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Embedding Dialogue on a University Campus

Many institutions of higher education use dialogue as a communication tool to engage and involve the campus community itself as well as surrounding communities. This workshop at NCDD’s 2006 conference focused on how three institutions have begun to integrate and embed the process of dialogue into university life – and here is where you can find all six handouts from this well-received session.

Workshop leaders included Mary Grace Almandrez, Assistant Dean of Multicultural Student Services at the University of San Francisco, Miriam Chitiga, Associate Professor of English at Claflin University, and Gretchen Wehrle, Associate Professor of Psychology/Sociology at Notre Dame de Namur University.

This participatory workshop included brief overviews of three successful higher ed-based projects, highlights of lessons learned, a mini-dialogue in which participants discussed the challenges of embedding dialogue into curricular and co-curricular initiatives on a university campus, and a final reflection activity focusing on next steps. The projects that were featured included a federally funded grant project on civic awareness and engagement, a partnership with a local community organization in which students acquire the skills to plan and facilitate dialogues focusing on social issues, and a model involving a series of dialogues used to address racial conflict and intolerance on campus.

A 7-page article by Stephanie Raill (Macalester College) and Elizabeth Hollander (Campus Compact) entitled “How Campuses Can Create Engaged Citizens: The Student View.” Published in the Journal of College & Character VOLUME VII, NO. 1, January 2006.

Miriam Chitiga’s one-page diagram entitled “Developing Dialogues for Inclusion Across Campus.”

Miriam Chitiga’s 4-page overview of Performing Arts for Effective Civic Education (PAECE).

Key Learnings about Dialogue – a one-page list from Notre Dame de Namur University and Peninsula Conflict Resolution Center (also below because it’s short and sweet).

A one-page document with “prereflection questions” for people thinking about Embedding Dialogue on a University Campus.

A 3-page syllabus for Dr. Gretchen Wehrle’s Community Psychology course at Notre Dame de Namur University. The course includes training and experience in civic engagement and community dialogues.

And here is the text from Notre Dame de Namur’s Key Learnings About Dialogue handout:

1. Be intentional in designing dialogues, including

– Having facilitators who represent the various constituents (student, faculty, administration, staff, community members),

– Developing an agenda with purpose and flexibility,

– Providing both large and small group discussion and sharing so all individuals feel comfortable participating, and• Creating follow-up actions which are connected to the dialogue.

2. Provide training and practice opportunities in facilitation and community dialogue for students before a dialogue is planned.

3. Connect dialogue to the curriculum and classroom. It is important to provide opportunities for reading, discussion, and reflection.

4. Choose dialogue planners and participants from a collaborative group of individuals to ensure a wide body of support, expertise, and continuity.

5. Don’t always pick the “usual student leaders”—expand the pool of students who facilitate and participate in dialogues.

6. Strive to institutionalize dialogue throughout your campus, making it the “process of choice” to engage members of your community in intercultural communication, brainstorming, and shared visioning.

7. Encourage everyone to make a commitment to struggle together, share experiences, and make an effort to listen to and understand the different perspectives.

8. Create dialogues where students have an equal voice so they can be heard, respected, and learn from different points of view.

9. No matter how much planning is done before a dialogue, there are times when things do not go as anticipated. Try to prepare for the unexpected as much as possible.

10. Be patient—planning and participating in a dialogue is a learning process. Everyone has his/her own style and becomes more “skilled” as s/he gains more experience. Learn to be flexible and patient in discovering what works best for you and your community.

11. Remember to have fun!

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