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Real talk

MSU Denver’s emerging Dialogues Program seeks to help faculty, staff and students get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.

By Lindsey Coulter

October 25, 2018

Students talkingIf you’re a faculty or staff member who values substantive conversation and ensuring that all campus voices are heard, the new Dialogues Program needs you.

Facilitated by Katia Campbell, associate professor, Communication Arts and Sciences, and Thomas Ragland, associate director for student conduct, the Dialogues Program seeks to help students and employees alike develop the skills to understand and be understood by engaging participants in potentially challenging conversations around identity, the role of social justice in higher education and how to deal with difference.

“We are living in a time where it’s very difficult to have civil conversations,” Campbell said. “We become polarized to the point where we’re almost living in our own realities.”

As such, the Dialogues Program experience is meant to be challenging. The still-evolving program is designed to help participants respectfully navigate uncomfortable interactions in a way that creates moments of self-reflection, empowerment and genuine understanding. This zone of dialogue discomfort even has a name: the learning edge.

“If we can make MSU Denver a place where people feel comfortable being uncomfortable, it definitely increases the student experience,” Campbell said. “Students get a lot out of being able to deal with (difficult) ideas and struggle with them together; it feeds their drive for learning and also can lead to retention because they know their identities are respected.”

“When students feel they are not being heard — or their experiences aren’t valued — they don’t want to be here,” Ragland added. “This may lead to students experiencing concerns related to their mental or physical health, or they may stop showing up to class.”

In addition to creating supportive spaces for Metropolitan State University of Denver’s diverse student body and workforce, the program also complements the inclusive-leadership model. Ragland notes that it teaches participants how to lead conversations but also to engage by helping other people manage their emotions and create space for new voices.

Those interested in joining the conversation, or learning to facilitate, can contact Campbell or Ragland for more details.

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