Updated iDialogues program from the IICC begins Sept. 27

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Updated iDialogues program from the IICC begins Sept. 27

Emma Mattson, Assistant Campus Editor

The Fall 2018 iDialogues session, a discussion-based program from the Office of Inclusion Initiatives and Cultural Competence (IICC), begins Sept. 27. This cohort of undergraduate and graduate students will meet weekly for eight weeks to engage in intergroup dialogue on topics related to identity, social justice and diversity.

ReChard Peel, an IICC Program Coordinator, leads this initiative. He traces iDialogues’ history back to 2014 when IICC Assistant Director Greg Fontus attended an Intergroup Dialogue Institute at the University of Michigan. That experience inspired Fontus to start a similar program on Vanderbilt’s campus.

“The impetus was creating a space for students to have some dialogue around really difficult issues and issues that are seemingly divisive,” Peel said.

The program’s curriculum has evolved significantly since it began four years ago. This year each session explores a different aspect of dialogue, such as community conditions, personal backgrounds of participants and the positive and negative results of difficult conversations.

In contrast to prior years, the 2018 iDialogues will culminate in a capstone project that allows students to put into practice the concepts discussed during the eight weeks. Each student will lead a short dialogue session about an issue of their choice. These student-led conversations will form an iDialogues Symposium that is scheduled to take place Thursday, Nov 29. The event will be open to the whole Vanderbilt community.

Peel is excited about the new energy such conversations could bring.

“By creating a dialogue you’re using a lot of those skills [taught in iDialogues] and you’re doing something on campus already,” Peel said. “Rather than proposing something we will hopefully do in the future, it’s doing something actively right now.”

Peel also emphasized that iDialogues advances the IICC’s larger goals. The IICC follows a model called ACCESS, which stands for Advocate, Construct critical dialogue, Cultivate culturally relevant programming, Establish environments of Reprieve, and Strive for strategic success. The iDialogues program corresponds to the first C in ACCESS by initiating crucial dialogue during each session. It also equips participants to begin new conversations in their own spheres of influence, even after the program ends.

That doesn’t mean students need prior experience in diversity work or dialogue to apply.

“Our mission and recruitment for the program is to get a range of perspectives,” Peel said. “We’re not looking for people who already believe they’re experts. We’re looking for people who have a general interest in learning more.”

“Anybody that has that general interest and that general desire to help shape and change the university and society as a whole for the better is more than welcome to be a part of iDialogues,” Peel said.

Applications for the Fall 2018 cohort are currently open and will close this Friday, Sept. 14. Students can learn about the program here and find the application here or on Anchorlink.

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