Sixteen students—only half of those who applied—were accepted for Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) for the spring semester. The program consists of seven two-hour sessions during which students discuss issues surrounding race and identity. 

Associate Dean of Students for Diversity and Inclusion Leana Amáez said that the reasoning behind not accepting all applicants hinges on a need for small groups, which are more conducive to having in-depth conversations.

“Not every student jumps on public speaking, and so for students that really hang back and wait it gets harder and harder to find your way into the dialogue if there are too many people in the room,” she said.

When IGD began in 2014, only one group of students participated in the program. Since two groups of students participated during the fall semester, this academic year will see three groups of students go through the program. Amáez said that an increase in the number of faculty, staff and administrators trained to lead these conversations allows the College to run more groups. 

At the end of the program, participants have the chance to decide if they want to undertake another four-hour training session and become certified to facilitate conversations for other groups on campus, such as athletic teams or College House members.

Esther Nunoo ’17 took part in IGD during the fall of 2014, and remembers the program as a safe and positive environment to have uncomfortable conversations.

“I think what I appreciated about it the most was that before they sent us out to facilitate discussions, it made me uncomfortable on many different levels, which is something that I didn’t expect to happen to the extent that it did, because I like having hard conversations.  So I like that it put us through that,” Nunoo said.

However, Nunoo believes that not all students who go through the program should end up as facilitators, a sentiment that Dean Amáez echoed.

“I think that the expectation seemed to be that they had to facilitate, and I don’t want students to sign up just because they really like to be facilitators and leaders,” Amáez said.  “I want some students who really do, and I want some students to sign up just because they want to be part of a seven-week dialogue on race.”

Looking to the future, Amáez hopes to increase the number of conversations led by students who have completed IGD. Although the program has had no problems finding applicants, she believes that more can be done to encourage student groups to take advantage of trained facilitators in single-session workshops.

“Part of that is thinking about how we do some outreach to groups to let them know that these workshops are available and that this is what you do to sign up for a workshop and this what it would look like,” she said. 

She also sees the role of IGD as something that might change going forward and believes the program’s format can be used to help students have meaningful conversations focused on issues other than race and identity.

“I think there’s a lot of potential to use [the IGD] model for other things,” she said. “We consistently hear from students that we don’t talk enough about class.”