August 5, 2016

300 volunteers sought for Husker Dialogues

New program designed to start diversity, inclusiveness talks among first-year students

First-year UNL students attending the Husker Dialogues program on Sept. 12 will be asked four questions to start a conversation on diversity and inclusiveness. The four questions are shown above.
Troy Fedderson | University Communications

Troy Fedderson | University Communications
First-year UNL students attending the Husker Dialogues program on Sept. 13 will be asked four questions to start a conversation on diversity and inclusiveness. The four questions are shown above.

Why are conversations about diversity important?

First-year students at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln will delve into that and three other questions as part of Husker Dialogues, a new campus program designed to spark conversations about diversity and inclusiveness.

The program, which replaces UNL’s Mid-Semester Check, is Sept. 13 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts. It will include an address by Chancellor Ronnie Green followed by students breaking down into small groups to discuss the questions.

“The main goal of Husker Dialogues is help our students understand that a dialogue about inclusion and diversity is a key component of their education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln,” said Amy Goodburn, associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. “And, by beginning that dialogue, we hope they continue to educate themselves and seek out opportunities to engage with and learn about other perspectives in and outside of the classroom.”

The Husker Dialogues program grew out of student feedback from Mid-Semester Check and UNL’s commitment to enhancing diversity and inclusion on campus.

Launched in 2005, Mid-Semester Check was an academic support program offered to first-year students at the mid-point of UNL’s fall semester. Designed to serve as a reminder of orientation information provided during New Student Enrollment, it served as a review of academic responsibilities and college/major requirements, while providing information on available advising services.

UNL and its colleges have since created other academic support programs for new students — including First-Year Experience and Transition Programs and First Six Weeks as a Husker — which have reduced the need for the mid-semester workshop.

“Messages presented at Mid-Semester Check are now being delivered to students throughout the start of the academic year,” Goodburn said. “So, we decided to replace it with a new program that highlights UNL’s commitment to inclusion and diversity.”

Husker Dialogues will be offered in two 75-minute sessions; at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 13. Following the address by Chancellor Green, conversation guides will help lead the conversations among groups of 10 to 12 students.

Program organizers are seeking 300 volunteers — faculty, staff and upperclass students — to assist as conversation guides. Each guide will lead a student group to a location, helping start the conversation and direct it or intervene as needed. A training session will be offered to guides prior to the Husker Dialogues event.

“We’re looking for individuals who possess excellent interpersonal communication skills and help with creating a welcoming environment for UNL students,” Goodburn said.

Applications for guides will be accepted through Aug. 19. For more information, click here.

Questions for Husker Dialogues were taken from UNL’s “Dine, Dialogue and Pass it On” program. The diversity program — which uses a deck of playing cards that offer 52 questions on diversity and inclusiveness to start conversations — was inspired by a 2014 lecture by Shelly Tochluk, author of “Witnessing Whiteness: The Need to Talk About Race and How to Do It” with funding provided by an Association of American Colleges and Universities grant.

The cards initial purpose, which was to develop diversity and inclusiveness conversations among UNL faculty staff, has grown.

“It proved very popular, so we ordered several more card decks,” Goodburn said. “We’re now seeing it used regularly among student groups and by faculty in some classes. And, we are adapting it for Husker Dialogues.”

As a supplement to Husker Dialogues, UNL will offer a series of diversity-related programs through the academic year. The events begin with a Bree Newsome talk, “Tearing Hate from the Sky,” on Sept. 1. A list of events is available on the Husker Dialogues website. The events are open to faculty, staff and students.

“Our hope is that Husker Dialogues and these ongoing diversity events reinforce UNL’s commitment to having conversations on diversity and inclusiveness,” Goodburn said. “We also hope that these events encourage faculty, staff and students to continue these conversations in other settings, from classrooms and staff meetings to co-curricular gatherings.”

For more information on the Husker Dialogues program, click here. Husker Dialogues is part of UNL’s ongoing focus on diversity and inclusiveness. For more details on related programming, click here.

Husker Dialogues Questions

The four questions that will be utilized to generate discussions among students participating in UNL’s new Husker Dialogues program are:

  • Why are conversations about diversity important?

  • When was the last time you challenges your assumptions about someone/something different from you?

  • What’s one thing you wish people knew about your identity?

  • Which of your identities are visible? Which are not?

Amy Goodburn
Chancellor Ronnie Green