Initial curator: Sustained Dialogue Institute


What is dialogue? Dialogue is a process in which groups come together to share experiences around issues that are often avoided or argued toward the goal of informed decision-making. Dialogue involves mutual understanding, suspending judgment and listening deeply, rather than seeking to win.

What can it do for my campus? Why consider it as part of my civic action plan? Campuses engaged in dialogue use the tool to engage with diverse viewpoints in true civil discourse. A community that has a high level of dialogue skill creates enhanced experiences in co-curricular life, civic engagement, and curricular environments. Dialogue equips students, faculty and staff with the skills to build shared understanding of challenges, to empathize with experiences very different from one’s own, and to create positive change from collaboration. Dialogue as pedagogy can enhance student learning, feelings of belonging, and skills for a globalized workforce.

What can it look like?

  1. A co-curricular, sustained program engaging faculty, staff or students, all three or blended
  2. Curricular coursework
  3. Intensive retreats
  4. One-time events

Challenges to incorporating:

  1. Attendance for sustained engagements
  2. Experiential nature requires willingness to pilot new approaches
  3. Requires rigorous training to build on-campus capacity

If you know of resources that you would like to contribute to this knowledge hub, please contact Clayton Hurd at

Key resources:

A) Data, Examples, Impact, and Evaluation

A public account of Beloit campus President Scott Bierman’s experience within a dialogue group.

Higher education institutions are recognizing the value of dialogue in engaging diverse perspectives and experiences while providing the necessary skills and knowledge for students to become effective citizens. Colleges and universities are incorporating the theory and practice of dialogue across different dimensions of the curriculum, co-curriculum, pedagogy, and administration and governance. Examples include nation-wide intergroup dialogue programs, community standards processes in residence halls, and institution-wide decision making on curricula. Seen as a whole, these and other examples provide a vision for a comprehensive approach to integrating dialogue on campuses.

B) Resources Listed by Key Practitioners

National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation The National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) is a network of more than 2,200 innovators who bring people together across divides to discuss, decide, and take action together effectively on today’s toughest issues.  NCDD serves as a gathering place, a resource center, a news source, and a facilitative leader for this vital community of practice.”[3] Sustained Dialogue Institute Recommended resources from the Sustained Dialogue Institute, a network of over 50 campuses using dialogue-to-action through Dr. Harold Saunders’ five-stage process. Public Conversations Project A searchable guide for those interested in holding a one-time dialogue using the research and publications of Boston based Public Conversations Project. The Program on Intergroup Group Relations at the University of Michigan The Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR) is a social justice education program. IGR blends theory and experiential learning to facilitate students' learning about social group identity, social inequality, and intergroup relations. The program prepares students to live and work in a diverse world and educates them in making choices that advance equity, justice, and peace. IGR was founded in 1988 and was the first program of its kind. Everyday Democracy’s Resources If you're working on implementing a dialogue-to-change process in your community, find resources specific to a particular phase of the work at this link.



A) Campus Dialogue Organizations

  • Sustained Dialogue Institute Sustained Dialogue Campus Network, a project of Sustained Dialogue Institute, works with the entire campus to create the most tailored, transformative, and measurable impact possible based on its 15 years working on more than 50 diverse campuses. SDCN works with schools to build relationships across lines of difference, transform conflicts and create a more welcoming and inclusive climate. Engagement types include 1) “deep membership”, an intensive, holistic approach to training, mentorship, technical support, coaching and connection to the broader network of campuses engaged in Sustained Dialogue, or 2) “training only” which enables campuses to offer stand-alone trainings for specific audiences and purposes to enhance current efforts. SDCN works with faculty, staff, administrators and students and dialogue programming looks different on each campus including co-curricular student dialogue groups, faculty/staff dialogue groups, SD academic courses, immersive student retreats, residential life programming, and campus-community dialogue engagements.

How Campuses Learn more: To learn about the SD model, schools host an Information Session where SD staff can share more information about how the SD programs work, what is involved in membership in the Campus Network, the impact it can have on campuses, and how we see SD directly addressing some of the issues or needs you see on your campus. To arrange for an information session, email Sustained Dialogue Information: Sustained Dialogue Institute 444 N. Capitol St. NW, Ste. 434 Washington DC 20001 (202) 393-7643

The Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR) is a social justice education program. IGR blends theory and experiential learning to facilitate students' learning about social group identity, social inequality, and intergroup relations. The program prepares students to live and work in a diverse world and educates them in making choices that advance equity, justice, and peace.”[4] Core work includes primarily course based efforts that train student facilitators to lead dialogue courses. Intergroup dialogue at the University of Michigan, their flagship campus, also includes additional common ground workshops throughout the academic year. There is also a community outreach arm – youth dialogues on race and ethnicity - for high school students to participate in a summer intergroup dialogues as well as other programming. How Campuses Learn more: To learn about the “Michigan Model”, schools attend the National Intergroup Dialogue Institute, a 4-day institute in Ann Arbor to gain a sense of the program, participate in some skill building and discuss strategies for developing and supporting academic and co-curricular activities. Facilitator training is not included. The Program on Intergroup Dialogue Information: The University of Michigan 1214 S. University Ave, 2nd Flr, Suite B Ann Arbor, MI 48104734-936-1875

Ask Big Questions works with colleges, universities, and organizations to engage young adults in reflective community conversations about purpose, identity, and responsibility. These conversations build trust, strengthen community, and deepen understanding across lines of difference.”[5] ABQ offers skills workshops in facilitation and creating reflective space, and partnership programs to equip student leaders with training and resources to lead transformative conversations. They particularly focus on residential life, service learning, civic engagement, and career and vocation programs. ABQ assesses impact through surveys and focus groups, and aims to align assessment efforts with existing campus metrics. – contributed by Josh Feigelson, Founder and Director, Ask Big Questions How Campuses Learn more: To learn more about bringing ABQ to campus, school leadership and ABQ have a conversation to clarify needs and identify areas of engagement with students to begin to design training workshops, conversation materials, an assessment strategy and provide ongoing support.[6] To set up this conversation, submit the form here. Ask Big Questions Information: 708 Church St., Suite 205 Evanston, IL 60201 312-767-8677

Social Justice Training Institute (SJTI) provides training through a lab experience to increase multicultural competencies of practitioners and students. As alums of the Institute, students and professionals return to campus and apply their learning to create greater inclusion on campus.[7] Each student Institute hosts 50 students from across the country who already have work on social justice issues to further “examine the complex dynamics of oppression and to develop strategies to foster positive change on their campuses and in their communities.”[8] Students are asked to obtain a “Coach” (a faculty, staff or administrator) from their home institution who can help them continue their growth when they return and to implement the intervention they identified. The Professional Institute is a one week, intensive laboratory experience for diversity trainers or practitioners to increase competencies as social justice educators. The focus of both these institutes is on personal work and learning to be an agent of change. How Campuses Learn more: For general inquiries, please contact Vernon A. Wall, 515-231-3067, For the student institutes, please contact Sam Offer, Washington Consulting Group, 410-504-9701,

  • Public Conversations Project Public Conversations Project Public Conversations was founded in the core belief that community is an act of courage, and community changes everything. We recognize that behind every belief is a person with a story. When we bring belief and stories into community with curiosity, connections form and new possibilities emerge. With careful design and facilitation, dialogue provides campus communities a space to explore questions of identity, diversity and social issues. Through changing the culture of communication around difficult issues, campuses can move beyond the polarization of right or wrong, yes or no – and into a space of new understanding and expanded options that meet the needs of all stakeholders. Working with universities large and small, public and private, Public Conversations partners with all stakeholders of university life. Together, we create collaborative, resilient campus environments and preparing the next generation to lead in a diverse world. – contributed by John Sarrouf, Director of Program Development and Strategic Partnerships, Public Conversations Project. How Campuses Learn more: Katie Hyten, Program Manager 617.923.1216 ext.27 Public Conversations Project 186 Alewife Brook Parkway, Suite 212 Cambridge, MA 02138 617-923-1216  

B) Campus/Community Dialogue Organizations

  • Everyday Democracy Everyday Democracy works “directly with local communities, providing advice and training and flexible how-to resources. Since our founding in 1989, we’ve worked with hundreds of communities across the United States on issues such as racial equity, poverty reduction, education reform, and building strong neighborhoods. We work with national, regional and state organizations in order to leverage our resources and to expand the reach and impact of civic engagement processes and tools. Our ultimate aim is to help create communities that value everyone’s voice and work for everyone, and to help create a strong national democracy that upholds these principles.”[9] Everyday Democracy Information: 75 Charter Oak Avenue, Suite 2-300 Hartford, CT 06106 Phone 860.928.2616 | Fax 860.928.3713


A) Sustained Dialogue Institute Schools

  • Beloit College (co-curricular, student and faculty/staff/administrators, whole campus)

Beloit has invested in transforming the campus culture to one of dialogue. They have co-curricular student groups that run each semester and faculty/staff/administrator groups which include a dialogue group in which the Campus President participates. These groups are blended to reach staff across the hierarchy. Beloit also has integrated Sustained Dialogue principles into their first year initiative workshops and hosts one-time events including a significant day-long Racism at Beloit Summit[10] to further commit Beloit to becoming an anti-racist institution. Alumni donors and trustees, so impressed by the impact and holistic nature of the work, funded a dedicated “Sustained Dialogue Coordinator” to support the program for two years. How campuses learn more: Contact the following point-persons for more information. Bill Conover, Director of Spiritual Life & Co-Director of Sustained Dialogue, Cecil Youngblood, Associate Dean of Students, Director of Intercultural Affairs, Sarah Tweedale, Sustained Dialogue Coordinator,

  • Northwestern University (co-curricular, student only)

Northwestern’s program is coordinated by the Social Justice Education Department as a co-curricular model with no academic component. The Assistant Director works with a Sustained Dialogue Leadership Team that is comprised of 5 undergraduate students that assist in recruitment of students, promoting SD on campus, training moderators, coordinating social get togethers for moderators and assisting with moderators continual training for 60 minutes biweekly throughout the semester.[11] Dialogues run for the quarter (9-10 weeks) and are composed of 2 moderators and up to 18 participants. Meetings last for 90 minutes every week. How campuses learn more: Contact the following point-persons for more information. Dr. Lesley-Ann Brown-Henderson, Executive Director of Campus Inclusion and Community, Michele Enos, Assistant Director for Social Justice Education,

  • The University of Alabama (academic course) The University of Alabama runs two dialogue courses, one a 3-credit, and one a 1-credit course. In the 3-credit course students learn dialogue moderating skills and information about social identities. Students in this course then facilitate dialogue groups comprised of students in the 1-credit pass/fail course. These courses run concurrently. Participants in the 1-credit course attend once a week and participate in dialogue around different aspects of social identity and reflect on their experience. This offers the opportunity to an incredibly broad swath of the campus who wouldn’t otherwise be attracted to dialogue in a co-curricular approach. Students in the 3-credit course attend class twice a week, one day receiving materials, feedback from previous week’s dialogue, and some skills training, while they moderate the dialogues in the 1-credit class as their second day.

How campuses learn more: Contact Lane McLelland, Director of UA Crossroads,

  • University of Tampa (retreat) Tampa is developing a multi-year plan to increase diversity initiatives on campus. Currently, the program consists of a retreat over several days where students dive deeply into social identities through activities and moderated dialogue. They then continue to dialogue in their small groups upon return to campus for the remainder of the semester. Participants are mostly undergraduates although some graduates have participated.

How campuses learn more: Contact Gina Firth, Associate Dean of Wellness,

B) Intergroup Dialogue

  • University of Michigan

This is their flagship campus and has been operating for over 25 years. There is a strong curricular component as well as co-curricular components. Seven courses are available with the two primary courses being the two course sequence of facilitator training and practicum. Students lead the practicum course after having participated in the facilitator training where they gained skills on “dialogic communication, group building, conflict surfacing and de-escalation, and social justice education.” Practicum dialogue topics have included topics such as “Race and Ethnicity, Gender, Socio-economic Class, International and U.S., Religion, Sexual Orientation, Arab/Jewish, Ableism, and White Racial Identity.”[12] These dialogue groups are designed in a binary approach i.e. for the Arab/Jewish dialogue half participants would be Arab and half Jewish. The co-curricular component is comprised of Common Ground workshops of 1.5 – 3 hours in length.[13] While focusing on raising awareness of social identities, prejudice, stereotyping, privilege and oppression, are tailored to meet the needs of the audience. These workshops are facilitated by trained graduate and undergraduate students.[14] How campuses learm more: Contact the following point-persons for more information. Monita Thompson, Co-Director Kelly E. Maxwell, PhD., Co-Director,

  • Carleton College Carleton has both curricular and co-curricular components to the program. The curricular component is similar to Michigan in framing in that the first 4-credit course in the fall term prepares students to facilitate peer-led conversations about diversity. Those who complete this course can apply to facilitate dialogue groups in the second 2- credit course during the winter term. Students engage in readings and experiential exercises around different aspects of identity such as race, gender and sexuality. Carleton does not follow the binary model of Michigan and focuses their dialogues on the intersectionality of various social identities present in the class section.[15] “This has some disadvantages, such as not getting as deep into the conflict that has existed between two particular groups, but also some advantages in that students gain a broader understanding of social identities and their relationships, and greater flexibility for the program.”[16] The co-curricular component focuses on providing more casual spaces for students to continue conversations.

How campuses learn moreContact Joe Baggot, Associate Dean of Students,

C) Ask Big Questions (Contributed by Josh Feigelson)

  • Colby College Colby College partnered with ABQ to train student leaders in its Lives of Purpose program and Residence Life. Students participated in a training workshop and used ABQ conversation guides and assessment tools. After an initial pilot year, Colby plans to continue and expand its work with ABQ through residence life.

How campuses learn moreContact Kurt Nelson, Dean of Spiritual Life:

  • Kalamazoo College Kalamazoo College hosted a day-long ABQ workshop for 40 student leaders from a range of programs affiliated with the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership. Students learned skills of creating reflective space and facilitating reflective conversations and will use these tools in their work.

How campuses learn moreContact Mia Henry, Executive Director, Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership,

  • Stetson College Stetson College’s Cross-Cultural Center has used Ask Big Questions conversation guides for two years to host conversations about meaning and purpose. They hosted an introductory ABQ workshop and are expanding to a larger training workshop for Bonner fellows and service-learning student leaders.

How campuses learn moreContact Lindsey Graves, 
Assistant Director of Interfaith Initiatives,

D) Public Conversations Project (Contributed by John Sarrouf)

  • Clark University Difficult Dialogues Initiative Clark University Difficult Dialogues Initiative started 10 years ago with a grant from the Ford Foundation and initial trainings from organizations like Public Conversations Project to train faculty, staff, administrators and students to facilitate dialogues all across campus.