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Timothy J. Shaffer - University of Delaware. Newark, DE, US

Timothy J. Shaffer

Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Chair of Civil Discourse | University of Delaware


Prof. Shaffer studies the advancement of democratic practices by focusing on the role of civic professionals in institutional settings.



Timothy J. Shaffer Publication Timothy J. Shaffer Publication Timothy J. Shaffer Publication Timothy J. Shaffer Publication Timothy J. Shaffer Publication



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Timothy J. Shaffer (PhD, Cornell University) is the inaugural SNF Chair of Civil Discourse for the SNF Ithaca Initiative. Shaffer is also director of Civic Engagement and Deliberative Democracy with the National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona.

Connected to these efforts, Shaffer also serves as the associate editor of the Journal of Deliberative Democracy, as a country expert on deliberative democracy with the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem Institute) research project, and as a co-director guiding the work of the Deliberative Pedagogy Lab, an international project focused on applied scholarship about the ways that deliberation can transform higher education educational approaches and environments.​

As an interdisciplinary scholar and practitioner of civil discourse, deliberative democracy, and civic engagement, Shaffer focuses on the role of civic professionals in institutional settings such as government, higher education, and non-governmental organizations.

Through his scholarship, he contributes to discussions within fields such as public policy, communication, higher education, and civic studies where themes of citizenship, professionalism, community, and civic life are explored.

In recognition of being a scholar committed to engaged scholarship, Shaffer has received the Early Career Recognition Award from the International Association for Research on Service Learning and Community Engagement.

Currently, Shaffer is working on a number of public-facing research projects including the use of democratic discussion through organizations in communities. One example is from the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP)-approved Rapid Response Team on Civil Discourse on Race Relations which developed "Coming Together For Racial Understanding : Train-the-Trainer Workshop,"​ a training program for community-based educators to utilize dialogue processes to address racial issues in their communities.

Industry Expertise (2)

Public Policy


Areas of Expertise (6)

Civic Engagement

Public Policy

Civil Discourse


Deliberative Democracy

Civic Studies

Media Appearances (7)

Exploring concepts of civil discourse during polarized times

Hawai'i Public Radio  radio


Appearance on HPR discussing civil discourse during especially polarizing times, following the 2024 Iowa Caucus.

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Opinion|Biden 2.0: Toward a bipartisan and civil second term

The Hill  online


President Biden assumed office in January 2021 with the promise of unity and a commitment to bridging the deep divides that have plagued the nation for years. He spoke in his Inaugural Address of the rise of political extremism, white supremacy and domestic terrorism: “To overcome these challenges — to restore the soul and to secure the future of America — requires more than words. It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity. Unity.”

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Why language use divides us — and how it can help close those gaps

Delaware Business Now  online


“A big part of this, when we’re dealing with conflict, is it’s not synonymous with consensus. And I think in a lot of ways people have some hope or aspiration, some kind of pie in the sky that it is,” [Shaffer] says. In fact, civil discourse might include fighting. “Even if it’s uncomfortable … there are moments that we have to kind of get up and yell and shout. So this is where protests and civil disobedience, those sorts of things, come into play.”

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Deliberative pedagogy

Teaching In Higher Ed  online


Timothy J. Shaffer shares about deliberative pedagogy and his work with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) at the University of Delaware Biden School of Public Policy and Administration on the Teaching in Higher Ed podcast.

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Opinion | How respect for civil discourse led to respect for marriage equality

The Hill  online


Recently, the University of Delaware Joseph R. Biden, Jr. School of Public Policy and Administration honored Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) with the Biden School Civility in Public Service Award. The award, sponsored by the Biden School’s Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Ithaca Initiative, recognized the senators for their leadership around the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified legal protections for same-sex marriage.

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How a Democrat and a Republican worked together to protect same-sex marriage

USA Today  online


“So often, we look at Washington and see dysfunction," Shaffer said. "Here’s another angle … what’s possible when people look at an issue like marriage, get right to the heart of people’s values and sit with leaders of religious communities, churches and synagogues? How do we give respect to religious institutions and make sure people don’t have to diverge from their firmly held beliefs?”

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Dialogue, Discourse, and Democracy: Lindsay Hoffman and Timothy Shaffer

American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA)  online


Higher Ed Now continues its series of conversations with leading lights in the surging national movement to foster viewpoint diversity and free expression on college campuses. Today’s episode spotlights two leaders at the University of Delaware – a major institutional partner in the college debates and discourse work that ACTA is doing with Braver Angels and BridgeUSA.

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Articles (5)

Learning to Become a Civic Professional: Using Deliberation in Community Engagement

Higher Education Exchange


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Democracy’s Challenge Calls for Communication’s Response

Communication Education


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Democratic Professionals in Civic Life: Cultivating CivilDiscourse in Community Development

Community Development

2020 The field of community development is challenged in the current political culture where polarization and incivility impact democratic ideals and practices. The role of the community development practitioner in such an environment is to approach one’s work as a civic professional, using technical expertise in public-regarding ways to cultivate opportunities for discussion across lines of difference. Foundational and functional competencies for community development include many important characteristics, but they do not include explicit language addressing political polarization. The article suggests looking to educational and professional development programs in the field of dialogue and deliberation as a way to further develop and refine these competencies.

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Beyond the Myth of the Town Meeting: Discursive Engagement as Governance

Journal of Public Deliberation

2019 This essay offers a response to the special issue essays. It emphasizes that town meetings are a site for governance and have implications for contemporary deliberative practices.

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Democracy in the Air: Radio as a Complement to Face-to-Face Discussion in the New Deal

Journal of Radio & Audio Media

2019 This article focuses on the use of radio broadcasts as resources for those organizing and convening face-to-face discussion groups in rural communities across the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. Led by the United States Department of Agriculture, small group discussions took place with leadership coming from Cooperative Extension agents from land-grant universities. As public affairs shows were being carried on the major commercial radio channels, the USDA discussion project utilized radio broadcasts to introduce people to the methods of conducting group discussions. The article focuses on the national efforts of the USDA as well as localized attempts to utilize radio broadcasts in the service of democratic discussion, focusing on one of the most robust examples of a land-grant university—the University of Wisconsin-Madison—utilizing technology for democratic discussion in rural communities across the state. It notes shortcomings and challenges, as well as identifying the critical role that radio played in helping citizens and communities begin to think about complex public problems through the use of new technologies.

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Accomplishments (1)

Teaching Democratic Ideals to Public Affairs Students (professional)


Co-edited by Timothy J. Shaffer and Thomas Bryer, this book explores the ways that notions of governing with citizens can be integrated into courses that focus on public administration and policy. It invites instructors to think about what it means to be educators within higher education institutions in a democratic society, championing deliberation and engagement as a way to prepare students for professional roles in their communities.

Education (4)

Cornell University: PhD, Education 2014

University of Dayton: MPA, MPA 2008

University of Dayton: MA, Theological Studies 2006

St. Bonaventure University: BA, Theology 2004

Languages (1)

  • English