According to Ximena Zúñiga, key developer of dialogue programs from University of Michigan, Intergroup Dialogue is a, “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.”
While I’ve been a part of this rapidly growing program on CMU’s campus for a few years now, I still don’t feel like an expert. To be completely honest, I had to do a quick google search to get the official word on how to even explain what intergroup dialogue is. I want to keep this short and sweet, but I feel the need to let the world know how incredible this program is and what it is actively doing on our campus and out in the world.
I could say students, but the effect moves beyond connecting just a few twenty-somethings. The team of faculty and peer facilitators have been working the past few years to implement dialogue everywhere. Through hosting free dinners with open dialogue titled “Conversations that Matter”, and engaging with peers in the classroom, we are working towards invoking transformation in the minds that inhabit this campus. These events are for ANYONE – professors, advisors, students; they are even open to members of the community. The goal is to communicate productively no matter what power dynamics are in play.
The point of dialogue isn’t to radically change the world. Sure it’d be nice, but we are simply here to plant the seed. To demonstrate how peaceful and honest conversations around often tough topics can really do work in self-recognition and societal awareness.
After engaging in such conversations, people (hopefully) leave the space inspired. Participants then use their newfound knowledge to grow in their own ideas, educate others and sometimes, implement real change.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but think of all the times you’ve sat in class not understanding or internalizing a thing. Now imagine a circle of conversation with your peers, a brave space to ask questions and seek clarification. Intergroup Dialogue is waking students up and allowing a space for true education and comprehension.