Difficult Dialogues

CHCI conference posterJune 2009

On Saturday June 13th, Difficult Dialogues Director, Sarah Buie, presented at the annual meeting of the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI) in Edinburg, Scotland. In her talk "Creating Dialogue", she provided an overview of the DD initiative at Clark, and highlighted the potenital for dialogue to deepen the work of humanities centers and higher education as a whole.

Creating Dialogue, read the full text here

Public Conversations Project

Sarah BuieApril 2009

Sarah Buie, Director of the Difficult Dialogues initiative, has recently been appointed to the Board of Directors at the Public Conversations Project, a dialogue facilitation group based in Watertown, MA. PCP has been an important consultant to Clark's Difficult Dialogues initiative from its inception – leading workshops on dialogue and pedagogy for faculty during an intensive faculty development process, and as part of our 2006 launch event "Bridging the Abortion Divide: The Boston Story."

Sarah was invited to be part of the board, at a time when PCP looks to further develop their work in the field of Higher Education:

"College and university communities face complex internal and external issues: Addressing diversity. Campus politics. Religious tolerance. Competition for resources. Activism around current affairs. The Public Conversations Project assists universities and colleges to plan and convene successful dialogues for these types of high-stakes, contentious issues. By teaching proven dialogue and communication skills, PCP inspires and equips students (future leaders) to create collaborative environments in their fields of work, their communities, and the world at large."

Clark's Difficult Dialogues program is highlighted as part of PCP's efforts here

January 2009
Coverage in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Inauguration day (1/20)

September 2007
Coverage in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Faith and Tolerance event (9/20)

March 2007
Interview w/Sarah Buie on EducationNews.org

February 2007
Steering Committee meeting with guest Nancy Thomas

On February 7th, the Difficult Dialogues Steering Committee met with Nancy Thomas of the Democracy Project. She shared her work on issues of deliberative democracy and its relationship to pedagogy, and with the group explored how this connects to the state of dialogue at Clark.

The Society for Values in Higher Education – The home of The Democracy Project which serves as a resource to colleges and universities interested in starting new or expanding existing programs to explore models of democratic dialogue and collective action in the classroom, in internal decision making processes, and in partnership with communities.

The Democracy Imperative – a national network of scholars and practitioners dedicated to the advancement of deliberative democracy through higher education

Everyday DemocracyEveryday Democracy is a resource that helps people work together through dialogue for community change

When Medium is the Message: Promoting Ethical Action Through Democratic Dialogue – by Bruce Mallory & Nancy Thomas

Space for Dialogue [Word]– Nancy has called on universities to be 'intentional about creating spaces for dialogue on campus'. Here are some of her suggestions for places where dialogue can be present in student and campus life.

January 2007
Regional conference for the national Difficult Dialogues project

A gathering of approximately thirty-five representatives of the northeastern colleges and universities who received funding from Ford in their Difficult Dialogues initiative was held in mid-January at Yale University. Sarah Buie, Miriam Chion, and Jane Androski represented the Clark project; representatives from Dartmouth, Bunker Hill Community College, Mount Holyoke College, LaGuardia Community College, Queens College, Barnard College, the University of Albany, Rider University, the University of Texas at Austin and Yale University also participated.

A highlight of the meeting was an update from Allison Bernstein, Vice-President for Education, Media, Art and Culture at the Ford Foundation, who spoke to us of the goals and purposes of this program, and why Ford feels it is so vital. It was clear that Ford takes the DD initiative very seriously, given the political and cultural challenges we currently face. They are looking closely at what we grantees are doing, as they themselves explore how to best to influence the state of our civic discourse, encourage academic freedom and to support the “social project of pluralism”, as she put it. Her comments were a strong call to the highest purposes inherent in this work, which she sees as uniquely possible in institutions of higher education.

National Difficult Dialogues project site – difficultdialogues.org

November 2006
Radio interview | Academically Speaking

In November of 2006, Sarah Buie and Walter Wright appeared on the radio program Academically Speaking – a production of WTAG/Worcester. Academically Speaking is a weekly radio program in which faculty from the Worcester Consortium schools present their research, teaching and public service interests to the Worcester community. In this program, Sarah Buie and Walter Wright speak about the Difficult Dialogues initiative – its origins and its future at Clark.

Academically Speaking 11/5/06 – (MP3 file)

FALL 2006
Faculty Development Process

In the Fall semester of 2006, a group of twenty faculty participated in a full semester of faculty development in the skills of dialogue, led by some of the most outstanding practitioners in the field (see below). These faculty are now taking dialogue skills into the community through their teaching, in their administrative roles, and in their work with colleagues.

Links to Consultants

Ashland Institute
Consultant: Barbara Cecil
The Ashland Institue teaches the personal and collective capabilities needed to fulfill the promise of collaboration and creative community. Their teaching focuses on skilled dialogue and individual anchoring in Essential Self—both necessary to thrive in the intensities of our time.

Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
Consultants: Mirabai Bush and Arthur Zajonc
The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society is a non-profit organization which works to integrate contemplative awareness and contemporary life, to help create a more just, compassionate, and reflective society.

Consultant: Peri Chickering
Dialogos is a world leader and pioneer in the theory and practice of dialogue, organizational learning and collective leadership

Public Conversations Project
Consultants: Dave Joseph, Meenakshi Chakraverti, Bob Stains
The Public Conversations Project (PCP) helps people with fundamental disagreements over divisive issues develop the mutual understanding and trust essential for strong communities and positive action.

FALL 2006
Difficult Dialogues Launch Events

The best way I can describe my reaction the launch events I attended is that they were really fun. It was great to see so many different members of the community interacting in such a unique way – from first years to long time alumni. – Sheryl-Ann Simpson, Graduate Student IDCE

In late October and early November of 2006, we launched the Difficult Dialogues initiative at Clark. The launch series was held over a period of two weeks, in which we introduced our community to the definitions and practices of dialogue – click here for summaries and photos of these events.

August 2006
National Coalition For Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) Conference

NCDD conference    drawing

In early August 2006, Sarah Buie, William Fisher and Walter Wright attended the third conference of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, held in San Francisco. Over three hundred and fifty practitioners, facilitators and leaders in the dialogue field gathered for three days to learn more about what others are doing in the field nationwide, and to join in an unusually dialogic conference process. Using a remarkable variety of methods and formats, the conference facilitators encouraged dialogue among us as we explored the questions “where have we (NCDD) been, where are we now, and where are we going?” Workshops on a variety of dialogic processes both preceded and were interspersed throughout the meeting; groups doing pioneering work across the country on racial and religious issues, civic dialogue, the arts and dialogue, and much more shared it in a marketplace of ideas. Drummers, artists and poets presented their work and created interactive events.

NCDD conference    NCDD conference

Walter Wright (pictured at left) participated in an ongoing performance piece which documented the content of the wide range of meetings. At each plenary session, excerpted meeting notes from the previous day were poetically assembled and shared, chorus-style, with the entire conference.

The Public Conversations Project (consultants to our faculty development process) was represented by Dave Joseph, Meenakshi Chakraverti and new director Cherry Muse, and was involved in several workshop presentations. Pam Korza, Director of the Animating Democracy Project in Amherst was a presenter, and is now sharing her expertise on potential arts events for our symposium year with us. Some other exciting campus-based dialogue projects were represented, including Orange Band, based at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), and Sustained Dialogue, which originated at the University of Virginia, and has several other chapters.

more information on NCDD

April 2006
Difficult Dialogues Academic Spree Day Installation

In the senior-level Graphic Design Studio, offered as part of the Studio Art program here at Clark, students focus on creating cohesive design identities. Over the spring semester of '06, three seniors—Nathan Chin, Tom Jankiewicz, and Kara Scimeca—developed a logotype, brochure and this installation project for the Difficult Dialogues initiative.

During Academic Spree Day, the designers presented their work and were able speak about the Difficult Dialogues program with their fellow students as well as with faculty, staff and visitors, for the first time. The response was magnificent! People were eager to share their ideas about the state of dialogue on the Clark campus and on the issues they feel need to be addressed as part of the program.

Higgins University Center   DD logo   inside the UC

A Note from the Student Designers

Helping bring the Difficult Dialogues program to life has been an exciting experience. Our design concept evolved from the need to make this project stand out on campus. Through the use of some unconventional design elements—including growing formations of shapes/ideas placed around campus, and ultimately our interactive installation at Academic Spree Day—we aimed to engage the school community and spread excitement about the upcoming events.

Our goal for this project was to enliven our community's daily environment in a different and interesting way, so as to generate curiosity, questions, energy and interest about

Difficult Dialogues. We hope to create a cohesive visual environment around the program that will be easily recognized by members of the Clark community. The hexagon shape was chosen to represent Difficult Dialogues, as its multifaceted nature mirrors the program's goal of bringing together the various opinions and attitudes of individuals at Clark. In the final installation, many of these shapes join and take on new forms and relationships, which is the ultimate hope for those students and faculty who participate in the Difficult Dialogues program.

We believe that this program has the potential to greatly enhance campus life and the Clark experience overall, and are glad to have been a part of it.