The idea for the Voices of Democracy Project (VOD) originated in countless conversations among the founding directors of the project: Shawn J. Parry-Giles and Robert Gaines of the University of Maryland, J. Michael Hogan and Rosa Eberly from the Pennsylvania State University, and Martin J. Medhurst of Baylor University. In the summer of 2005, the University of Maryland and Penn State University were awarded a $195,023 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in support of the project.
VOD was originally funded under the NEH’s Teaching and Learning Resources and Curriculum Development program. With cost-sharing from the host institutions, the initial grant totaled $294,690. Continuing support for the project has been provided by the Center for Political Communication and Civic Leadership and the Department of Communication at the University of Maryland, along with the Center for Democratic Deliberation and the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences at Pennsylvania State University.
The VOD's Advisory Board first met at the University of Maryland in the fall of 2005. The purpose of that meeting was to plan the content and scope of the project; a number of Advisory Board members also agreed to draft curriculum units on particular speeches. During the period of the original grant, the following people served on the VOD's Advisory Board:
- Robert Abzug, University of Texas
- Patricia Bizzell, College of the Holy Cross
- Denise M. Bostdorff, The College of Wooster
- H.W. Brands, University of Texas
- Michael Delli Carpini, University of Pennsylvania
- James Darsey, Georgia State University
- Leroy Dorsey, Texas A&M University
- Paul Fessler, Dordt College
- Gerard Hauser, University of Colorado
- Lisa Hogan, The Pennsylvania State University
- Susan Jarratt, University of California—Irvine
- Philip Jenkins, The Pennsylvania State University
- Cheryl Jorgensen-Earp, Lynchburg College
- Shirley Logan, University of Maryland
- Charles Morris III, Boston College
- Garth Pauley, Calvin College
- John Powers, National Archives and Records Administration
- Eric King Watts, University of North Carolina
- David Zarefsky, Northwestern University
In addition to writing letters of support for the NEH grant and participating in the 2005 planning meeting, members of the Advisory Board contributed a number of the curriculum units on the VOD Web site, and several have participated in conference presentations relating to the project.
During the initial granting period, the VOD benefited from the hard work of a number of graduate students and graduate alumni from both the University of Maryland (UM) and Pennsylvania State University (PSU). Current and former graduate students at UM who have worked on the project include Belinda Stillion Southard, Alyssa Samek, Lindsay Hayes, James Gilmore, and Katie Irwin. Other UM alumni and graduate students contributed units to the project, including Heather Brook Adams, Tim Barney, Diane Blair, Jason Black, James Kimble, Bjørn Stillion Southard, and Stephen Underhill.
At PSU the following graduate students and graduate alumni contributed to VOD, either as paid research assistants or as contributing authors: Jill Weber, Dave Tell, Kalen Churcher, Sara Ann Mehltretter, Sandra French, Mary K. Haman, Jessica Sheffield, Elyse Merlo, Adam Perry, Bryan Blankfield, Chris Toutain, Mark Hlavacik, and Una Kimokeo-Goes.
In addition, graduate students from Baylor University, Northwestern University, the University of Wisconsin, and Wake Forest University have contributed curriculum units to the VOD project.
Undergraduate students from both universities have also provided research support for the project: Carolyn Mech, Julia Torres, and Rachael Brown at UM, and Lubov Zeifman, Kate Ericsson, Dan Valen, and Doug Williams at PSU.
The VOD project also received guidance and support from its External Review Board (ERB). In addition to providing letters of support for the NEH grant, this board provided valuable feedback on the content and design of the project's Web site. The ERB included: Moya Ball, Trinity University; Thomas Benson, Pennsylvania State University; Celeste Condit, University of Georgia; Fred Greenstein, Princeton University; Stephen Lucas, University of Wisconsin; Bruce Miroff, SUNY—Albany; and Susan Romano, University of New Mexico.
The project directors are particularly indebted to the following individuals and offices for support of the VOD project. At the University of Maryland, the Department of Communication, particularly department chairs Dr. Edward Fink and Dr. Elizabeth Toth, as well as Otto Fandino and Mayra Vazquez of the department's business office; the College of Arts & Humanities, especially Dean James Harris; Dean Donna Hamilton and the Office of Undergraduate Studies; the Office of Technology of the College of Arts & Humanities and the Office of Information Technology (particularly Megan Weng and Li Zhu); and the Office of Research Advancement and Administration. At Penn State, we are indebted to Dr. Jim Dillard, Head of the Department of Communication Arts and Sciences, and Robin Orndorf and Wendy Harter, the department’s administrative assistants. Support was also provided by Dean Susan Welch and Associate Dean Ray Lombra of the College of Arts and Sciences, along with Trish Alexander, the College’s Coordinator of Grants and Contracts.
In the spring of 2008, the VOD project was awarded a $5,000 grant from the National Communication Association (NCA). The award was part of NCA's Initiative Funds Program and helped defray the costs associated with copyright fees and obtaining audio and video versions of the speeches for the Web site. We are very appreciative of NCA's generous support.
Finally, the project directors are indebted to their mentors and teachers who instilled in them an appreciation for the study of American public address. The project directors dedicate the Voices of Democracy project to the legacy of public address studies at Indiana University, the Pennsylvania State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Wisconsin.