Internship Spotlight: Samantha Haas
Recent graduate of Conflict Resolution student, Samantha Haas, (MA '16) interned as a summer graduate fellow at the Sustained Dialogue Institute in Washington DC. She worked within the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (SDCN) branch of the organization, which collaborates with college campuses across the country (and world) to set up lasting dialogue-to-action programs around social identity (race, gender, sexuality, social economic status, religion, age, (dis)ability, and political beliefs.) The mission of SDCN is to develop everyday leaders who engage differences as strengths to create more inclusive college campuses.
Haas had previously worked with the Founder of the Sustained Dialogue Institute, Harold Saunders at the Kettering Foundation, where he served as the Director of International Affairs. Previously, Saunders served as Assistant Secretary of State to Henry Kissinger and as a key drafter of the Camp David Peace Accords. Through this work, Saunders conceptualized the multi-stage process of Sustained Dialogue, which focuses on transforming relationships that cause problems, create conflict and block change. He defined dialogue as, "a process of genuine interaction through which human beings listen to each other deeply enough to be changed by what they learn." According to him, dialogue requires the suspension of judgment, deep listening, the identification of assumptions/biases, and continuous reflection and inquiry. He believed that the goal of dialogue is not for participants or moderators to change others, but for participants to allow themselves to be changed through engagement with new ideas, experiences, and people.
As a graduate fellow at SDCN, Haas worked with upper-level staff to develop program materials, conduct research on grant opportunities, and manage communications. Her primary responsibility in program development was to produce resources, such as manuals and dialogue curriculums for university students, faculty, and staff who are hoping to convene and facilitate campus discussions around contentious topics such as race, religion, and politics. This involved continuous consideration of the varying interests, identities, power dynamics, and perceptions that are central to these challenging conversations. She also worked to cultivate new partnerships with college campus leaders interested in establishing a Sustained Dialogue program at their university. To do this, Haas familiarized herself with the diverse range of program offerings, which include stand-alone trainings and skills-based workshops on topics such as inclusive leadership, conflict management, and Trans101, as well as curriculum consultation and moderator trainings.
Haas also contributed to several ongoing initiatives. In collaboration with the President of the Sustained Dialogue Institute, Mark Farr, Haas spearheaded a project that sought to understand how religious seminaries prepare their students to be leaders in community engagement. She contacted advisors and professors at various seminaries across Abrahamic faiths, and conducted interviews with several about how they introduce ideas of community engagement into their curricula, and how they see the impact of seminaries on their communities. She also led an effort to reach out to the ever-expanding group of alumni from the SDCN program across campuses, and assemble a comprehensive database, so that they may better connect with each other and learn about other dialogue opportunities.
To learn more about the Sustained Dialogue Initiative and the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network go to www.sustaineddialogue.org. The website provides further information about the organization, as well as ways to get involved for both volunteers and those seeking careers.