Universities as 21st-century schools for democracy: Building students’ civic capacity through democratic innovations

For universities to fulfill their potential as schools for democracy and to better harness students’ passions and knowledge to address societal grand challenge, it is crucial to rethink how we involve students in university life and decision-making. Traditional methods, such as consulting elected student representatives or soliciting student feedback through self-selected consultation forums, have many merits, but also have important drawbacks. In this webinar, we will draw attention to the promises of democratic innovations such as deliberative mini-publics. We will hear from a random selection of participants in UVic’s first ever deliberative mini-public that was held on campus in partnership with Government House: The Students’ Dialogue on Democratic Engagement.

Webinar #5


Senator Jane Cordy

Senator Cordy was appointed to the Senate by the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien on June 9th, 2000. She was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia and is a graduate of the Nova Scotia Teachers College and Mount St. Vincent University. She taught elementary school for 30 years in Nova Scotia, teaching in Sydney, New Glasgow and the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Senator Cordy has served as vice-chair of the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission and was also the chair of the Board of Referees for employment insurance. She also served on the Board of Phoenix House for Youth and also served as a Board Member of Mount Saint Vincent University.

Senator Cordy is a past president of the Nova Scotia Women’s Liberal Commission. She also served on Prime Minister Chrétien’s task force on seniors.

Senator Cordy is a past chair of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association and served as an international vice president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly representing North America on the executive. She is also a vice president of the Civil Dimensions of Security Committee in the Assembly. Senator Cordy continues to be involved with the NATO Parliamentary Association as well as the Canada-U.S. Parliamentary Association.

Senator Cordy has a particular interest in issues related to mental health, multiple sclerosis, seniors and aging, NATO and Gender Security, education and children. She was a member of the senate committee which published a report “Out of the Shadows at Last” a study of the issues relating to mental health, mental illness and addictions. She was also a member of the special senate committee on the implications of an aging society in Canada.

Senator Cordy lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia with her husband Bob. They have two adult children, Alison and Michelle, and four grandchildren.


Simon Pek

Assistant Professor, Gustavson School of Business @University of Victoria

Simon Pek (PhD Simon Fraser University) was the Project Lead of the Students’ Dialogue on Democratic Engagement and is very excited to explore how universities can implement similar initiatives to engage their students and other stakeholders. He joined the Gustavson School of Business as an Assistant Professor in the areas of sustainability and organization theory in 2017. His research explores how organizations and the individuals within them embed social and environmental sustainability into their cultures, strategies, and daily operations. He has a particular interest in identifying novel approaches to making organizations more democratic, deliberative, and inclusive.

Simon’s research has appeared in top-tier outlets including Academy of Management Review, Organization Science, Strategic Management Journal, Business Ethics Quarterly, and Journal of Business Ethics. He has received numerous awards and grants, including a President’s Chair from the University of Victoria, the Dean’s Convocation Medal from Simon Fraser University and the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship.

Simon also co-founded and serves as a member of the board of directors of Democracy In Practice, a non-profit dedicated to democratic experimentation, innovation, and capacity-building. In this capacity, he spoke at the Council of Europe’s World Forum for Democracy 2016, where Democracy In Practice was selected as a finalist for the Democracy Innovation Award.

Julie Potter

Associate Director, Community & Government Relations @University of Victoria

Julie Potter served as Project Manager for the Students’ Dialogue on Democratic Engagement. She is an Associate Director, Community & Government Relations at the University of Victoria. In her role, she works across UVic and with members of the community to strengthen reciprocal partnership that have a positive impact on the communities UVic serves. Julie previously worked in municipal government leading engagement efforts that assisted in the City of Victoria’s recognition as Organization of the Year in 2015 by IAP2. Current co-chair of the Women in Leadership Victoria Chapter, Julie has a passion for creating connections and community building.

Student Speakers

Michael Paramchuk

BA hons. History @University of Victoria

Michael Paramchuk was a student participant in the 2020 University of Victoria Students’ Dialogue on Democratic Engagement where he began engaging with peers about politics, government and democracy. He has since graduated with a BA hons. History from the University of Victoria. Throughout his studies, Michael was fascinated with politics and culture in 19th century Europe and continues to be interested in Canadian politics and young people’s engagement in government. Currently, he holds a position with Parks Canada. In future, Michael is interested in pursuing a master’s degree and is interested in continuing to work in the Public Service. Michael brings experience as a recent university graduate and a young person working in the Public Service to the Victoria Forum and is very excited to participate in the event.

Jennifer Ramirez

Health Information Science student @University of Victoria

Jennifer Ramirez is a Health Information Science student at the University of Victoria. Participating in the students’ Dialogue on Democratic Engagement hosted by the University of Victoria has prompted Jennifer to develop an interest in Student affairs and making positive changes to important issues. Jennifer works alongside Professors conducting pivotal research about undergraduate education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her goals in research lay in giving students the opportunities to be part of a larger conversation. Jennifer has also worked alongside Canadian officials during the Federal elections. This experience added to her ever-growing interest in public affairs. Jennifer’s family originates from South America, inspiring her to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities that her parents have given her by moving to Canada. In overcoming language barriers and cultural differences, she has grown to be an inclusive, understanding, and compassionate individual.

Jennifer Gamble

Graduate student, Community Development @University of Victoria

Currently, Jen is enrolled as a graduate student in the Community Development program at UVic. She is a passionate food advocate who believes that cultivating healthy relationships with food and the food system builds resilient communities. After more than a decade in the non-profit sector where she led organizations advocating for local food systems and organic agriculture, she decided to return to school last year. Most of her career has centred around building community and she has realized that relationships are the heart of the community. She is intrigued by the possibilities deliberative democracy, such as mini-publics, offers for strengthening community. Through enhancing relationships and increasing understandings of alternate perspectives deliberative democracy becomes a valuable community development tool. She read about deliberative democracy and mini-publics as part of my studies and thought it was an innovative way to engage citizens. So, when the opportunity to participate in the Students’ Dialogue on Democratic Engagement was presented, she was excited to experience the theory in action.

Victoria Forum is a partnership between the University of Victoria and the Senate of Canada

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