Navigating social differences can be emotional and challenging. At Central Michigan University, a new center for talking across differences will help students become more effective and understanding communicators.
CMU’s Institute for Transformative Dialogue is designed to support and expand intergroup dialogue experiences across the university.
Intergroup dialogue sessions are facilitated, in-person conversations between members of two or more different social groups. These discussions provide participants a safe way to explore new perspectives, increase understanding of others, build respect and empathy, and develop skills to live in an increasingly multicultural society.
Among other things, the institute will expand opportunities to learn through intergroup dialogues by building relationships across departments and divisions.
The institute is a partnership between the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and Enrollment and Student Services, co-directed by Andrew Blom, philosophy and religion department chair, and Shannon Jolliff-Dettore, director of LGBTQ Services. The two have worked together for more than a decade to train student facilitators and help offer intergroup dialogue courses for CMU students.
“Many students who participate in intergroup dialogue for one semester are left wanting more,” said Jolliff-Dettore. “The institute provides the chance to learn and grow, so dialogue doesn’t have to be a one-time experience.”
The institute’s new space in the Center for Inclusion and Diversity, located on the first floor of the Bovee University Center, will serve as meeting space for past, present and future student facilitators to continue to connect outside of the classroom.
“The establishment of the institute is a commitment to a more inclusive CMU,” said Blom. “Its mission is to deepen our capacity as a community to engage authentically across difference — listening generously, sharing our own stories and thinking critically about our roles in creating a more justice in our world.”
Blom said the institute will help create opportunities for intergroup dialogue both inside and outside the classroom, build relationships, and provide a hub for those seeking to add intergroup dialogue to their programs.
“It’s about creating an environment at CMU where students of all identities feel like they are welcome, seen, heard and belong,” said Blom.
CMU community members interested in how to develop programs or coursework that engage participants in intergroup dialogue can contact Blom at firstname.lastname@example.org
or Jolliff-Dettore at email@example.com
for more information.
University Communications intern Annika Clemens assisted with this story.