Re-launch of the Democratic Dialogue Project Connects CC and USAFA Students

The Democratic Dialogue Project (DDP) facilitates both social connections and political debates between Colorado College students and United States Air Force Academy cadets, helping to reduce the military-civilian divide for the next generation of citizens and leaders.

“Being a member of the DDP means trying to bridge the gap between civilians and military in our generation. We're all the same age, we use the same social media, we watch the same TV, play the same sports, but we live our lives in totally separate bubbles. There's fear, distrust, and misunderstanding between these groups of people that doesn't need to be there, and that makes both the civilian world and the military worse off,” says Tom Byron ’23, co-chair of the club.

The Democratic Dialogue Project was a club at CC for many years, but lapsed during COVID.

After having a great time at the 2021 Academy Assembly Political Science Conference, Bryon realized that there wasn’t much contact between CC students and USAFA cadets, and he wanted to change that. After talking to a professor about wanting to organize a program to bring cadets and CC students together, Byron learned about the DDP club. With this new knowledge, Byron reached out to Elizabeth Coggins, associate professor of political science, last spring and asked for her help in restarting the club.

“The mission of the DDP is essential in today’s democracy, and I believe in it deeply,” says Coggins. 

Greg Laski, an associate professor of English at USAFA, and Coggins originally founded DDP around 2015, using a Mellon Foundation Grant.

“There are a number of occasions for CC and USAFA students to interact in social and athletic contexts, but there are fewer occasions for these two cohorts to come into contact in an intellectual setting and to discuss matters of significance relevant to all citizens,” Coggins and Laski say on the DDP website.

The lack of opportunities to interact can result in a lack of genuine understanding between CC students and USAFA cadets. The goal of the DDP is to facilitate connections between military members and civilians early on in their lives and careers.  

“I joined the DDP because it is not often at CC that you get the chance to engage with people with wildly different political views. I’ve found our conversations really valuable because they both drive me to consider perspectives I would not normally think about and to investigate my own beliefs more closely,” says Maggie Mixer ’24, co-chair of the club.

Club members usually come up with a starting discussion question, such as how involved the United States should be in Ukraine, or to what extent students agree or disagree with student loan forgiveness. Bryon and Ashay Stephen, the cadet-in-charge of the DDP at the USAFA, will then split club members into discussion groups.

“DDP allows cadets the opportunity to explore their future roles as military officers in American democracy by providing a forum for interaction with aspiring civilian leaders from Colorado College. The development of leaders in our republic depends on civil discourse between disparate groups, and providing an opportunity for the humble leader to learn more and improve themselves for the sake of others,” says Stephen, a philosophy and applied math double major who will graduate from the USAFA this year.

Stephen says he became involved with the DDP after recognizing how crucial it is to break out of one’s intellectual bubble.

“Differing perspectives are crucial to growth, and I am honored to be able to help facilitate these discussions between our two schools,” says Stephen, who will start fighter and bomber pilot training after graduating.

While scheduling can be difficult, the club tries to meet every month. Meetings have been held on both campuses and at coffee shops across town.

“The DDP is a great opportunity to step out of the CC bubble and engage with college students with diverse world views. Many of the cadets come from very different backgrounds than CC students and are in a very different educational environment, which generates really interesting discussions and gives you a chance to think more deeply about your own opinions,” says Mixer, a political science major.

While many of the sessions are discussion-based, the club also hosts other events, such as film screenings and formal debates.

Colorado College students can join at any point in the year, and all majors are welcome. With questions or to join the club, please contact Maggie Mixer at

Report an issue - Last updated: 03/24/2023