Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) started at Knox only two years ago, but it has quickly flourished into a multi-level program which introduces students to dialogue, trains them as facilitators and then gives them the opportunity to lead a group of their peers with faculty advisors assisting them outside the classroom setting.
However, as it stands, students can only gain diversity credits for the class. Students and professors involved in intergroup dialogue are pressing to expand the program.
“Right now it is not connected with any particular major or minor requirements,” Assistant Professor of Sociology Gabrielle Raley said. “There has been a lot of talk. I mean, we have a lot of students interested in a Social Justice Minor [who] have ended up taking a lot of intergroup dialogue classes.”
Raley, who has led the introduction of IGD to Knox along with Chair of American Studies Catherine Denial, believes that the intergroup dialogue has a lot to add to a Knox education.
“People have taken facilitation classes or just been a participant in the dialogue before, have come back to us and said like ‘Hey, I used these techniques on my job this summer or I worked with a club I was involved in,’” Raley said. “So it’s sort of a set of skills that you can just really transfer and work with in your everyday life once you have them.”
Junior Mary Houlihan is currently in the facilitator training class and hopes to lead her own facilitation group in the fall on the issue of class.
“It’s been challenging in an extremely positive way,” Houlihan said. “In the fall, after taking [Gender Beyond Binaries] I felt like I had grown more in that term than I had in the past two years at Knox.”
Houlihan stated that she hoped IGD would become its own department on campus and emphasized that each time she participated in a dialogue she gained something new.
Discussing the “Gender Beyond Binaries” class facilitated last fall by two students, Raley said, “We had a great and active class. A lot of deep introspection of the issues, and people came out of that class who were just participants interested in doing that facilitator training. We also take that as a really good sign.”
Raley believed it was the first intergroup dialogue on the topic of gender outside of male/female in the nation.
For each of the dialogues, the co-facilitators represent both the agent-group and someone from the target identity. In the case of the gender dialogue, they aimed to have someone who was cisgender and someone who was not, respectively, to lead the dialogue.
Next year, religion and class dialogues are planned, both firsts for the college, set for fall and spring. Raley hopes to add in another during Winter Term. The students and faculty advisors have also considered studying the topics of ableism, neurotypicality, mental illness, citizenship and sexuality.
“We keep having to develop these new syllabi, which is intensive but also really awesome,” Raley said, and she hopes students will take the initiative to create dialogues focused on their topics of interest.
The Center for Intercultural Life (CIL) has also hosted in a non-academic setting with sororities and fraternities as well also outsider groups.
However, the dialogue courses do have some difficulty reaching to all parts of campus.
“We do have a lot of history and social science students,” Raley said. “We have had students who are sort of SMC-based, but we would like more of them.” She noted that students interested in Health Studies and Pre-Med are now expected to gain training in intercultural communication and could also benefit from the dialogues.
While there has been talk of incorporating dialogue into Freshman Preceptorial, Raley stated that interest had to be shown from the faculty before that could happen. She did note that roughly 70 percent of faculty have gone through dialogue training at this point and have basic experience with it.
“To say that it’s a learning experience isn’t enough,” Houlihan said. “It’s an experience where I am consistently needing to grow … If you’re up for pushing yourself and trying to make yourself a better person, then that’s why I think dialogue is great.”
In her future, Houlihan hopes to take what she has learned and apply it to her interests in arts management, such as working with underprivileged communities and creating a positive change wherever she might end up.