Knox College's Day of Dialogue is “a transformative opportunity for all of us,” said Yasmine Davila ’20, who helped organize this year's event.
“It won’t always look the same, but I think that's the beauty of it," she added. "Day of Dialogue can be an opportunity for crafting a genuine Knox campus community, a culture of engagement in one another's lived experiences, and a collective effort to communicate across differences.”
The second annual Day of Dialogue took place on October 23. Founded by the Multicultural Student Advisory Council (MSAC), Day of Dialogue has served to create an intentional space for conversations about converging social, political, and religious identities. The day opened with a keynote speaker and featured four dialogues in the afternoon.
Rev. Sam Offer started the day with a presentation titled “Using Our Power to Create Real Change.”
Offer is vice president and senior consultant with the Washington Consulting Group, a multicultural organizational development firm in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been an educator for more than 35 years, and he is a lead facilitator for LeaderShape Inc. and lead faculty for the student experience at the Social Justice Training Institute.
In his keynote address, Offer said that community is vital to the success of any challenging conversation, as it promotes trust and respect between individuals. He explained that people can make use of their privileges rather than their subordinate identities in order to enact social change.
Offer ended with the statement, “Privilege is not a bad thing; the abuse of privilege is a bad thing.”
MSAC leader Davila said that members collaborated as a team with Director of Intercultural Life Tianna Cervantez and others from the Office of Intercultural Life "to make the topics more specific this year while also allowing diverse and inclusive space to speak to a variety of social identities and realities."
Based on feedback from last year’s Day of Dialogue, the 2019 dialogues offered were titled “Playing the Game: The Politics of Emotions,” “The Road Least Traveled: Engaging Sexuality and Religion,” “Textbook Discrimination: Academia and the Un-learning of Oppression,” and “Green Politics: Addressing Layers of Environmental Justice.”
Davila explained how the dialogues are structured. They start with community expectations, and “from there, the dialogue looks different for every group. They are unstructured and flow organically,” she said. “We have traditionally ended with reflection where participants are given small Post-It notes to put up on a large easel paper posted on the wall. They reply anonymously to three prompts: ‘What I am thinking,’ ‘What I am feeling,’ ‘What I am going to do.’ ”
Knox’s annual Fall Institute Day, designed to offer sessions on students’ futures such as studying abroad, graduate school, and information on capstone projects for majors, was also on October 23. Fall Institute and Day of Dialogue sessions were scheduled in a way that allowed students to participate in both events.
Davila said that through the Day of Dialogue she has “discovered, based on the people who have attended in these past two years, that there is a very curious and open spirit to Knox students. A spirit of wanting to engage in conversation with people that are different from them. A spirit of learning new things in a way that is not always easy and straightforward. If we really are a multicultural space, then let’s engage in that community and challenge our desire to conform to a bubble of consistent comfort, familiarity, and relatability.”
The Day of Dialogue was made possible in part by a grant from C. Ray Crain '65.