Institute for Transformative Dialogue

Students sitting in circle talking

The Institute for Transformative Dialogue is a cross-campus partnership to foster excellence in the ways our community engages across differences. Supported by the division of Student Affairs and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS), the Institute supports curricula, programs, and trainings that nurture our abilities to learn and work effectively across social group dynamics, especially across groups with a history of conflict or unequal relations.  The mission of the Institute is grounded in the educational framework of “intergroup dialogue,” which a large body of evidence has shown to be effective in building understanding, communication, and collaboration across these divides.  The Institute draws upon the expertise of faculty and professionals in the academic and student affairs divisions with experience in intergroup dialogue methods.

Intergroup dialogue (IGD) is a critical learning process for developing understanding, communication, collaboration across differences. Learners engage in structured, facilitated conversations across social group differences (racial, gender, class, religious, and others) with an emphasis on active listening and critical reflection. For both facilitators and participants, intergroup dialogue builds essential competencies for working in diverse teams, fostering a climate of inclusion, and engaging as an active citizen in a global society.

By sustaining partnerships across the academic and student services divisions, we foster excellence in intergroup dialogue learning through curricula, programs, and trainings designed to nurture capacities for engaging authentically across difference and appreciating the lived experiences of others.

As an inclusive community of lifelong learners, we at Central Michigan University are committed to transforming ourselves, our relationships, and our world through our capacities to engage in intergroup and intragroup dialogue.

History of the Institute

Since IGD-based courses were first developed at CMU in 2008, the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences has developed and expanded offerings the Intergroup Relations and Justice (IGR) program of intergroup dialogue courses that nurture understanding, communication, and collaboration across social group inequalities. Courses focusing especially on race and gender identity now serve over 300 students each year, engaging students in small-group dialogues facilitated by trained undergraduate peers. The Institute is supporting further curricular development for intergroup dialogue courses across other dimensions of identity and difference. The essential training for peer facilitators has been supported by a partnership between Intergroup Relations and Justice faculty and staff in the Center for Student Inclusion and Diversity (CSID). The fruit of this partnership has also included dialogue-based programming for staff, faculty, and students offered through the CSID.

Recognizing the promise of this cross-unit partnership to expand its positive impact on the climate for inclusion at CMU, the 2017 CMU Equity and Inclusion Task Force issued among its priority recommendations for CMU to "programmatically embed thoughtful, constructive dialogue about and across differences throughout the CMU experience, preparing students for leadership in a diverse world." This recommendation aligned the high-impact practice of intergroup dialogue with the leadership learning goals of the ongoing Cross-Campus Leadership Initiative, which aims to develop capacities for inclusive leadership by fostering identity development, healthy relationships, and social responsibility.  The intergroup dialogue faculty and staff from CLASS and CSID began an initiative in the summer of 2017 to develop a sequenced curriculum in facilitator training and intergroup engagement that extends across the CMU student experience. Through partnerships with a growing number of offices, CMU has begun offering more opportunities for students to develop competence and comfort in engagement across differences and to build the leadership skills to facilitate this engagement for others. 

By providing ongoing cross-divisional support for collaboration in embedding high-impact practices grounded in intergroup dialogue education across academic, co-curricular, and professional development programs, the Institute for Transformative Dialogue underwrites an ongoing commitment to making intergroup dialogue learning a signature feature of the CMU student experience.

Meet the staff

jared halter
Lecturer II in Intergroup Relations and Justice, Affiliate faculty in Women and Gender Studies

McKenzie Reed
Graduate Assistant for the Institute of Transformative Dialogue

Emmy Montgomery
Graduate Assistant for the Institute of Transformative Dialogue

Every semester, CMU students serve in pairs as co-facilitators for intergroup dialogues among their peers. The learning that occurs through dialogue is possible because of the work of this group of talented, wise and dedicated students.

Carlin Borsheim-Black
Professor in English Language and Literature

Alància Crossley
Residence Hall Director

Sara Moslener
Lecturer in Religion, Affiliate faculty in Women and Gender Studies

Kelly Murphy
Professor in Religion, Affiliate faculty in Women and Gender Studies