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Abbey Speaker Series: Bridging the Rural-Urban Divide

Discussions of contemporary America often focus on the perceived differences between rural and urban residents. Are the lives and interests of rural and urban Americans really all that different?  How can city-dwellers, suburbanites, and rural residents better understand each other?  For this Abbey Speaker Series event, and as part of this year’s Democracy and Public Discourse theme, the UNC Program for Public Discourse convenes a panel of experts to discuss how citizens can better understand and bridge the urban/rural divide.

The discussion will be held on November 4th, from 5:30 – 7:00 pm in the Nelson Mandela Auditorium, in the Florence and James Peacock Atrium of the FedEx Center for Global Education.

We will be livestreaming the event.

This event is co-sponsored by the Arete Initiative, part of the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University.


A headshot of Dr. Samar AliSamar Ali is Co-Chair of the Project on Unity & American Democracy and a Research Professor of Law and Political Science at Vanderbilt University, where she works at the intersection of national security, economic development, and human rights. Originally from the small town of Waverly, Tennessee, Ali credits her experience growing up there with teaching her how to connect with humanity and understand the responsibility that comes with being part of a lifelong community. After serving as a White House Fellow for the Obama administration, Ali returned to Tennessee and joined the administration of Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, where she worked as the assistant commissioner of international affairs. Ali’s current research focuses on how to achieve positive compromise through promoting conflict-resolution best practices among people, communities, and nations experiencing polarization.


A headshot of Dr. Chris ArnadeChris Arnade is a writer and photographer who covers addiction and poverty in the United States of America. After receiving a PhD in Physics from Johns Hopkins University, Arnade worked on Wall Street for twenty years before exiting the industry in 2012 to begin documenting addiction in the Bronx. Since then, his work has appeared in numerous publications, including The GuardianThe New York Times, and others. His most recent book, Dignity: Seeking Respect in Back Row America, explores poverty and addiction throughout the United States and the divide between the country’s upwardly mobile and urban-based “Front Row” and those lacking the necessary credentials and advantages in the rural-based “Back Row.”


A headshot of Dr. Elizabeth CoreyElizabeth Corey is the Honors Program Director and Associate Professor of Political Science in the Honors Program at Baylor University, where she teaches courses on political science and great texts in the university’s Interdisciplinary Core. Her writing concerns what it means to be a traditionalist in a progressive society and has appeared in a broad range of publications, including First Things, National Affairs, and The Wall Street Journal. Her recent writings for Law & Liberty deal with the meaning of civility – and its necessity – in times of political polarization.



A headshot of Dr. Marc HetheringtonMarc Hetheringtonis the Raymond H. Dawson Distinguished Bicentennial Professor of Political Science and a Faculty Affiliate of the Program for Public Discourse. His focus is on the American electorate and the polarization of public opinion. Previously, he taught at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, Vanderbilt University, and Bowdoin College. Hetherington has published several books and over a dozen articles in academic journals. His most recent book, Prius Or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide, co-written with fellow UNC faculty member Dr. Jonathan Weiler, explores the psychological aspects of the United States’ deadlocked politics.