The 2017 Fall Faculty Series focused on aspects of democracy and citizenship—from the role of free press to the impact minority groups have had in shaping our nation.

Fall Faculty Series

Divided We Fall: Finding Common Ground in a Fractured Age

In the
By Amanda Mayotte ’15


The motto of the United States is “Out of Many, One,” but democracy in 2017 is splintered, with political combatants entrenched in fixed ideologies, while the idea of a political center seems to have become a no-person’s land.

Mount Mercy’s 2017 Fall Faculty Series—Divided We Fall: Finding Common Ground in a Fractured Age—brought students, faculty, staff, and community members together to explore how today’s biggest issues can be resolved through courage and compassion.

“In the early months of 2017, it became clear that the United States is a divided nation,” says Joy Ochs, series coordinator and professor of English. “Hashtags such as #buildthewall and #resist were swirling about. The Mount Mercy faculty felt it was important to step back and take stock of the state of our democracy and what it means to be a citizen in 2017. In a political atmosphere where there seems to be a lot of shouting, we wanted to address issues using the Mercy charism of courage and compassion.”

Each of the 14 events focused on a different aspect of democracy and citizenship—from the role of free press to the impact minority groups have had in shaping our nation.

Through multiple presentations, performances, and stories, the series examined how we got to this point and where we may be able to go from here, the legitimate role of protest to allow marginalized voices to be heard, and the ways we can have constructive dialogue with those who disagree with us.

“The goal was to examine our divided nation through different perspectives—tax-payer-funded medical research, women’s rights, civil discourse, the structure of government—in order to facilitate an inclusive discussion about the current state of our nation, what it has been, and what we want it to be,” Ochs says about the fourth annual series.

Proving to be a popular topic, nearly every series event attracted overflowing audiences.

“People seem eager to talk about the divisiveness in our country right now,” she says.

One couple from the neighborhood came to nearly every event. “They said something very simple that captures what these community events are all about: ‘Mount Mercy has been a great neighbor,’” Ochs says.

While faculty led most events, outside speakers also shared their perspectives. Prominent anti-racist, pro-equity writer and educator Tim Wise discussed longstanding traditions of white racial resentment in America. Matthew Ashley, associate professor in history of Christianity and systematic theology at the University of Notre Dame, came back to campus in conjunction with Mercy and Mission Week. Visiting writer Mike Poulin explored what more we can do to lift our voices on the critical concerns that are important to us, also in conjunction with Mercy and Mission Week.

“My hope for the series is that it helped people understand how our government works and what is at stake,” Ochs says, “and that it moves each listener to take a more active role as a citizen—whether that’s registering to vote, advocating for an issue they care about, or simply reading the newspaper more critically.”