July 6, 2018
In the summer of 2016, I was sitting in a room at 1:30am with a group of facilitators for a program where I was a small group facilitator. There were tears, there was anger, and there was hurt. A group of students had taken to a Facebook group to post about a facilitation experience and the impact rippled through the program. Some students agreed, others did not and for me as a facilitator I was left with more questions than answers. The biggest was what role do leadership educators play in to supporting across identity as a key piece of leadership development.
Fast forward and a colleague and I take over as Program Leads and decide we are going to face this issue head on. We drafted curriculum to provide an opportunity for students to reflect on how we can engage with others to understand their perspectives. The need was to help a group of 160 students from across the country engage with people who had never heard about pronouns or interacted with someone of a different race or gender identity. The approach hadn’t changed, but public discourse absolutely had.
Listed below are 4 tenants of dialogue we adapted for the curriculum.
The day to day work of a leadership educator looks different on each campus. The responsibility, in my opinion, is that each and every one of us can support our students and communities working diligently to engage more critically with those who have different perspectives. While you can find a variety of resources and trainings about intergroup dialogue, the biggest take away is that you can impact change.
Benjamin Williams is the Associate Program Director for the Student Center at Georgia Institute of Technology and is the Sponsorship Coordinator for the Student Leadership Programs KC.
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