Between the Lines helps facilitate discussion on campus identities

Between The Lines,” according to Assistant Director of the Marshall Center for Intercultural Learning Kelsey Andrade, is “an intergroup dialogue program that helps students find a common ground between their experiences.”

Students facilitate these weekly discussions and focus on two social identities as dialogue topics. This semester includes two dialogues, one on race and ethnicity and the other on sexual orientation.

Andrade said that they have been getting a very positive response, and even ended up taking a few extra students who were interested in the program. There are also future plans to build a connection with faculty that would work as a Course Connection. 

Former Intercultural Program Coordinator James Kato, initiated the weekly discussion series eight semesters ago. Andrade said, “I was deemed with the task of working on this program, which I am very excited about.”

Student facilitators include Forrest Sung ’17, Muneeba Syed ’17, Rebecca Suarez ’15 and Kathleen Sawyer ’15.

Dialogues take place every Friday from 12 to 1:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. with small groups of dedicated students.

Students need to sign up ahead of time and undergo an application process to participate.. 

“Students come from all over campus and different backgrounds so it’s a way to bring students who normally wouldn’t interact with each other, to one place to talk about these taboo issues,” Andrade said.

Syed is one of the student facilitators for the dialogue about race and ethnicity. She participated in a dialogue about religion and nationality during her first semester at Wheaton and greatly enjoyed her experience.

“Dialogue dynamic is very different from other group settings where it is one defined group leader and everyone looks to them,” she said. “It’s a very group-oriented activity and it’s not as though we’re the ones in charge; we just keep the conversation going.”

Syed said that the discussions were structured with a lot of flexibility in order to give everyone the opportunity to add their input and further pursue the topics that they are interested in. 

She illustrated some of the complications of such a group by saying that “It’s a walk up the mountain essentially because it’s things that are very personal but it’s interesting to see how people view things differently because of life experiences and backgrounds.”

Syed added that her goal was for people to be happy with their experiences and feel empowered to talk about them with others. “I want them to be able to have that conversation with their friends or while they’re having dinner in Chase. These are things that need to be talked about in a positive way.” She noted that off-campus catering was an added perk of the discussions.

Andrade summarized their mission by saying, “it focuses on building community on the campus and it is a great opportunity for students to explore commonalities within and between different social groups.” 

Syed provided an even more concise summary: “It’s cool,” she said.