New program aims to increase student interaction, improve campus climate

Sustained Dialogue Campus Network logoA national student dialogue program designed to enhance student engagement, promote cross-cultural dialogue and make a positive impact on campus is set to begin on the Case Western Reserve University campus next month.

The Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity (OIDEO) will operate a one-year pilot of the national Sustained Dialogue Campus Network program. Under the program, participants will meet regularly to discuss diversity and inclusion issues and campus issues of concern.

Dialogue groups will be encouraged to identify a campus challenge or issue of concern and provide recommendations for resolving it. Groups then will have the opportunity to present their recommendations to university leadership.

“As our student body becomes more diverse, it is imperative that we provide students with the skills they need to interact comfortably with individuals from various backgrounds,” said Marilyn S. Mobley, vice president for inclusion, diversity and equal opportunity. “The Sustained Dialogue program will provide students with these skills—skills that will benefit them at CWRU and beyond.”

Lou Stark, vice president for student affairs, said of the program: “I especially like the fact that under Sustained Dialogue, students serve as trained moderators for student dialogue groups. Through their discussions, these student groups will have the opportunity to impact the student experience by making recommendations on ways to continue improving campus climate and the overall student experience. I am pleased that we are able to pilot this innovative program.”

The program will launch with three dialogue groups—two student groups and one made up of faculty and staff members. Each group will consist of 10 to 15 participants.

A kickoff event is planned for early February for dialogue participants and others interested in the campuswide program. Dialogue groups are scheduled to begin meeting the week of Feb. 10 and will meet weekly until the week of April 7.

To apply to participant in one of the dialogue groups, complete the online application at The website also provides additional information about the program.

In preparation for the Sustained Dialogue program, a two-day training session will be held Feb. 1-2 for dialogue moderators, advisers and participants. In addition, faculty, staff and students interested in learning more about the program or dialogue techniques to possibly incorporate techniques into the classroom or existing campus programs are also invited to attend the training. The training is free, but registration is required. To register, send your name, title and email to

Since last semester, students and staff from Student Affairs and OIDEO have been meeting regularly to prepare for the upcoming Sustained Dialogue program. The mission of the CWRU program is to “engage members of the CWRU community in dialogues that cultivate strong, trusting relationships, which foster respect for each individual and their ability to contribute to positive change.”  The planning committee has begun a campuswide recruitment effort to educate people about Sustained Dialogue and to recruit participants. The committee is co-chaired by Janetta M. Hammock, OIDEO program manager, and Naomi Sigg, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs.

“Sustained Dialogue is a nationally recognized program which is currently operated at a number of universities across the country, “Mobley said. “The feedback from these institutions has been overwhelmingly positive, so I’m pleased we have the opportunity to ‘test drive’ this program at CWRU to determine if it is appropriate for our campus and our students.”

The Sustained Dialogue Campus Network is an initiative of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The mission of the national program is to “develop everyday leaders who engage differences as strengths to improve campuses, workplaces, and communities.”

Sustained Dialogue programs exist on 13 college campuses across the country, including Harvard University, Northwestern University, the University of Virginia and, locally, Cuyahoga Community College.

For more information about the national program and to view videos from student participants from other college campuses, visit

For more information about the CWRU pilot program or to apply to the program, visit or contact committee co-chairs Sigg ( or Hammock (