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MU Hosts Nine Universities for Difficult Dialogues Summer Institute

June 10, 2009

Story Contact:  Jeffrey Beeson, (573) 882-9144,

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Created in response to reports by the Ford Foundation of growing intolerance at colleges and universities, the University of Missouri will host a summer institute June 12-15 to teach faculty and staff from MU and nine participating universities how to implement a Difficult Dialogues program.

"The MU Difficult Dialogues Summer Institute is an opportunity for campuses to bring together groups of senior campus leaders to work together toward the creation of faculty development programs that foster, assess, and improve difficult dialogues within classrooms, departments and campus-wide," said Roger Worthington, MU's Chief Diversity Officer. "Ultimately, our vision is to equip a new generation of college graduates with the capacity to engage in public discourse about sensitive subjects that will lead to more effective communication, problem-solving and citizenship."

The summer institute will concentrate on training team leaders to stimulate rigorous intellectual inquiry and to empower faculty, staff and students to express opposing views in the classroom and campus community. Participants will focus on:

  • Capacity-building strategies for campus-wide difficult dialogues programs.
  • Methods and techniques to create, enhance and assess the effectiveness of faculty development and interactive theater programs.
  • Foundational content areas necessary for the implementation of successful difficult dialogues faculty development programs.

"The Mizzou Difficult Dialogues program, one of very few that has been renewed by the Ford Foundation for a second round of funding, has provided welcome examples of creativity and innovation in addressing campus tensions and conflicts," said Robert O'Neil, national director of the Difficult Dialogues Initiative. "In these and other ways, the Mizzou program has set an admirable example for the rest of the country."

MU has already trained more than 200 faculty and graduate students to facilitate college communities in conversations about controversial and diversity issues. This year's summer institute, which was planned by MU with collaborators from the University of Alaska at Anchorage and the University of Texas at Austin, will also feature faculty and staff from Baylor University, Iowa State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, University of Kansas and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.