“World Café” Intergroup Dialogue Bridges Campus Gaps

Students, staff and faculty met in the O’Connor Campus Center media room for “We’re All Different. Now What?,” the final session in the semester-long “Colgate Conversations” on Tuesday, October 22.

Lead by Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies Meika Loe and Assistant Director of Residential Life Chimebere Nwaoduh, the session aimed to provoke discussions about topics often ignored on Colgate’s Campus.

The event was presented as an Intergroup Dialogue (IGD), described in the event description as “a method of inquiry that promotes active listening and constructive dialogue around difficult topics such as race, gender, sexuality, ability and other important issues.” This IGD utilized a shortened World Café model; whereby participants are split into small groups and encouraged to discuss and brainstorm a particular topic. Topics at this session included mental health, ability, age, race and sexuality.

These groups met for ten minutes before all but one split and moved onto another topic. The remaining participant stayed, acting as a host and continuing the conversation on their topic with a new group. After three rotations, all participants convened to recap their groups’ discussions.

Junior Samantha Cronston said she enjoyed her experience with the World Café model.

“I thought it was a great experience. It was cool being able to talk about those topics in such an informal setting and have a discussion with people who I didn’t really know,” Cronston said. “I was surprised with the high level of engagement from everyone and I can see myself attending similar events in the future.”

The World Café discussion had a wide range of participants, with contributors including Colgate professors, Campus Safety Officers, representatives of Residential Life and students.

Visual Resources Curator Lesley Chapman, who played a major role in the hosting of the event, said that drawing in faculty and staff was a major goal of the event.

“So many Brown Bags are really focused towards one population. As a staff member I don’t see a whole lot of stuff that’s open to staff so much,” Chapman said. “[It’s] not that staff aren’t [invited] but that it’s more difficult to get to them.”

The meeting was set to promote the discussion of important social topics not just within student and faculty groups, but between them. It was discussed that students don’t frequently have direct conversations with faculty and staff about topics such as these, and through the exercise each participant was able to add their unique perspective on Colgate’s handling of different issues. Junior Louisa Gould voiced her interest in the continuation of the series.

“I think open dialogues like this are very important and should be happening more often not only between students but along among faculty and students outside of the classroom setting,” Gould said.

Overall, “We’re All Different, Now What?” allowed each participant to voice their own unique concerns and experiences with many important issues that hold a strong sway over everyday life on Colgate’s Campus. The Colgate Conversations series will be resuming in the spring semester.

Contact Henry Claudy at [email protected].