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Inviting Dialogue in Higher Education

Does note-taking on a laptop inhibit classroom discussion and learning? What about the smart phones in students’ pockets during a seminar? In a recent New York Times article, five neurologists went back to nature to discuss whether unplugging from the digital feed could improve attention, learning, and memory. Another approach that fosters deeper learning and promotes more focused, thoughtful exchange of ideas is facilitated dialogue.

Key questions: What does dialogue make possible for college campuses?  Can it teach critical thinking and reflection? Increase opportunities for creative problem solving? Improve civic engagement? Strengthen campuses while supporting opposing viewpoints? We believe it can.

Working with the national Difficult Dialogues Initiative and the Clark University chapter, the Public Conversations Project engaged eighty educators from across the Northeast to discuss the potential for dialogue to help renew the deep purposes of higher education.

Check out this series of blog posts to learn more about this inspiring project covering the conference including reflections from participants, pictures, and video highlights.  We very much hope you will share these resources (feel free to repost on your blog!) and to help us continue the conversation about how dialogue is making a difference in higher education.

For more information, please email Julie Ebin.

AID Announces Issues Analysts Positions

Are you a student writer/activist concerned with global health? Looking for a new beat? Look no further! Americans for Informed Democracy is recruiting student Issue Analysts to monitor and analyze each of the following issues: sexual and reproductive health, malaria, gender, human rights, and HIV/AIDS. One to three analysts will be recruited for each of the issues above.

And remember, applications are also being accepted for Issue Analysts covering the following issues: water, food sovereignty/agriculture, climate change, oil dependence, nuclear non-proliferation, US engagement in Afghanistan and Iraq, US-Muslim relations, US foreign assistance, and the international financial architecture (G8, World Bank, etc.).

Our vision is that every young person in the United States exercises their power to bring about a peaceful, healthy, just and sustainable world. We educate, cultivate and mobilize a network of young people in the US to take informed action around our individual and collective roles as global citizens.


  • Monitor key conversations around the issue, in the media, on listserves, on campus and in the classroom
  • Contribute thoughtful analysis of current debates and their relevance to students in the form of blog posts, video blogs, video essays, etc., to be featured on our website at least twice/month. AIDemocracy staff will help suggest topics to cover
  • Respond to breaking news, serving as a “rapid responder” on critical and timely issues
  • Join debates on the issue taking place online, in print media and elsewhere. This might involve writing op-eds or letters-to-the-editor in newspapers, commenting on blogs or videos, etc.
  • Write at least one article to be featured in an AIDemocracy student journal or other outlets

Skills and qualifications:

  • Strong familiarity with the issue, through coursework, advocacy, volunteering or otherwise. Additional issue training provided!
  • Excellent writing skills, and the ability to write for a variety of formats: blogs, journals, newspapers, etc. Additional writing training provided!
  • Interest in youth engagement on the issues
  • Ability to work independently

You’ll like this position if you:

  • Follow news and debates around these issues
  • Enjoy analyzing issues
  • Like talking to others about issues you care about

Skills you’ll gain:

  • Issue/policy analysis
  • Writing
  • Blogging / Videoblogging
  • Media: new and print media
  • AIDemocracy will offer support and training to Issue Analysts throughout the year, and Analysts will have priority access to regional and national network events

This is a virtual position that can be performed from anywhere. This is a part-time opportunity (approximately 2-3 hours/week). This is an unpaid position, although Issue Analysts will receive numerous training and publication opportunities.

To apply: Please send a resume and cover letter explaining why you’re a good fit for the position to Put the issue you’d like to cover in the email subject line. Applications accepted on a rolling basis. Analysts should start by mid-September. Visit our website.

A Call to Student Leaders across the Nation

By Yasmin Karimian, ADP Intern and Student, UMBC

Edited by Cecilia M. Orphan, National Manager, American Democracy Project

Across the nation, you can find student governments in all types of colleges and universities. Many of us involved in student government have struggled to get our feet on the ground and to make our voices loud enough to be heard. It is time for student governments to see their role as expanding each student’s civic capacity on campus, rather than acting as an entity that simply mimics federal or state governments, bogged down by Robert’s Rule and red tape.

When I enrolled at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), one of the first things that I did was join the Student Government Association. I did this not because I felt that I had to, or because my parents told me to get involved, but because I felt that student government was the logical organization to join if I wanted to affect change on campus. I quickly became deeply connected and learned a great deal about shared governance on campus. Yet it was extremely difficult to create change, unless the SGA were the ones to be the source of funding. At first we blamed the administration, thinking they simply did not want to deal with students. Then we blamed our leadership within student government because they only wanted to beef up their resumes. We also blamed the student body- because they were apathetic; our school newspaper- they were liars; our student events board- they did not actually want students to come to their events; and anyone else we could point our fingers at.

After playing this game for two years, a few members of SGA wondered if it was us that needed to change, not everybody else. Along with another member, I had the opportunity to attend the Civic Agency Institute, sponsored by ADP and the Center for Democracy and Citizenship, where I learned community organizing skills. I began to use these techniques such as one-to-one’s, public evaluations, and in general, a more open, inviting atmosphere. It stopped being a matter of “are you going to make the cut to be in the student government,” but rather “where can you fit in this organization.”

Last year, our membership soared, with over 130 members. Our enthusiasm increased and during our student elections more than 25% of our student body voted, the highest voter turnout in the history of UMBC. More projects are being completed than ever before, in reality-more than I can keep track of. We now work with our fellow students instead of simply for them; breaking out of the “client/service provider” model of politics as usual that Harry Boyte often critiques. Students are even beginning to feel a sense of power and respect. We are no longer seen as the misbehaved children on campus, but legitimate contributors to our campus community and culture. Sure, this is an abbreviated version of the story and there are far more challenges and accomplishments, but I am also sure that now is the time for student leaders to re-envision the function and the ways of student governments across the nation. Imagine a world where we are all seen as creators of our own communities, how absolutely fantastic would that be? Student governments could be the stepping stones to that world.

Our lifetimes have been filled with glimpses of engagement and ownership within our nation. From the aftermath of 9/11 that led to our nation reconnecting with patriotism and community, Hurricane Katrina and the sense of connection with those in need and in struggle, to recently, standing in our student unions, republicans and democrats, watching the first African-American President be elected, and realizing that our country will never be the same. Yet the glimpses only provide a short-lived sense of euphoria and then we slip back into the lack of engagement with the financial and social pressures of our lives taking over. We as student leaders do have the opportunities to empower those around, through example, through calculated thinking and initiatives; we can be the change our society needs.

Questions for you to consider: What are the ways that student’s voices are heard on your campus?

Are students viewed as partners on campus or customers who are there for simply four years?

Are there things happening on your campus that help empower students to see themselves as civic agents?

How might we work together to empower all stakeholders on campus, and especially students, to see themselves as democratic actors and culture creators on campus?

Job Posting: WKU Seeks Dean of the College of Business

Western Kentucky University seeks a dynamic intellectual leader to serve as Dean of the Gordon Ford College of Business.  The Dean is the chief academic and administrative officer of the College and reports to the Provost.  The Gordon Ford College Dean must be an effective advocate for the College in academic settings, an engaged member of the business community, and connector with alumni and donors to the College.

Setting: Western Kentucky University aspires to be among the best comprehensive public institutions in the nation and is deeply committed to diversity throughout the campus community.  It is located in Bowling Green/Warren County, home to nearly 108,650 people.  More than 200 years old, Bowling Green is an attractive and comfortable small city that serves as a regional center for health care, commerce, and cultural life in south-central Kentucky.  The University has 20,712 students on its main campus, at three regional campus sites, and in distance learning.  Student enrollment increased 25% between 2000 and 2010, and campus renovation and new construction projects totaling $402.8 million have been completed since 1998, with $71.1 million currently underway.  The University is currently engaged in its second capital campaign, “A New Century of Spirit,” with a goal of $200 million by 2012.  The Dean will play an active role in cultivating relationships with prospects and donors of the College in order to increase private support and to steward existing gifts.

Ford College: The Gordon Ford College of Business was named for Gordon B. Ford, a 1934 graduate of the Bowling Green College of Commerce and founding partner of a very successful Louisville firm that was acquired by the firm now known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the four largest accounting firms in the world.  The College has been accredited by AACSB since 1982, and the accounting program was awarded separate AACSB accounting accreditation in 2009.  The College’s total endowment is $12,000,000.  With 70 faculty members, including 7 endowed professorships, it has approximately 2,000 undergraduate majors and about 170 students in its graduate programs.  The College has professional, traditional, and on-line MBA options as well as an MA in applied economics. Undergraduate programs include accounting, economics, business economics, business informatics, entrepreneurship, finance, international business, management, marketing, and sales.  The College houses five centers of excellence.  Architectural plans were recently approved for a new building to house the Gordon Ford College of Business.

Qualifications: We seek a visionary, creative leader who shares the College’s commitment to academic excellence; student learning; collegial decision making; and participation in the business community, economic development, and fundraising activities.  Candidates should have the following credentials:

  • An earned doctorate in business and a documented record of achievement that merits a tenured appointment as full professor in the Gordon Ford College of Business
  • Evidence of ability to work with external constituencies to attract financial resources, build partnerships, and promote the College
  • Demonstrated commitment to building a strong learning environment for students that stresses academic quality, student engagement, experiential learning, global perspectives, and the judicious use of innovative delivery strategies, including those involving technology
  • Evidence of successful administrative experience and a participatory management style
  • Evidence of effective interpersonal and communication skills that promote a collegial environment and effective problem solving
  • Thorough knowledge of AACSB Standards of Accreditation
  • Evidence of ability to recruit strong faculty and staff and to support their professional development

Application/Nomination Process:

The Gordon Ford College of Business Dean Search Committee invites letters of nomination, applications (a letter of interest; statement of leadership philosophy; curriculum vitae, and contact information of at least five references) or expressions of interest to be submitted to the search firm assisting Western Kentucky University. Confidential review of materials will begin immediately. It is preferred that all nominations and applications be submitted prior to

October 13th, 2010 to:

Laurie C. Wilder, Senior Vice President

Porsha L. Williams, Principal

Parker Executive Search

Five Concourse Parkway, Suite 2440

Atlanta, GA 30328

770-804-1996 ext: 111

Western Kentucky University is committed to the promotion of regional stewardship and student engagement.

All qualified individuals are encouraged to apply including women, minorities, persons with disabilities, and disabled veterans.

Western Kentucky University is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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