The National Institute for Civil Discourse awarded its first two academic research projects to University of Arizona faculty members.

The Institute, 57 E. Jackson St., was founded at the UA in response to the Jan. 8 mass shooting in Tucson with the goal of promoting civility in political speech.

Linguistic anthropology expert Norma Mendoza-Denton will examine how public officials handle conflicts with members of the public during town hall meetings and what triggers incivility.

Jared Lee Loughner opened fire on on U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others during a political event in front of a northwest-side grocery store. Loughner had first met the congresswoman at a town hall event years earlier.

The second project will measure civility in the online comments for Arizona Daily Star news articles. The researchers are Kevin Coe, Kate Kenski and Steve Rains, all communication department faculty members.

Institute director Brint Milward said both project proposals were "incredibly intriguing."

The Finley Family Foundation gave $7,500 seed grants to each project, and Milward said he hopes the research projects will attract further external funding.

The institute also is planning outreach and advocacy programs.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at or 807-8012.