CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University will host a daylong summit Monday, Nov. 8, designed to improve life in local communities by encouraging civic engagement and community building.

“The purpose of this summit is to strengthen community building, community engagement and citizen involvement to improve communities across Western North Carolina, the state and the nation,” said Gordon Mercer, director of the WCU Public Policy Institute. “The summit reminds us of the essence of democracy and encourages citizen participation in further strengthening the quality of life in communities.”

The idea for the summit came from Robert Putnam, a Harvard professor who recently finished a three-decade review of the decline in civic engagement in America, Mercer said. Putnam's studies indicate that community building, community engagement and citizen involvement enhance social capital and trust, thereby strengthening economic development, education, crime prevention, health care and many other areas that impact the quality of life in communities, Mercer said.

“Renewing America: Restoring the American Community through Citizen Involvement and Community Engagement” will be held Nov. 8 in the Ramsey Regional Activity Center on the Western campus. The summit will begin at 7:30 a.m. and continue until 4 p.m.

Speakers and presenters at the summit include WCU chancellor John W. Bardo, who will give the opening speech, “Community Engagement: The Challenge Ahead.”

Karen Miller, president of the National Association of Counties, will deliver the keynote address titled “Community Renewal.” Other speakers scheduled to present are Charles Worley, mayor of Asheville; Virgil Smith, president and publisher of the Asheville Citizen-Times; Jim Westbrook, city manager of Asheville; Brian Hiatt city manager of Concord; and N.C. Sen. Robert C. Carpenter, who will introduce the keynote speaker.

Bill Stiener, director of Community Builders in Columbia, S.C., will present “ Community Building: The Charrette as a Tool for Civic Engagement.” The charette is a public engagement process that has been working well since its introduction into South Carolina, Mercer said.

The summit will conclude with an open discussion titled “ How Can Community Building and Civic Engagement be Enhanced in Communities.”

Sponsors of the summit are Western Carolina University 's Public Policy Institute, Asheville Citizen-Times, City of Asheville, Macon County government, Haywood County government, The Horowitz Foundation and Western's department of political science and public affairs.

The registration fee is $25 and will cover luncheon, conference, refreshments and materials. For additional information, contact Mickey Duval or Michael Moore at (828) 227-2086.

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Last modified: Thursday, March 27, 2014 | Originally published: Thursday, October 7, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Western Carolina University