The A Different Dialogue Program is a unique bridge program that allows identity development to flourish within the academic sphere. The program allows faculty, staff, and students to work collaboratively to develop a greater understanding of identity and inclusion.

Find out more about the experiences of A Different Dialogue by clicking below.

“I am now more confident that the experiences that form my identity are legitimate. I am able to understand this by hearing other people talking about their life.”

— Student Participant Spring 2017

Walking into dialogue for the first time, admittedly, I felt as though I had walked into the opening scene of the classic 80s movie The Breakfast Club. Except there were six of us, not five, and we weren’t just from different high school social cliques. We spanned pretty much every social group you could imagine in regard to race, ethnicity, gender, and class. And we weren’t just meeting by happenstance in detention on a Saturday afternoon. We were meeting deliberately for six sessions of deep, difficult discussion.  

I sat down, bracing myself, pen in hand, prepared to speak only in accordance with my notes on the readings. But I quickly realized this wouldn’t be that kind of class — the kind of class where you simply identify the author’s argument, recite it, and hope for praise, that is. This was the kind of class where you had to take a stance, and I was immediately uncomfortable. Stand on the yes or the no side of the room. Step in or out of the circle. There was no hiding in dialogue, and while I feared this at first and strived to maintain political correctness at all times, the atmosphere of open communication, awareness, and growth we built from the onset inspired me to dig deeper and look forward to the weekly sessions.

The revelations really began with the “Where I am from” poems. I was nervous reading mine aloud, worried about what others in the room might think. It was a series of contrasts but tied into my identity of being from New Orleans. It began: I am from po’boys. From fried oysters and French bread. I am from the converted car garage (chalk dusted, beet red, it smelled of rust and resilience.). I’m from Big Mac and Little Mac and Jimmy Mac. From pickup truck swimming pools, tangled trout lines, and the taste of saltwater on the Alliash.

As I continued to read, I felt vulnerable and exposed, worried that I had over-shared. Yet, those same sentiments were echoed in the voices around me, and I soon felt instead of the support and warmth of the applause and affirmation after each member took their turn. No story was stereotypical, and no story was expected. It was powerful checking judgment, inhibitions, and fears at the door and watching a room full of strangers grow in trust and solidarity, as we listened to gain understanding, not advantage.

For some, speaking in the class came naturally. Their voices were rhythmic and revelational but never rehearsed. For others, it was a gradual process that took courage, which made the words they spoke all the more valuable. But for all, the vulnerability was learned, and so was laughter, as we revealed layers of ourselves. Uncensored by societal norms, we had honest conversations about every taboo topic we could think of, including but not limited to, race, gender, class, political views, privilege, and interracial relationships. We confronted our own biases and prejudices in big groups and small, stereotyping others and ourselves, stepping in and out of circles, owning the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sitting in silence at moments when tough questions were asked was sometimes awkward, even painfully so, but experiencing this discomfort was also transformative.  

Leaving dialogue and reflecting on the experience, I’m reminded of the ending monologue from The Breakfast Club: It is too easy to see people in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions, so I wonder what happens once the class is over? Will the progress we’ve made be forgotten or will it stay with us?  Will we forget each other’s names, each other’s stories? Will we forget the promises we made to ourselves and lose our resolve to stay woke, take action, and fight oppression? Engaging differences for a few weeks is hard. Continuing to do so unprompted for a lifetime is even harder, but it’s not impossible, and I’m confident that we will all be able to do so.

Allison MacPhaille, COL ’18

I hoped to find a welcoming, brave space for all participants to expand their horizons and become exposed to different perspectives. A Different Dialogue surpassed all of my hopes and expectations, providing a valuable opportunity to bring together a diverse group of students not only seeking to learn but to understand one another. Through co-facilitating the group bonding, sharing, and navigating conflict, I grew to understand more about the participants, my co-facilitator, and myself. My experience co-facilitating A Different Dialogue was more than positive, it was significant to my personal development. I believe that participating in or co-facilitating A Different Dialogue would be beneficial for any and all Georgetown students.

– SuSu Zhao, COL’, 2019

Mena and Susu, peer-facilitators of A Different Dialogue

Being a peer co-facilitator for A Different Dialogue has taught me the key skills of group facilitation, conflict management, and leadership. I have been able to immerse myself in the intricacies of my topic, Nationality, Origin, and Status, and address pressing issues such as immigration policy, statelessness, and the privileges of citizenship. In a time of so much political animosity, A Different Dialogue reflects the value of creating spaces where all opinions and experiences can be shared. Our participants felt that their voices were heard and together we worked to build common ground. I have learned so much about my own ability to resolve conflicts and to introduce my peers to new perspectives. Co-facilitating has truly been a valuable experience in community-building, diversity education, and intergroup dialogue!

– Mena Mohamed, SFS, 2020

Watch reflections of past A Different Dialogue staff facilitators.