The hardest conversations to have are often the most important. Yet it’s vital to face conflict, communicate across differences, and work through difficult situations. To help students learn how to do that, and make them more employable in the process, SPEA’s Tamra Wright and her Intergroup Dialogue colleagues have developed the intergroup dialogue certificate, IUPUI’s first undergraduate interdisciplinary certificate on campus.
What is intergroup dialogue?
As part of the university’s Welcoming Campus Initiative, representatives from four schools—SPEA, the School of Engineering and Technology, the School of Liberal Arts, and the School of Social Work—teamed up with the Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and the Office of Academic Affairs to create the Intergroup Dialogue (IGD). Its new certificate helps guide conversations between people of different backgrounds, including gender, race, socioeconomic status, cultural background, or any other characteristic that would differentiate one group from another.
Those skills are critical for SPEA students, given the diverse fields many will enter after graduation. Wright, SPEA’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, says the lessons learned throughout the program are invaluable to students’ professional success.
“I think particularly when you look at my class, because it’s about diversity issues in criminal justice, a lot of my students want to be police officers,” she says. “We see such a great emphasis on community policing. This type of class is really helpful for those who want to be police officers and engage communities, specifically communities of color.”
Yet the program extends beyond the halls of SPEA. All IUPUI students are eligible for the certificate. Intergroup dialogue creators say the open access is critical because not all schools on campus specifically focus on diversity in the classroom.
“The certificate allows students to take classes in disciplines outside of their own,” Wright adds. “SPEA offers the Managing Workforce Diversity course, V-443, but the likelihood of an engineering student ever thinking about taking a workforce diversity course in SPEA is low. In pursuing this certificate, they are exposed to that course, to SPEA, and to students within SPEA.”
This cross-campus opportunity paves the way for important cross-sector conversations and training, while equipping students with skills they need for their own future careers.
“A big part of studying intergroup dialogue is asking what employers look for, like ‘Am I employing someone who has good communication skills?'” said Dan Griffith, IGD’s director of conflict resolution and dialogue programs. “And not just communication skills, but being able to work through differences and being confident with relationships; being able to confidently talk about race/gender/whatever without apology and with humility.”
“You don’t go to work in one place and have contact with only the people you know in the same field,” said Corinne Renguette, assistant professor and director of the technical communication program in the School of Engineering and Technology. “You have to have contact with other people, even if it’s within the same organization. It’s good to practice those skills starting now.”
Wright sees the impact these courses could have outside of the workplace.
“One of the things I’m really looking at is better connecting criminal justice and social work, because those are two areas that work with marginalized and underrepresented communities but might see it from very different angles,” she says. “This certificate is a way to have those students come together and have more conversations.”
Earn the certificate
All majors are eligible to pursue the 12-credit hour certificate, which includes four courses:
- Dialogue-intensive general education
- Leadership development and communications on facilitating dialogues
- Social identity and diversity
- Capstone course
To learn more about intergroup dialogue or the certificate, visit igd.iupui.edu. Students can also attend the Inclusion through Dialogue Showcase from noon to 2 p.m. on Sept. 18 in University Hall 2041 to meet with faculty and other students involved in the program, see recorded interviews from previous intergroup dialogue experiences and get a taste of intergroup dialogue by participating in short exercises. Register for the showcase online.
This story produced through a joint partnership with Becky Hart at IU Communications.