What is the Common Ground Initiative

at the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies?


  • The Common Ground Initiative is unique in higher education today. No other public university in the U.S. is offering a balanced, comprehensive exploration (and redefinition) of what it means to be conservative and what it means to be progressive in the 21st century. Our talks, roundtables, and debates investigate the first principles of these two traditions, and explore the possible common ground that they might share – historically, culturally, politically.
  • Academic rigor requires intellectual diversity. The Common Ground Initiative brings together progressives and conservatives in an open, respectful, intellectually rigorous forum to confront the challenges Americans face.
  • Our goal is not to turn Democrats into Republicans or Republicans into Democrats. Our goal is to prepare a new generation of leaders to deal effectively with diverse ideas and cultures. Adapting the tools developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project and others, we provide workshops that equip emergent leaders with best practices based on rigorous scholarship, sound psychology, and cultural competence.
  • On the conservative side, we work with the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. On the progressive side, we work with the Progressive Women’s Alliance, Center for Inquiry, and other organizations. We also partner with the President Gerald R. Ford Foundation, Ford Presidential Library and Museum, World Affairs Council, Paul Henry Institute, National Park Service, and other civic and educational entities.
  • Our pilot Common Ground programs have been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Meijer Foundation, Ralph W. Hauenstein, and other donors.
  • Our debates feature the all-stars — Christopher Hitchens vs. Peter Hitchens (referenced on 60 Minutes), Arianna Huffington vs. Victor Davis Hanson, Katrina vanden Heuvel vs. Rich Lowry, Susan Jacoby vs. Dinesh D’Souza, and others. We have hosted H. W. Brands, Richard Norton Smith, Kiron Skinner, Robert Caro, Amity Shlaes, Robert Dallek, and other historians and leadership writers.
  • Our Common Ground Initiative reinforces the Hauenstein Center’s mission: to raise up a new generation of men and women committed to the ethical, effective leadership and public service that Ralph W. Hauenstein has exemplified throughout his life.


For more information about Common Ground, please contact:
Gleaves Whitney, director
The Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies
Grand Valley State University
401 West Fulton Street
Grand Rapids, Michigan 49504
(616) 331-2770

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