Building Inclusive Communities through Dialogues at MSU

***Apply now to participate in the Fall 2018 MSU Dialogues sessions

Why Do We Need Dialogues at MSU?

The need for dialogue across difference is an essential life skill.

  • Employers seek individuals can to work across difference.
  • The best outcomes in public and private spheres emerge when individuals have developed the ability to listen generously, to challenge previously held assumptions, to commit to active listening and dialogue especially when the dialogue is uncomfortable.
  • Genuine human interactions help to nurture understanding and dissipate fear.

People from different backgrounds tend to have difficulty talking to and listening to one another, but meaningful conversations can help people understand and engage across difference.

Dialogues at MSU positions us to be local and national leaders in using a dialogic approach to strengthen our civil society and academic community. We can directly benefit from, as well as model for others, the power of engaging people from different backgrounds, perspectives, identities and world views for the common good.

What is Intercultural Dialogue?

Intercultural dialogue is an interdisciplinary approach that draws upon both cognitive and affective ways of knowing to improve human relationships across different, and often oppositional identities.  Intercultural dialogue is a face-to-face learning experience that brings together people from different identity groups over a sustained period of time to:

  • Understand their commonalities and differences
  • Examine the nature and impact of societal inequalities
  • Explore ways of working together toward greater equality and justice
  • Prepare individuals to live, work and lead in a complex, diverse stratified society

Intercultural dialogue, also called intergroup dialogue, intergroup relations or sustained dialogue, has been employed over the past three decades in various forms for constituencies ranging from college students in a classroom to families around kitchen tables to international conflicts. It is well researched, has a proven track record, and has measurable outcomes. Developing and instituting a sustainable intercultural dialogue program unique to MSU will have significant positive impacts in many domains.

Intercultural dialogue uses a dialogic methodology that moves participants to deeper and more meaningful levels of engagement. Participants in a dialogue benefit from being led through a series of exercises by trained facilitators in a brave space. Intercultural dialogue is designed to enhance participants’ capacities to work with people who are different than themselves. If people know how to dialogue with others who are different from them, they can build inclusive and collaborative communities. 

MSU Dialogues Project 

2017-2018 Dialogue Students

In Spring 2018, the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives launched the MSU Dialogues project, which focused on intercultural dialogues on race. The project included six different race dialogue groups, which met for 90 minutes per week over eight weeks.

MSU Dialogues concluded the semester with a graduating class of 80 undergraduate and graduate students and 16 facilitators. All participants received a certificate of excellence and a lapel pin. Participants also reflected on what they learned during a closing ceremony in April 2018. Read the report on the pilot phase of MSU Dialogues.


  • Plans for the 2018-2019 academic year include:
  • Student-focused MSU Dialogue sessions
    • Dialogues on race - Fall 2018 
    • Dialogues on race and gender - Spring 2019
  • The creation of an MSU Dialogue session for faculty
  • Dialogue 2.0, which will provide returning participants with an opportunity to delve into hot topics with the supervision of trained facilitators 

Complete the MSU Dialogues application if you are interested in participating in the Fall 2018 groups. Please reference your Fall 2018 class schedule when adding your availability in the application. Other notes to remember: 

  • Space is limited.
  • All MSU undergraduate and graduate students may participate.
  • Please sign up by September 5, 2018.  Space filled on a first-come-first-serve basis

For more information, contact Dr. Donna Rich Kaplowitz

MSU Dialogues participants and facilitators, Spring 2018 closing ceremony

What Do Students Learn From MSU Dialogues?

"I have gained communication skills that allow me to talk about hard topics and interrupt bias as I hear it."

"I realized how little interaction I really have with people who are different from me. At the same time, I learned a lot about people are different from me. I also feel I am better able to discuss systems of privilege and oppression now."

"This space provides a needed outlet for people of color and aspiring allies alike."

"This is a transformative, self-reflective experience that helped me develop a greater sensitivity to the oppression that others may face due to their social identities."

"I feel that -- after dialogue -- I will participate in more activities and groups that will introduce me to races other than my own."

 “As a person of color dialogue helped me learn how to be a better ally for others.  I honestly never thought about the work it takes to be a good ally.” - Camille Thomas

Why Should Students Participate in MSU Dialogues? 

"Dialogue changes your perspective, increases your ability to shift perspective and increases empathy."

"MSU Dialogues has changed my life."

"I believe this will help a lot of  people to see different people's perspectives on social and economic issues that they may face in society." 

“Intercultural dialogue made me aware of huge gaps in my knowledge that I had as a result of growing up in a very segregated community.  It not only taught me so much about myself and where I fit into society but also what I can do to help change society for the better.” - Michael Kosuth

“For me, becoming a facilitator gave me a set of skills that help me in so many situations. I now feel comfortable leading discussions, talking about hot-button issues and expressing my opinion while still validating all other opinions.”  - Maris Reid

“In my experience as an African American woman, race is so often talked about that it gets tiring. However, being in a race dialogue is a special place. You get to know more about your own identity, and also learn about the identities of your peers.” - Camri Nelson

“Participating and learning about interracial dialogue have impacted me personally, professionally and socially.  I use the tools I have developed in interracial dialogues in my everyday interactions; I have become more aware of my actions and the interconnectedness of identity and human experience.”  - Elizabeth Beckett 

Pilot Report and Evaluation

The Spring 2018 pilot program was evaluated using a mixed quantitative and qualitative method, combining a Qualtrics-based retrospective pre-post survey (86% response rate) with three focus groups (30% participation rate). Key findings from the pilot report indicate that respondents showed a statistically significant positive change from the pre-dialogue measures to their post-dialogue measures including: 

  • Increased personal awareness about privilege and oppression
    • 27% of respondents indicated they strongly agreed with the statement,“I understand systems of privilege and oppression,” prior to participating in MSU Dialogues, while 65% of respondents strongly agreed after participating in MSU Dialogues.
  • Improved intergroup understanding and relationships across difference.
    • Before participating in MSU Dialogues, 35% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement, “I listen actively to others,” as compared to 89% of respondents after participating in MSU Dialogues.
  • Explored ways of working together and strengthen capacity to create social change.
    • Prior to participating in MSU Dialogues, 9% of students strongly agreed with the statement, “I have developed concrete strategies to work toward greater justice,” while  46% of respondents strongly agreed after participating in MSU Dialogues. 

For more information, contact:

Dr. Donna Rich Kaplowitz
Faculty Associate
Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives
Olds Hall, Room 112
(517) 432-0663