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College of Humanities & Social Sciences

News and Events

UPDATE September 2020, "Towards a More Perfect Democracy" Conversation Series:  We are pleased to announce that on October 6 and October 13 the Institute will partner with the Whatcom County League of Women Voters to present two panel conversations  to celebrate the anniversary of the passage and ratification of the 19th amendment to the Constitution extending voting rights to women.  These panels, part of our "Toward a More Perfect Democracy" conversation series, will highlight the challenges other groups, primarily BIPOC, have faced around voting and other kinds of political participation.  For more information and to register for these events, please go to the links below.

October 6:  Imperfect Democracy: Exploring Historical and Contemporary Threats to the Franchise and Political Voice

October 13: Making Our Voices Heard


Celebrating 100 Years of Women's Right to Vote

The Munro Institute is pleased to partner with the League of Women Voters Bellingham/Whatcom County and other community organizations to offer a series of public presentations marking the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote and the 19th amendment.  We hope you will join us as you are able; all events are free and open to the public.


Towards a More Perfect Democracy: The Struggle for Voice in America

Join us for a monthly series of lively, thought provoking discussions moderated by WWU Professor of Political Science Kate Destler.  All programs will be held in the Rotunda Room of the Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, 121 Prospect Street, Bellingham.


Author Event:  Elaine Weiss and The Woman’s Hour


February 27, 2020 6:30 - 8:30 pm

Join us for a special event featuring Elaine Weiss, author of The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight for the Vote at the Main Stage of the Performing Arts Center at Western Washington University at 6:30 pm.  The Woman’s Hour not only recounts how women won the vote, but also shows how the core themes of American history – race, class, money, gender, state’s rights, power, and democracy all came into play in Nashville, Tennessee, during the summer of 1920. Published in 2018, the book will be developed into a television production by Steven Spielberg with Hillary Rodham Clinton as Executive Producer. Author Elaine Weiss brings this gripping story and the many characters to life.  A reception with the author will follow her presentation.

About the Author:  Elaine Weiss is a journalist and author whose work has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New York Times, and The Christian Science Monitor, as well as in reports and documentaries for National Public Radio and Voice of America. A MacDowell Colony Fellow and Pushcart Prize Editor’s Choice honoree, she is the author of the highly acclaimed narrative non-fiction book, The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight for the Vote (Viking 2018), hailed as a "riveting, nail-biting political thriller" with powerful parallels to today's political environment. Weiss is also the author of Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army in the Great War, the inspiring story of a long-forgotten women's movement. She lives in Baltimore.  

Campus parking lots have been reserved for you in lots 6V, 7G, 11G and 9G. Campus Map

This event is sponsored by the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education, League of Women Voters Bellingham/Whatcom County, and Village Books, with support from the Washington State Historical Society and Washington State Women’s Commission’s Votes for Women Centennial Grant and the LWV of Washington Education Fund. The event is free and open to the public.


The Munro Institute to spend "A Day on Capitol Hill" 

The second "Day on Capitol Hill" program will take place over President’s Day weekend (February 16-17) when the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education will take selected Political Science students to spend two days in Olympia.   The program will be led by former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro and Munro Institute Director Vernon Johnson. 

Activities will include a tour of the Capitol, observing legislative debates, meeting with elected officials, and visiting TVW (Washington's version of C-SPAN).  This is a wonderful, all expenses paid opportunity for Political Science students to have a first hand experience of state government and spend time with one of WWU's most inspiring alums, Ralph Munro.

Click here for photos of the 2020 Day on Capitol Hill.

Western Reads Hosts Event "In Between Belonging, Becoming"

On November 18 at 4 pm please join us in the VU Multipurpose Room for a conversation with Emmy-nominated journalist Alex Wagner and award winning poet Jose Olivarez. 

PDF icon Western Reads Event.pdf

Munro Seminar for Civic Education Takes on Challenges of 21st Century Education

Western Washington University’s Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education will host its annual seminar for civic education on October 22nd and 23rd. All events are free and open to the public. 

This year’s theme is “ Educational Futures: From K through College.” The keynote speaker is Dr. Maria Salazar of Teaching and Learning Sciences and Teacher Education Program at the University of Denver’s Morgridge College of Education. Her address will be delivered on October 22nd at 6:30 pm in the Harold and Irene Walton Room of the Mount Baker Theatre.  Dr. Salazar’s research focuses on transformative teacher preparation with a focus on humanizing pedagogies, equitable and effective teaching, and college access and success for LatinX students.

The seminar will also feature panels on WWU’s campus on Wednesday, October 23rd. The program is as follows:


October 23 – WWU’s Wilson Library Reading Room 

Higher Education in the 21st Century: Between Vocationalism and the Liberal Arts:


Moderator, Steve Vanderstaay, WWU Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education

  •  Maud Daudon, Career Connect Washington
  • Johann Neem, WWU Professor of History 
  • Senator Marko Liias, Member, Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee
  • Kimberly Perry, President, Bellingham Technical College 


Equity, Inclusion and Diversity in K-12 Education: 4:30pm-6pm

Moderator, Francisco Rios, WWU Professor Secondary of Education  

  • Liv Finne, Director of the Center for Education, Washington Policy Center
  • Dr. Kate Destler, Department of Political Science, WWU – Charter Schools
  • Dr. Veronica Velez, department of Secondary Education, WWU, Family and Community Engaged Teaching Program (FACET).
  • Fourth panelist TBA


For more information, contact Vernon Johnson, Western Washington University professor of Political Science and program director for the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education at (360) 650-4874 or Or visit our website @

Courageous Conversations with Jesse Moore

Alumnus-In-Residence Jesse Moore (2005 Political Science) will be visiting Western Washington University from April 22-26. 

“Jesse Moore is a senior consultant specializing in message development, speech writing and bridge-building across delicate divides. He is a former White House speech writer and Associate Director for Public Engagement, directing celebrity and entertainment partnerships for President Obama.  As the founder of Common Thread Strategies, Jesse serves clients ranging from Carnegie Hall, the NYPD, Pop Culture Collaborative, Stacey Abrams’ campaign for Governor, the NBA, and more. He is a Board member with Rock the Vote and Equal Justice USA. Jesse spent his early career in youth empowerment and college admissions and is now recognized as a leading voice nationally at the intersection of justice, politics and entertainment. He is a native of the Seattle area and a graduate of Western Washington University.”

The featured event "Courageous Conversations" will be held on Wednesday, April 24 beginning at 4 pm.  Jesse will be talking about how storytelling launched his career from Western to the White House. 

Please join us in Fraser Hall 201!  The schedule is as follows:

4:00-4:30 pm, food and mingling

4:30-6:30 pm, event

To learn more about Jesse Moore and other scheduled activities, please visit:

Sponsored by the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education and the Karen W. Morse Institute for Leadership.

Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education and Karen Morse Leadership Institute to Host Alum-In-Residence Program

The Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education is collaborating with the Karen Morse Leadership Institute to co-host the first Western Alum-in-Residence program.  In this inaugural year, we have invited Jesse Moore (Political Science, '05).  Jesse will be here the week of April 22-67. After being an Associated Students Vice President for Diversity and BSU president, he worked on the Obama campaign in 2008, and then in the White House in a number of capacities.  Jesse will be speaking in a variety of settings on and off campus.  If faculty are interested in having Jesse speak to a class please contact Munro Institute director, Vernon Johnson, to arrange for a presentation.

Taking Back Our Democracy, A Talk by Hedrick Smith

Hedrick Smith

On Thursday, April 11 2019, the Munro Institute hosted journalist, author and television producer Hedrick Smith. The winner of two Pulitzer Prizes and two Emmy Awards, Smith came to Western to show his latest documentary, “Taking Back Our Democracy.”

The film chronicles how grassroots citizen movements are winning reforms to make our democracy fairer and more inclusive. It tells stories from several states such as efforts like fighting vote suppression in North Carolina and the campaign to get public funding for political campaigns in Connecticut. An audience of around 120 people, including students and community members, were in attendance, and treated to a stimulating Q and A session afterwards.  Smith’s take away message, “the Washington D.C. based media is obsessed with things like the Mueller investigation, but missing localized stories where the robustness of our democracy and real hopes for the future lie.”

The event was co-sponsored with Indivisible Bellingham.  For more about Hedrick Smith and grassroots democracy please visit the Reclaim the American Dream website:

Links to Recent Munro Institute Presentations now Available:

Courtesy of WWU Video Services, visitors to this site can now view recent Munro presentations available on Vimeo including a Roundtable Discussion, What Just Happened in the Midterm Elections, held November 14 and sessions from the 2018 Munro Seminar for Civic Education, October 23-24 (the Keynote Address, Trade Policy Panel and Global Activism Panel).

What Just Happened in the Midterm Elections?  A Roundtable Discussion on November 14

No matter what your political persuasion, the 2018 congressional elections are some of the most important in American history. The Munro Institute has invited one of our home-grown experts, political scientist Todd Donovan, and other experts from around the region for a roundtable discussion to access what has happened and what that means for America going forward.  Please join us on Wednesday, November 14 at 7:00 pm in the Harold and Irene Walton Room, Mount Baker Theatre (104 N Commercial Street, Bellingham WA 98225) for an informative and lively conversation about the midterm results.


  • Vernon Johnson, Director, Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education


  • Melissa Santos, Seattle Times, Editorial Board
  • Todd Donovan, Political Science Department, Western Washington University
  • Christopher Parker, Political Science Department, University of Washington
  • Paul Quirk, Political Science Department, University of British Columbia

This event is sponsored by the Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education and the Political Science Association student club.  Admission is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact Vernon Johnson  Email: Phone: (360) 650-4874

2018 Seminar for Civic Education Announced

This year the Seminar for Civic Education will be held October 23-24, 2018.  The theme is “Ralph Munro’s Legacy in the International Affairs.”  Our featured keynote speaker will be Professor of International Studies David Bachman from the University of Washington's Henry M. Jackson School of International StudiesEvents are free and open to the public.  For details about the seminar, please click here.

Ralph Munro Highlighted in Seattle Times

A recent article in the Seattle Times highlighted the lifelong service of former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, including his efforts of champion disability rights.  A link to the article can be found here.  Munro's legacy in international affairs will be the theme of the 2018 Seminar for Civic Education. 


The application deadline for the 2018 Munro Summer Institute "Civil Rights in Washington from the 60s to the Present" has been extended to June 8.  The week-long program is built around the civil rights history of Washington and includes lectures on the Western campus and tours of past and contemporary movements for civil rights.  Social studies teachers and MIT students are especially encouraged to apply.  The course includes content that offers tools to satisfy the OSPI mandate for curriculum in Washington Native American Studies and will be of particular interest to teachers seeking to build multicultural capacities.  Participants will earn 2 credit hours and clock hours are available.  Tuition fees are $1,100 and scholarships of $1,000 are available for teachers.  

The updated application form can be found  here.

HUMANITIES WASHINGTON Think & Drink: The Long March – Measuring Black American Progress since 1968

Munro Director Vernon Johnson and Clyde Ford, local author, teacher, and national public speaker, will discuss what progress looks like for Black America in a panel moderated by Joy Wiggins, director of Global Peaceful Paths.  Are the last 50 years worth celebrating, or do we remain in much the same place as we were when the Kerner Report declared that “discrimination and segregation . . . now threaten the future of every American”?

When: March 21 at 7:00 pm
Where: Boundary Bay Brewery & Bistro

This event is part of “Since ’68,” Humanities Washington’s spring series of Think and Drink events in Bellingham, Tacoma, and Seattle.  Please note that the event is restricted to ages 21 and up. Registration is encouraged, but not required.

For more details and to register for the event, click here.

Western Students Visit Olympia with Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education

A group of Western students joined former Secretary of State and WWU Trustee, Ralph Munro, and Vernon Johnson, WWU professor of Political Science and director of the Munro Institute for Civic Education, in Olympia today to meet with legislators and other state leaders.

While in Olympia, the students had an opportunity to learn firsthand about state government and discuss policy issues with Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib, State Supreme Court Justice Debra Stephens, State Treasurer Duane Davidson, legislators, lobbyists and other state leaders and government staff.

Munro Director Interviewed for Seattle Times Article on Social Unrest and Learning

Speaking with the Seattle Times, Professor and Munro Director Vernon Johnson explains that public universities are addressing themes of diversity, equity and inclusion by incorporating social justice into courses across majors and disciplines. To read the full article, click here.

December 10:  International Human Rights Day

Professor and Munro Director Vernon Damani Johnson will be the featured guest speaker at the 2017 International Human Rights Day celebration on Sunday, December 10. He will be speaking on “The State of Human Domicile: Housing as a Human Right".

Also featured will be the annual Amnesty International Write For Rights letter writing campaign. Every year, to mark Human Rights Day, hundreds of thousands of people around the world send a letter or sign a petition on behalf of someone they’ve never met, as part of Amnesty International’s Write For Rights. These messages help convince government officials to release people imprisoned for their opinions, support human rights defenders, stop torture, commute death sentences and end other human rights abuses.

The event will be held at the YWCA from 6:00-8:00 pm and is co-sponsored by the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force, Joining Hands Against Hate, the Whatcom Peace and Justice Center, and Amnesty International Bellingham Chapter.

PDF icon International Human Rights Day 2017

2017 Munro Seminar, November 1-2

The fifth annual Munro Seminar for Civic Education was held on November 1-2. Keynote speaker Sarah van Gelder, co-editor of Yes! Magazine, spoke at the Majestic Ballroom in downtown Bellingham on November 1st. She told stories from her book, The Revolution Where You Live, focusing on the ways community stakeholders come together to rebuild local economies, sustain the environment, and resolve racial conflict. The following day two panels were held on Western’s campus. They focused on the role of community stakeholders and political parties in finding a middle ground in our community and political life.

To watch recordings of the presentations, click here to be redirected to the 2017 Munro Seminar page.

June 3, 2017:  Munro Director Vernon Johnson to Give Keynote Address for Kulshan CLT "Building Our Future, Building Our Community"

The Kulshan Community Land Trust invited Professor of Political Science and Munro Director Vernon Damani Johnson to give the keynote address at event on June 3, "A Changing Community, An Evolving Strategy for Creating Permanently Affordable Housing".  Permanent, affordable housing gives people in our community a step up.  The event focused on major new directions and projects at Kulshan Community Land Trust that are helping to create a community that has room for everyone.

February 23, 2017:  Ijeoma Oluo to Visit Western Washington University

Seattle Magazine has named writer and internet yeller, Ijeoma Oluo, one of Seattle's most influential people.  Oluo is Editor-at-Large at The Establishment,a media platform run and funded by women; her work on social justice has been featured in The GuardianThe StrangerThe Washington PostTIME and more. Oluo's new book So You Want To Talk About Race will be released Fall 2017 with Seal Press. You can find her yelling on twitter at

A graduate of Western Washington University (Political Science, 2006), Oluo will be on campus Thursday, February 23 to give two presentations:

Race, Gender, and Social Change

12:00 pm, Communications Facility 125

On Writing about Politics

4:00 pm, Communications Facility 120

This event is sponsored by WGSS, the Political Science Department, and the Munro Institute.

January 14, 2017:  Martin Luther King, Jr. Human Rights ​Conference

The 19th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Conference will be held on Saturday, January 14, 2017, from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at Whatcom Community College’s Syre Center (235 W. Kellogg Road). This year’s theme is “Working Passionately and Unrelentingly for Justice.” 
Two administrators from Western Washington University will keynote this year’s conference. Dr. Sabah Randhawa, president of WWU since last summer, will speak about his commitment to diversity and inclusion. Dr. Karen Dade, Associate Dean for Woodring College of Education, will give the afternoon keynote speech. For over 20 years, Dr. Dade has focused her research on combating racism in schools. She has been involved in over a dozen committees and organizations that focus on diversity and social justice.

The annual conference will also feature skill-building workshops offered by community members, including K-12 and college students and educators, anti-racist community organizers, and more. Bellingham School District will be providing continuing education hours for teachers. The schedule of workshops is available here

This event is free and open to the public of all ages, and students and educators are encouraged to attend.  Registration begins at 9:30 a.m.  Light refreshments provided throughout the morning. Food vendors will be on site with lunch options for sale.

Fall 2016

2016 Munro Seminar for Civic Education

November 14-16

The Munro Seminar for Civic Education held November 14-16, was a rousing success. Professor Danny Hayes of George Washington University treated the audience to an engaging and informative keynote, mixing humor with the very sobering message he had to deliver. One of his main take-away messages was that very little changed in terms of actual voting behavior. Several thousand votes in four rustbelt states (Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin); and lower turnout of young Latino and African American voters, seemed to have swayed the election in Donald Trump’s favor. The audience, which nearly filled the Harold an Irene Walton Theatre included an even mix of students and community members.

The panels over the next two days featured people knowledgeable in their fields and passionate about what they do. Overall the seminar reached over 250 people. Be on the lookout for videos of all presentations on this site, our Facebook page and TVW.  Details of the program can be found here!

Populism and Political Party Systems in the U.S. and Western Europe

October 5 and October 18

The Ralph Munro Institute for Civic Education, the Political Science Association, and the Political Science Department will co-host a two-part panel discussion series on the topic of populism and political systems in both the United States and Western Europe.

The Impact of the Trump and Sanders Campaigns on the Republican and Democratic Parties in the United States

October 5, 2016 (4:00-5:30 pm/Location: CF 110)


  • Todd Donovan, Whatcom County Councilman and Professor of Political Science, Political Science Department, WWU

  • Devin Burghart, Research Director, Institute for Education on Human Rights

The Brexit Vote, the Refugee Crisis and the Future of Populist Parties in Europe

October 18, 2016 (4:00-5:30 pm/Location: CF 110)


  • Amir Abedi, Chair, Political Science Department, WWU