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Programs & Services

Voices of Discovery: context

(summary by Thomas E. Walker)

Most US campus and community-based intergroup dialogue (IGD) programs are based on extensions to the Contact Hypothesis (Allport, 1979, and others) which holds that the mere presence of multiple social identity groups does not guarantee positive interaction and understanding among them, as was the social scientific basis for the racial integration of the US armed forces, schools and other public institutions. In fact, Social Identity Theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1979) argues that most such social situations are likely to continue pre-existing conflict, competition, ingroup favoritism, etc.

Instead, certain conditions must be intentionally created in "integrated" situations to make positive intergroup relations more likely. Beginning in 1988, faculty and staff at the University of Michigan applied these conditions to create a framework for campus IGD programs:

Contact Hypothesis' positive intergroup contact condition: How IGD meets that condition

  • Extended contact (meaningful personal relationships provide motivation to work at positive interactions): Significant number of hours over multiple weeks.
  • Equal status (numerical and power equity) (inequities in influence between groups, whether implied by numbers or reified in the formal structure of the situation, impede a mutual and comfortable connection): Roughly equal numbers of each group; each group represented in facilitation team.
  • Common Goals (superordinate goals motivate groups to work in common, rather than compete against one another): Cooperative exercises focused on increasing mutual understanding; emphasis on multidirectional education (dialogue)
  • Sanction by authority (often, to begin the process of interaction, groups with histories must be brought together by some authority (external party or internal opinion leaders): This pressure may also hold them to the process when conflict arises.
  • Institutional statements of value; credit from instructor.

Dr Jesús Treviño, former DU Associate Provost for Multicultural Excellence, brought a descendent program to DU in 2002, where Voices of Discovery continues to develop in response to the specific demographics, interests and needs of our campus, and informed by advances in the international field of intergroup relations.

Research on IGD

Beyond their basis in longstanding social science research, intergroup dialogues have been the subject of many programmatic evaluations nd improvements, and focused educational and campus climate impact studies. (See suggested readings below.)

Most significantly, the educational efficacy of the campus model has been studied as part of the "Multi-University Project," based at the University of Michigan, of which our Director was a design/research team member. This W.T. Grant and Ford Foundations-funded project, involved dozens of dialogue groups and hundreds of student participants at nine institutions across the nation over several years. Early analyses of quantitative survey and qualitative interview, video and reflection paper data are providing strong evidence for what positive impact dialogue has as a pedagogy, and how its processes impact critical thinking, communication and collaboration understanding and skills. Conference presentations on the findings have begun; and publications by team members are forthcoming.

Other campus IGD programs include:

Suggested Readings (adapted from Syracuse University program site)

  • Alimo, CJ. (2012). From dialogue to action: The impact of cross-race intergroup dialogue on the development of White college students as racial allies. Equity & Excellence in Education, 45(1), 36-59.
  • Allport, GW. (1979). The nature of prejudice, 25th anniversary edition. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.
  • Cantor, N. (2004). Introduction. In P Gurin, J Lehman, E Lewis, with E Dey, G Gurin, & S Hurtado (Eds.), Defending diversity: Affirmative Action at the University of Michigan (pp. 1-16). Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
  • Gurin, P, Dey EL, Hurtado, S. & Gurin, G. (2002). Diversity and higher education: Theory and impact on educational outcomes. Harvard Educational Review, 72, 330-366.
  • Gurin, P, Nagda, BA & Lopez, G.E. (2004). The benefits of diversity in education for democratic citizenship. Journal of Social Issues, 60, 17-34.
  • *Gurin, P, Nagda, BA & Zúñiga, X. (2013). Dialogue across difference: Practice, theory and research on intergroup dialogue . New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
  • Lopez, GE (2004). Interethnic contact, curriculum, and attitudes in the first year of college. Journal of Social Issues, 60, 75-94.
  • Lopez, GE, Gurin, P & Nagda, BA. (1998). Education and understanding structural causes for group inequalities. Political Psychology, 19, 305-329.
  • Maxwell, KE, Nagda, B. (R.) & Thompson, MC. (2010). Facilitating intergroup dialogues: Bridging differences, catalyzing change. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
  • Nagda, BA, Gurin, P, Sorensen, N & Zúñiga, X. (2009). Evaluating intergroup dialogue: Engaging diversity for personal and social responsibility. Diversity and Democracy, 12, 4-6.
  • Nagda, BA, Gurin, P, Sorensen, N, Gurin-Sands, C & Osuna, SM. (2009). From separate corners to dialogue and action. Race and Social Problems, 1, 45-55.
  • Schoem, D & Hurtado, S (Eds). (2001). Deliberative democracy in school, college, community, and workplace. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
  • Stephan, WG & Stephan, CW. (2001). Improving intergroup relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Stephan, WG & Vogt, WP. (Eds.) (2004). Education programs for improving intergroup relations: Theory, research, and practice. NY: Teachers College Press.
  • Tajfel, H & Turner, J. (1979). An integrative theory of intergroup conflict. In W. G. Austin & S. Worchel (Eds.), The social psychology of intergroup relations (pp. 94-109). Monterey, CA: Brooks-Cole.
  • Tatum, BD. (1997). "Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?" And other conversations about race. NY: Basic Books.
  • Zirkel, S, Lopez, GE & Brown, LM. (Eds.). (2004). The 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education: Interethnic contact and change in education in the 21st century. Journal of Social Issues, 60.
  • Zúñiga, X, Nagda, BA & Sevig, T. (2002). Intergroup dialogues: An educational model for cultivating engagement across differences. Equity & Excellence in Education, 7-17.
  • *Zúñiga, X, Nagda, BA, Chesler, M. & Cytron-Walker, A. (2007). Intergroup dialogue in higher education: Meaningful learning about social justice. ASHE Higher Education Report, 32(4).

*Most recent, comprehensive descriptions of program model on which DU VOD is based.

Inter/National Dialogue organizations

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