Intergroup Dialogue: Enacting Change for Social Justice

Faculty and staff from Rensselaer have participated in ongoing training on intergroup dialogue facilitation to provide dialogic learning experiences for students. Defined as “face-to-face facilitated conversation between members of two or more social identity groups that strives to create new levels of understanding, relating, and action,” intergroup dialogue prepares participants to facilitate dialogue across social identities and the historical, psychological, and sociological impacts of dominant narratives. Its goal is to teach participants to think and converse in a way that seeks out and values different perspectives, through the use of personal narratives, compassionate listening, and interpersonal inquiry.

Both curricular and co-curricular intergroup dialogue experiences will provide continued opportunities for self-exploration and group bonding among those who participate, and will explore next steps for participants, personally, and for Rensselaer, institutionally.

Goals for faculty and staff intergroup dialogue training have included growing capacity of dialogue facilitation, implementing dialogic pedagogy, fostering a faculty community of support, and exploring ways to create transformative classroom communities. For students, the objective is to engage in open and constructive dialogue, learning, and exploration concerning issues of intergroup relations, conflict, and community.

The Rensselaer Plan 2024 cites diversity and inclusion as a fundamental premise of the New Polytechnic. In keeping with the Plan, the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS), in partnership with the Division of Student Life bridges the gap by bringing curricular and co-curricular together through collaborative work experiences between faculty and staff.

“Through Clustered Learning, Advocacy, and Support for Students (CLASS), our comprehensive approach to the student experience, the Division of Student Life strives to create a holistic and developmentally transformative experience for students throughout their academic journey. Intergroup dialogue aligns with the goals of the Institute’s overarching mission by imbuing our students with intellectual agility, multicultural  sophistication, and a global view through a cognitive and emotional learning process,” said Peter Konwerski, vice president for student life.

This semester, HASS is offering a course on intergroup dialogue to train students to become peer mentors to assist with facilitation in HASS Inquiry courses beginning fall 2022. Course instructors are Alicia Walf, senior lecturer of cognitive science in HASS, and Chris Fisher-Lochhead, lecturer of arts in HASS.

HASS, in collaboration with the Archer Center for Student Leadership Development, will offer an intergroup dialogue course during The Arch 2022 summer session III focusing on dialogue facilitation designed to teach students the necessary skills to prepare for their away experience. The course will be led by Amy Corron, associate director/lecturer for the Archer Center, and Christopher Jeansonne, lecturer for communications and media in HASS.

“Through intergroup dialogue experiences, students will gain the ability to create inclusive classroom communities, reflect on their own social identities, communicate with those who are different from themselves, and commit to enacting change toward social justice,” said Corron.