunities for individuals to leverage their cars, and their downtime, to earn money on the side. Airbnb and Vrbo have done the same through short-term rentals. While these are some of the…

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Effective Housing Policy

March 24, 2021

Housing policy is again capturing the national spotlight. Local policies have restricted the development of new housing stock and as a result, in places like San Francisco and Seattle, housing prices have skyrocketed. But even smaller cities like…

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Subsidies in the City

March 17, 2021

The competition among cities to woo Amazon’s new headquarters brought national attention to the use and abuse of economic development subsidies, but the practice is not new. In fact, the value of such subsidies is staggering and seems to show no…

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Segregation, Race, and City Policy

March 10, 2021

Beginning in the 1920s, state and federal policy aided and abetted the segregation of Americans through housing policies, zoning ordinances, economic development, and urban revitalization. Although much of these aims have been discarded, the policies…

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Trends in Municipal Growth and Finance

March 03, 2021

Cities are the engines of state and national economies, yet in many places, taxes and public debt are at the highest levels they’ve ever been. Are the increased costs justified by the returns on public investment in the areas of public safety and…

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The Shifts that Shape Our Cities, Demographic Trends

February 24, 2021

Please join us for our first Discussion Group of the semester, “The Shifts that Shape Our Cities, Demographic Trends.” This program is the first of our Spring Discussion Groups series, “The Modern American City: Past, Present, and Future.” …

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Politics, Pandemic and Protests


Election 2020: Lessons Learned

November 18, 2020

With the 2020 election now in the rearview mirror, we’ll do a deep dive into the deciding factors in this year’s presidential campaign. Did polls, journalists, and political prognosticators get it right this time? What surprised us on Election…

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Do Endorsements Matter?

October 28, 2020

Time was, newspaper endorsements were a consequential boost for campaigns. But in an era of multiplying media outlets and declining newspaper subscriptions, do endorsements still carry the same weight? In 2016, Donald Trump earned the endorsements of…

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A War of Disinformation

October 21, 2020

What role is disinformation playing in the 2020 presidential campaign? In 2016, many were shocked — shocked! — to learn that completely false “news” stories about the election were shared far and wide on social media. Four years later, little…

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It’s the Economy, Stupid

October 14, 2020

Conventional wisdom has long suggested that presidents win reelection when the economy is strong and lose when the economy is faltering. Will that hold true in the 2020 election? For three years, President Donald Trump could lay claim to a thriving…

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How the Coronavirus Has Upended the 2020 Campaign

October 07, 2020

With relatively little warning, the coronavirus pandemic brought the 2020 presidential campaign to a virtual halt, cancelling candidates’ rallies for months, throwing the conventions into limbo, shutting down in-person fundraisers and making…

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Why did everyone underestimate Joe Biden?

September 30, 2020

Even though Joe Biden entered the 2020 Democratic presidential primary as the front-runner, many political pundits and journalists lost confidence in the former vice president along the way, writing his political obituary and declaring him an…

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Election 2020: The State of the Race

September 23, 2020

As the 2020 presidential campaign enters the final sprint to the finish, we’ll kick off this fall discussion series by assessing the state of the race after a tumultuous and unpredictable spring and summer. Which states are likely to decide this…

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Spying in the Cyber Age


Everyone’s an Editor: Finding “Truth” in Cyber News

April 22, 2020

Cronkite. Murrow. Brinkley. …

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The Death of 20th Century Power Structures and Adapting to the Birth of the 21st Century World

April 15, 2020

Few inventions so radically re-shaped the world as the internet did in the 1990s. The pillars of society, economics, information, communication and government shook, cracked, and some even crumbled, perhaps none so dramatically as the political…

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Ghost in the Machine: Being a Reporter in the Age of Total Information

April 08, 2020

On June 1, 1980, the Cable News Network launched, creating the first 24-hour news channel. It marked the first major departure from the decades-old model of television news broadcast twice a day. Then the internet swept the world, splintering not…

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In Home, at Home and Abroad – How Intelligence Is Made and Used in the 21st Century

April 01, 2020

The word “spy” almost drips with connotations. From James Bond to Spy vs. Spy to Black Widow, pop culture has no end of colorful characters who claim spying as their profession. One thing they all have in common is they work for a government. In…

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The Lawless Cyber Frontier

February 26, 2020

Nineteenth century southwestern America lit up movie and television screens and imaginations from the earliest talkies to the latest blockbusters. The lawless West and the rugged cowboy protecting the innocent are archetypes embedded in the American…

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Speaking Truth to Power in the Cyber Age?

February 19, 2020

E.C.H.E.L.O.N. …

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Recruiting in the Cyber World – Q or Bond or Both?

February 12, 2020

Ian Fleming’s legendary suave super-spy, James Bond, has imprinted himself on the collective imagination of society as what a true intelligence gathering agent looks and acts like. While this has never really been the case, the reality today is…

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Create Change: Women, Democracy and Global Politics


Week 7

November 20, 2019

Fellow Nancy Bocskor with guest speaker Mariam Memarsadeghi. This week's guest, Mariam Memarsadeghi is the founder of Tavaana.org, an online activism and civil engagement site that breaks through the Iranian firewall to reach hundreds of thousands of…

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Week 6

November 06, 2019

Fellow Nancy Bocskor with guest speaker Natalia Budaeva Arno. This week's guest, Natalia Budaeva Arno is the president and founder of the Free Russia Foundation where she exposes the atrocities of the Putin regime. Arno was the Country Director for…

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Week 5

October 30, 2019

Fellow Nancy Bocskor with guest speaker Deb Sofield. This week's guest, Deb Sofield, is an executive speech coach and author who trains political candidates, beauty queens and Fortune 500 executives how to connect with their audiences. She…

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Week 4

October 23, 2019

Fellow Nancy Bocskor with guest speaker Lee Peterson. Fall fellow Nancy Bocskor welcomes Lee Peterson. Peterson is a top political adviser to those brave candidates who battle dictators such as Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. He was country director in…

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Week 3

October 16, 2019

Fellow Nancy Bocskor with guest speaker Sally Canfield

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Week 2

October 09, 2019

Fellow Nancy Bocskor with guest speaker Susan Markham, cofounder of Smash Strategies -- whose mission is to help companies & non-profits understand that gender equity is "good for business". During the Obama Administration, Markham was the…

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Week 1

September 25, 2019

Fellow Nancy Bocskor with guest speaker Farhat Popal https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE11c0aWkqY

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International Trade in the 21st Century


Trade Enforcement: How Trade Disputes are Resolved

April 03, 2019

Once a trade agreement is signed, how does the U.S. make sure the terms are followed? Former U.S. Department of Commerce chief counsel for trade enforcement and compliance John McInerney joins Ethan Corson to examine the finer points of trade…

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Talking Trade: How the Messaging around Trade Shapes Public Opinion

March 27, 2019

Public perception of trade and policy decisions can be heavily shaped by the messaging of a presidential administration. Ethan Corson unpacks the communications strategy of senior officials with U.S. Department of Commerce alumna Meghan Groob. Groob…

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Were Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers Made in China? How Trade Affects Kansas

March 20, 2019

In the fifth week of discussion groups, Ethan Corson adopts a local perspective. Alongside guest Mike Matson, Corson will shift the focus to the ways that trade and policy decisions affect the Sunflower State. Matson is the director of industry…

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Trump’s Trade Policies, Two Years In

March 06, 2019

This session presents a deep dive into the policy decisions, philosophies and results of the Trump Administration’s approach to international trade. Ethan Corson and guest Atman Trivedi will break down a host of topics, including the withdrawal…

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A View from the Capitol: How Congress Looks at International Trade

February 27, 2019

Ethan Corson and Jordan Haas break down the politics of trade from the perspective of those who have worked on the issue with members of Congress. Haas played a lead role in advancing Barack Obama’s trade legislative agenda, including serving as…

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The Collapsing Consensus: Trade in the Era of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders

February 20, 2019

Free trade was once considered an area of broad bipartisan consensus. Is trade really to blame for some of the negative effects attributed to it, or is it a scapegoat for other, larger challenges in the U.S. economy? Joining Ethan Corson in…

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The Big Ideas in International Trade, from Truman to Obama

February 13, 2019

Ethan Corson and guest Scott Handler kick off our spring discussion group series with a look at the ideological underpinning for U.S. trade policy since the 1940s. Handler previously served as a White House Fellow and special advisor to the U.S.…

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Political Campaigns, Top to Bottom: Data, Door Knocking and the 2018 Midterms


What the Heck will Happen? Predictions Ahead of November 2018

October 24, 2018

The last session ahead of the 2018 mid-terms, this is a chance to predict election results, focus on bigger trends, individual tactics and strategies, and interpret what it could all mean for 2019 and 2020. Kelly Dietrich welcomes Michael Blake and…

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The Future of State and Local Parties in the Candidate-Driven Campaign Era

October 17, 2018

Most individuals have no idea what state and local parties actually do. Given our candidate-centric culture, how do parties continue to provide service and value to the party and their candidates? What will their role be in the future of politics?…

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Polling and Data: How do we Track and Predict the Outcome of Elections?

October 10, 2018

Polling is always one of the focal points for the public’s attention leading up to elections. In 2016, very few pollsters forecasted the Trump win accurately. Some blame this on the Clinton campaign’s reliance on analytics and modeling, rather…

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Social, Text, Email, Digital, Mail and TV: Communicating with Voters of Every Age

October 03, 2018

For decades, the mainstay of any political communication plan was TV and mail. Now, digital and social media advertising are challenging the supremacy of the old ways and offering cheaper alternatives for candidates to communicate with even more…

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The Small Money Revolution: How Tech is Changing How Campaigns Are Funded

September 26, 2018

National campaigns are experiencing major shifts in the ability to solicit and collect low-dollar contributions from individuals across the country. How does this affect local campaigns and how can they compete with larger organizations and…

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Targeting Voters: Big Data at the Local Level

September 19, 2018

How do campaigns, with more personal data on voters available than ever, decide who to target to win? How can this data be used in traditional campaign activities like canvassing? Kelly Dietrich is joined by John Hagner, partner with Clarity Campaign…

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Crafting a Winning Message in the Age of Trump: Is All Politics Still Local?

September 12, 2018

Every campaign struggles with how to communicate with voters. The maxim used to be, “All politics is local.” Does this hold true in today’s charged political atmosphere? How can local campaigns cut through the national focus on the Trump…

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Rise of the Independents: Candidates and Reform in 2018 and Beyond


Jackie Salit

May 02, 2018

Jonas caps discussion groups with a visit from Jackie Salit, president of IndependentVoting.org, one of the nation’s leading organizing centers for independent voters. In addition to support for specific candidates, Salit and IV have supported…

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Kyle Bailey

April 18, 2018

Jonas welcomes Kyle Bailey for his penultimate discussion group installment of the semester. Bailey owns over a decade of experience managing and fundraising for independent candidate campaigns, referenda campaigns, and advocacy organizations. In…

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Hacking the System: Examining Unite America’s Plan

April 11, 2018

Unite America aims to strategically elect independent candidates to office who can break through the political gridlock and serve as a voice for all those in the center –– not as a traditional third party, but as America’s first “Unparty.”…

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Challenging the Duopoly

April 04, 2018

This discussion examines the legal, infrastructural, communication and electoral disadvantages for independents and third parties, and what is happening in the reform space to challenge those barriers. Jonas welcomes Chad Peace, who holds extensive…

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Third Parties and Independent Movements in Kansas

March 14, 2018

What are the prospects for independent and third party efforts underway in Kansas in 2018 and beyond? How can voters who do not feel an affinity for either major party participate in Kansas elections and have an equal voice? Lawrencian Scott Morgan…

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The Shifting Electorate

March 07, 2018

The American political parties and the makeup of the electorate are experiencing enormous changes. What effects will the rapidly changing political landscape mean for Kansas and the country in 2018 and beyond? For this discussion, Jim Jonas welcomes…

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Hyperpartisanship: How did we get here, and how to we fix it?

February 21, 2018

Political parties can seem more concerned with partisan advantage than finding common-ground solutions to the nation’s problems. Jim Jonas is joined by guest Matthew Dowd, a best-selling author, cultural commentator and chief political analyst for…

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