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CESL encourages conversation skills through new Deliberative Dialogue programming

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A new program through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning (CESL) encourages students to voice their perspectives while actively listening to others.

“There is a clear political polarization in the U.S.,” said Harriett Steinbach, M.S. ’05, assistant director at CESL, “and we wanted to create experiences where students can learn and practice dialogue skills and then effectively engage across political differences. Our Deliberative Dialogues will help students play a role in closing the dialogue gap between political ideologies.”

Deliberative Dialogues are guided conversations on a variety of different topics. CESL adopted the model from the National Issues Forum Institute (NIFI) and uses NIFI issue guides during the dialogues.

“We piloted a classroom-based approach for the Deliberative Dialogues last spring,” said Steinbach, “and we expanded that for this fall. We’ve already worked with 19 classes this semester, and we have several more dialogues planned within classes in the coming weeks.”

The department received a grant from Campus Compact to train individuals from across campus to facilitate Deliberative Dialogues. To date, 27 individuals have been trained, including CESL staff.

CESL hopes to continue to expand the Deliberative Dialogues program in the spring. “We’re open to an invitation from any instructor or student organization,” said Steinbach. To request a Deliberative Dialogue session for your course or organization, contact CESL at Dialogue topics include immigration, climate change, mental health, and safety and justice.

“We hope students will learn that no issue is a binary and no person is a monolith,” Steinbach said. “By participating in a Deliberative Dialogue, students can learn about and hear perspectives on the multiple aspects of a topic. Through a guided conversation, they will express their own perspectives and listen to the perspectives of others. These are important civic skills and life skills.”

Campuswide dialogue opportunity

While the majority of the Deliberative Dialogues so far have taken place within courses, CESL is offering a campuswide Deliberative Dialogue on October 27. The virtual event will use the NIFI issue guide “Voting: How Should We Safeguard and Improve Our Elections? ” The Dialogue will look at the integrity of U.S. elections, including increasing voting and making elections fair.

The free, virtual event will take place from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 27. It is open to anyone within the campus community, but advance registration is required.

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