May 17 conference focusing on citizenship, civility

Western Carolina University’s Department of Social Work will sponsor its second annual Social Work Conference, “Citizenship and Civility: Working Together for Practical Advocacy in a Polarized Era,” on Friday, May 17.

The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Room 204 of WCU’s new Health and Human Sciences Building. It will focus on legislative advocacy at the state, national and global levels, engaging in constructive dialogue, and training in mediation skills. Presenters also will speak about the legislative process and the current state of politics in the nation.

Chris Cooper, head of the WCU Department of Political Science and Public Affairs, will discuss the state of polarization in American politics today, focusing on the actions of elected officials and the beliefs of the citizens. He also will address the causes for increased polarization.

Kay Paksoy, director of advocacy, policy and legislation for the N.C. Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, will speak on issues such as how to engage in advocacy for social workers and clients, how to find and contact state legislators, NASW Lobby Day, legislative committees, and legislative agendas and sessions.

Conference presenter Ken Patterson is the global grassroots manager for RESULTS and RESULTS Education Fund, a nationwide organization committed to building political will to end poverty and the detrimental effects it has on people across the globe. Patterson’s presentation will focus on how to best engage those in power with diverse beliefs and agendas. He also will speak on activism and governmental advocacy at the national and global levels.

The Rev. Michael Hudson, rector of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Cullowhee, will give a presentation focusing on mindfulness, openness, willingness and skillfulness in dialogue.

Jan Woloson, program manager for mediation services at the Mediation Center in Asheville and a WCU alumna who earned a master’s degree in counseling, will provide participants with training in basic mediation skills.

Cost of the conference is $95. Go to and click on the “Professional Development” button for more information and to register. Information also is available by contacting WCU’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education at 828-227-7397.