Announcing the Dialogue Project

The Dialogue Project will provide our Arts and Sciences community with training in essential collaborative dialogue skills.

Dear colleagues,

Following up on President Sian Leah Beilock's earlier message announcing Dartmouth Dialogues, I am thrilled today to launch the Dialogue Project, a multifaceted new initiative that will provide our Arts and Sciences community with training in essential collaborative dialogue skills.

Solving the world's most pressing challenges hinges on our ability to understand and discuss viewpoints different from our own. And in our polarized world, these skills are essential to mental health, belonging, and well-being. 

As President Beilock said in her message, engaging in constructive dialogue takes practice, intention, and modeling from experts. This is what the Dialogue Project aims to do.

Our society is at a critical moment when we seem to have lost the ability—and the will—to listen to and understand perspectives beyond our own. Dialogue enables us to recognize and build upon our shared humanity. At Dartmouth, the strength of our community depends on actively creating an inclusive culture where thoughtful discussion and debate thrive. 

The Dialogue Project currently features four primary components: a special topic series, the first of which is Middle East Dialogues, encompassing courses and events related to timely challenging issues; workshops where faculty, staff, and students can actively practice the skills of collaborative dialogue, such as empathetic listening, managing emotions, and finding points of connection; guest speakers on campus who model and specialize in dialogue-related skills; and the first-ever university partnership with StoryCorps, which forges new bonds of connection and trust between strangers with different perspectives.  

It brings me great pleasure to share that Kristi Clemens, assistant vice president, serves as the Dialogue Project's director of student and staff initiatives. Kristi brings over 20 years of experience in student affairs to this role as well as influential scholarship on creating "brave spaces" for dialogues about social issues in academic contexts.

Our Steering Committee includes faculty, staff, and student representatives from units across campus, including the Leslie Center for the Humanities, Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, Student Wellness Center, Dartmouth Political Union, Office of Pluralism and Leadership, Human Resources, and Dartmouth's residential house system.

Building on their decades-long partnership and this past fall's remarkably successful forums, our Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies programs are leading the Middle East Dialogues, with a focus on the current crisis. This encompasses expanded and new courses, public speaker series, and other programming that will engage our community in trying to understand this complex situation and even consider potential long-term solutions. I am deeply grateful to department chairs Susannah Heschel and Tarek El-Ariss for their extraordinary leadership. 

We are also pleased to collaborate with the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning and Student Wellness Center on upcoming workshops for faculty and staff. DCAL will lead sessions on handling difficult conversations in the classroom on Jan.16 and April 5. Student Wellness Center Director Caitlin Barthelmes, a member of our Steering Committee, will facilitate workshops this spring and summer on Motivational Interviewing—an evidence-based approach in which two people work collaboratively towards a shared goal that increases connection and empowerment. 

Finally, I am excited to share that Marc Brackett, founding director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and bestselling author, will serve as the Dialogue Project's inaugural guest speaker. Schools, governments, and corporations around the world have benefitted from Marc's science-based approach to understanding and managing emotions. Marc will deliver a public lecture at Filene Auditorium on Friday, Jan. 26, at 3:45 p.m. and he will also lead special sessions for our house communities and Dartmouth's senior leadership team. 

I invite you to learn more about the Dialogue Project's mission, values, and timeline.  

Dartmouth offers an ideal ecosystem for this vitally important work. By cultivating the continuous practice of dialogue skills, we will empower our community to create positive, lasting change on our campus and far beyond. 

With best wishes,

Elizabeth F. Smith
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences