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Susquehanna Students to Talk Through Tough Topics

March 29, 2010

SELINSGROVE—Seven student representatives from Susquehanna University’s leadership team attended the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network’s (SDCN) seventh annual national summit March 26-28 in Princeton, N.J.

Susquehanna University recently joined SDCN, a collective of students from more than a dozen U.S. colleges and universities who use small-group discussion to transform campus social tensions and bring their communities together. More than 150 students, administrators and alumni from 12 campuses were expected to attend the national summit, which gathers participants to share best practices within the SDCN framework of exploratory, productive student dialog.

Susquehanna’s nine volunteer student-leaders completed training in February to help them identify stereotypes, resolve conflict, achieve cultural competency and moderate difficult discussions. Upon the group’s return from the national conference, they convened to review their experience and plan recruitment of more student participants in fall 2010, when dialog sessions will begin every other week around a topic of the students’ choosing. The topic and the discussions themselves, which continue for the entire academic year, are kept confidential. Students will share resulting recommendations—for specific action or further exploration—with appropriate campus administrators.

“Sustained Dialogue gives students space to explore historically difficult topics,” said Lisa Scott, special assistant to the president and chief diversity officer, who brought the program to Susquehanna. “There will be hurt feelings, maybe anger, but they get to come back to the topic every session and keep talking.”

Scott says the entire campus community benefits from having students engaged in Sustained Dialogue. “Unlike other student groups, like ski club, for example, the charge for this group is to acquire a skill set of listening, being thoughtful, inviting differences of opinion. They become a resource for mediation, ‘go-to’ people when there are tense times. They have a maturity about issues and the ability to not rush to decisions about goodness. Having young people with that skill set is an asset to any community.”

SDCN is an initiative of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue (IISD), headquartered in Washington, D.C. IISD was founded in 2002 to promote the process of Sustained Dialogue for transforming racial, ethnic and other deep-rooted conflicts in the United States and abroad. SDCN's mission is to train, mentor and connect student leaders who initiate and sustain dialogues to build cohesive, engaged and diverse campus communities across the country.

Founded in 1858, Susquehanna University is a national liberal arts college that prepares students for achievement, leadership and service in a diverse, interconnected world. Academic excellence, study away and service learning, student-faculty collaboration, and rich opportunities for creative and personal growth are hallmarks of a Susquehanna University education. Susquehanna students come from 36 states and 13 countries, and more than 90 percent of them find jobs or pursue graduate study within six months of graduation. The university is located in central Pennsylvania, in the town of Selinsgrove, along the banks of the scenic Susquehanna River and about three hours from major East Coast cultural, financial and recreational centers. For more information, visit www.susqu.edu.


Karen M. Jones

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