On Saturday, Oct. 22, Lawrence will officially begin a new community-focused initiative called Sustained Dialogue (SD) by beginning student moderator training. According to the Sustained Dialogue Institute (SDI), SD is defined as “a systematic, prolonged dialogue among small groups of citizens committed to changing conflicted relationships, ending conflict and building peace.” The goal of training is to offer students the opportunity to gain moderator skills and to identify students interested in leading SD among groups of Lawrence community members.
Internationally, SD has been employed at 40 campuses around the globe, some of which are Lawrence’s peer schools, such as St. Olaf College and Macalester College. At Northwestern University, the training has even been integrated into some academic programs, such as its renowned journalism program.
SD topics are typically identity-focused. Dean of Students Curt Lauderdale cites the past year of identity conflicts at Lawrence as a cause for partnership with SDI. While there are programs at Lawrence like Sankofa Conversations that aim to encourage dialogue about diversity issues, SD offers a unique approach.
The idea behind SD is that injured relationships between community members must be healed in order to have impactful dialogue that ultimately addresses difficult community issues like diversity and inclusion. As a result, SD requires a significant amount of time and attention focused on rebuilding relationships.
SD, as suggested, is a lengthy dialogue occurring in a long series of sessions. During each session, the dialogue continues where it left off in the last session. “Potentially, we are going to bring together a very diverse group, and through getting to know one another and having regular dialogue about a complex topic, the group may agree to take some action on these issues,” Lauderdale said.
Students are able to register for student moderator training by visiting go.lawrence.edu/dialogue. Training will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Attending the training session does not commit a student to participating in the group dialogues.