Intergroup Dialogue to start second year

Samantha Wright

In an attempt to encourage dialogue amongst students of a variety of diverse backgrounds, Housing and Residence Life will be taking the helm to lead discussions.

Hosted by HRL, the Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) for the fall semester will start Oct. 6. 

The series is designed to help students become more aware of the world around them by putting students of a majority, such as white students, and students of a minority, such as students of color, in a safe group to discuss issues and challenges. The groups are led by at least two trained facilitators and last for six weeks. The groups for this year are race, gender, sexuality, spirituality, international/domestic issues, socioeconomic status and ableism.

Last year was the first year IGD was held, and Sasha Ross-Gibson, one of the founders of the group and HRL coordinator, said it was an overwhelming success.

“The majority of students said they got something out of it, and they enjoyed that experience,” she said.

This success is what inspired her and HRL to do it again, and she hopes to continue having it each year.

The groups for last year’s program were race, gender, sexuality and spirituality, but after a survey of the past participants, Ross-Gibson said they added the other three groups.

“Those were the top ones we had requested,” she said. “And we had a lot [of people] interested in ability.”

Ross-Gibson said last year’s groups were bigger than a normal IGD because the program received far more interest than anticipated. 

“We’re going to try to limit it down; that’s why we’ve doubled it a little bit,” she said. “For example, we have three different groups for race.”

Ross-Gibson said so many students enjoyed IGD that they wanted to become facilitators for the next year.

Students were not the only ones who wished to become facilitators. Many faculty were also interested.

Kristina Gamble, program coordinator for the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, said she first read about the groups last year as a graduate student.

She said she was glad these groups exist as safe places to talk about important things.

“I wanted to be able to help bring about discussions about uncomfortable topics,” she said.

Gamble originally signed up to be a facilitator for the race group since her studies are in race, but she was assigned to the socioeconomic status group. She said this goes along with getting out of your comfort zone and leading by example.

“We shouldn’t ask our students to do anything we wouldn’t do,” she said. 

She added that while some classrooms address these issues, they aren’t able to go as in depth as IGD, and so these groups offer a fresh take.

“The knowledge and growth that we get from these dialogues are unique from the everyday lessons,” she said. 

Tammy Jeffries, assistant professor of intercultural communication, said she had her students attend the groups last year. Afterwards, they responded so positively that she wanted to be a part of it herself. She went to the training, and after ranking her top choices, she was assigned as a facilitator for the spirituality group.

She added it’s good for students to have prior contact with discussions such as these.

“It’s good to have experience with what some see as difficult conversations to have,” she said.