People in conversation

Inviting Dialogue in Higher Education

Julie Ebin

What roles can dialogue play in higher education? Might it complement technology-oriented, job-training majors? Improve relationships between the dean’s office and student protesters, or striking unions and the president? What about dialogue’s role for physics majors, Latino community members, campus police, and tenure committees?

Patricia Romney, at Inviting Dialogue: Renewing the Deep Purposes of Higher Education, a conference put on by Clark University’s Difficult Dialogues initiative, responds, “I would suggest, in thinking about higher education, that dialogue matters because our mission is to build the intellectual aptitudes and the experience of engagement with others, as well as the affective orientation that fosters the building of a better world, a world in which we finally can get to ‘we.’”

The conference’s eighty participants – faculty, staff, and administrators from higher education institutions, as well as unaffiliated dialogue practitioners – gave consideration to the role of this exciting question. We’re glad to be able to share some of the thought-provoking responses and discussion in a series of blogs. These include footage from Patricia Romney’s keynote, where she analyzes the role of power differentials in dialogues and presents other challenges for the field; a roundup and response to that speech by Public Conversations Project Senior Associate Maggie Herzig; an opening address by Public Conversations Project Program Vice President Dave Joseph, and an overview and photo gallery of the event.

“Why dialogue, why now?" asked Dave. "Because I believe that dialogue offers a countervailing force to cultural forces that are acting to make things quicker, simpler, and clearer – more two-dimensional."

Julie Ebin
Communications Intern, Public Conversations Project