North Central College trains Naperville campus leaders in productive dialogue

  • North Central College in Naperville has received a Working Across Differences Fund grant from Ashoka U and is using the money to train campus community members how to facilitate productive dialogue -- even about polarizing topics.

      North Central College in Naperville has received a Working Across Differences Fund grant from Ashoka U and is using the money to train campus community members how to facilitate productive dialogue -- even about polarizing topics. Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer May 2016

 
 
Updated 10/24/2019 7:18 PM

A grant that puts Naperville's North Central College in the same category as Duke University and four other prestigious schools is helping the college train leaders to facilitate productive dialogue -- even about polarizing topics.

The college has received a Working Across Differences Fund grant from Ashoka U, a group that helps colleges and universities promote a culture of social innovation. The grant is supporting the Reclaiming Civility Project, which aims to train North Central students, staff and faculty members on how to moderate a productive exchange.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Stephania Rodriguez, North Central's assistant director for multicultural affairs, is leading the project, which began with a two-day training in September.

During that training, Rodriguez said, 40 students and employees learned from consultant Essential Partners a strategy to start a constructive dialogue that focuses on setting expectations through a community agreement and allowing people time to think critically before responding.

The next step is to take what leaders learned from Essential Partners and personalize it to be spread among more people on campus. That way they can learn to keep discussions on-topic and civil, whether in a classroom, a special-interest program, campuswide event or a student organization meeting.

"Our goal is to create some sort of training for our own campus community that's geared toward North Central College," Rodriguez said. "Our values in terms of diversity and inclusion and really just trying to help provide the skills to have dialogue in whatever setting."

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A training tool kit the college plans to develop will include a sample of a community agreement, a script for facilitators to use to get events started and examples of discussion questions, Rodriguez said.

The grant from Ashoka U also is sponsoring a movie club that will show a film followed by a facilitated dialogue once or twice each semester.

The first of these film occasions is set for Monday, co-sponsored by the Black Student Association. Students and others involved with the campus will watch the documentary "13th," then discuss issues of race and incarceration.

The $10,000 grant comes a year after Ashoka U named North Central College a Changemaker Campus. The designation acknowledges the college's "strong curriculum, robust cocurricular offerings, committed leadership and operational excellence," North Central said in a news release.

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