Annette Strauss Institute Convenes National Conversation on Civic Engagement at One-Day Conference in Austin

AUSTIN, Texas -- July 18, 2015 —The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life today announced it will host a one-day conference, “Breaking Through: Increasing civic participation before, during and after elections” on July 22, 2015, at the Moody College of Communication on The University of Texas at Austin campus. In conjunction with the conference, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will announce the winners of the Knight News Challenge on Elections on July 22 at 9:30 a.m. CDT. Challenge winners will receive a share of more than $3 million for their projects and will be onsite to present their innovative ideas on how to better inform voters and increase civic participation.

“We look forward to a thoughtful conversation around civic engagement and to spotlighting cutting-edge solutions to combat voter apathy,” said Talia Stroud, director of the Engaging News Project at the Strauss Institute. “The Annette Strauss Institute’s thought leadership in the area of civic engagement is gaining increasing momentum and national attention, and we are pleased to have Knight Foundation’s support on this important conversation.”

The invitation-only conference will be a gathering of experts in technology, journalism, civics and elections to share stories and ideas on how to get people involved in shaping their communities and participate in the political process. The conference will feature Kate Krontiris, civic researcher and strategist, as a morning keynote and Peter Levine from Tufts University as the afternoon keynote.

“The convening will explore new ideas and digital tools that can help improve the ways in which Americans participate in elections and get the information they need to contribute to their communities,” said John Bracken, Knight Foundation vice president for media innovation.

The Knight News Challenge on Elections seeks ideas that answer the question: How might we better inform voters and increase civic participation before, during and after elections? The Foundation received more than 1,000 submissions and has narrowed it down to 46 finalists. Entries came from technologists, news organizations, academic institutions and entrepreneurs, among others. 

“The Strauss Institute is one of the leading organizations in the country, marrying academic research and practical, nonpartisan programming to overcome obstacles to civic engagement,” said Sharon Jarvis, associate director of research at the Strauss Institute. “We know there is no ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to increasing civic engagement. But, we are hopeful that the Strauss Institute’s work provides some context for innovators, like those identified through the Knight News Challenge on Elections, and that by working together we will begin to move the needle on civic engagement.”


On July 22 from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. CDT, challenge winners will have the opportunity to present their ideas. The Knight News Challenge on Elections is a collaboration between Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund, Hewlett Foundation and the Rita Allen Foundation. 

Additional speakers and panelists at the Conference include:

·         Becca Aaronson, news application developer, The Texas Tribune

·         Adam Ambrogi, program director, Responsive Politics at Democracy Fund

·         Kelly Born, program officer for The Madison Initiative, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

·         John Bracken, vice president for media innovation, Knight Foundation

·         Catherine Bracy, director of community organizing, Code for America

·         R.B. Brenner, director of the School of Journalism and the G.B. Dealey Regents Professor in Journalism, UT Austin

·         Trei Brundrett, VP of product and technology, Vox Media

·         Dana DeBeauvoir, clerk, Travis County Texas

·         Allison Fitzgerald, managing editor, politics and finance, Center for Public Integrity

·         Matea Gold, Washington Post

·         Sharon Jarvis, associate professor, Department of Communication Studies, UT Austin

·         Shazna Nessa, director for journalism, Knight Foundation

·         Tammy Patrick, senior advisor, Presidential Commission on Election Reform, Bipartisan Policy Center

·         Kathryn Peters, co-founder & COO, Democracy Works

·         Evan Smith, CEO and editor-in-chief, The Texas Tribune

·         Ashley Spillane, president, Rock the Vote

·         Matt Stempeck, director of civic technology, Microsoft

·         Talia Stroud, associate professor, Department of Communication Studies, UT Austin

·         Troy Thibodeaux, interactive newsroom technology editor, Associated Press

·         Ken Vogel, chief investigative reporter, Politico

·         Sisi Wei, news application developer, ProPublica

For more information about the conference, click here. Media must register and receive credentials to cover the conference. Media interested in covering should contact

About the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life
The Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, is an organized research unit in the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin. The Institute seeks to understand and overcome obstacles to civic engagement through scholarly research and nonpartisan educational outreach programs. 

About The University of Texas at Austin Moody College of Communication
One of the nation's foremost institutions for the study of advertising and public relations, communication sciences and disorders, communication studies, journalism and radio-TV-film, The University of Texas at Austin Moody College of Communication is preparing students to thrive in an era of media convergence. Serving more than 4,700 undergraduate and graduate students, the Moody College is nationally recognized for its faculty members, research and student media. For more information about the Moody College, visit

Lauren Phillips
Public Affairs Representative