For the past ten semesters, the intergroup dialogue program ‘Between the Lines’ has created a non-judgmental learning environment. This ten-week program tackles controversial issues with the goal of finding a common ground between different experiences. Topics are rotated each semester and will feature two sections this semester: one dialogue on race/ethnicity and another on religion/spirituality.
The topics for discussion are chosen based on interests that students express when applying for the program. ‘Between the Lines’ is usually capped at 15 students, but the group has had up to 18 students in the past. Participants from any and all backgrounds who are critical thinkers and are interested in becoming more engaged with the Wheaton community are encouraged to apply.
Just as students can apply to be a member of the dialogue group, they can also apply to be one of the facilitators. To be selected for a position as a facilitator, one must have gone through the dialogue as a participant. Facilitators must also complete a training session at the Marshall Center on intergroup dialogue. This year’s facilitators are Justina Ramlakhan ’18, Braden Marstaller ’18, Eli Salazar ’18 and Keyly Martinez ’19.
While participants guide the conversation, facilitators help direct the discussion when tackling sensitive issues. The group meets for an hour every week in order to explore issues with different styles of activities and discussions. To prepare for their dialogue, some students began free writing in their journal last semester.
Previously, ‘Between the Lines’ focused on creating a space where strangers could build trust as they spoke about distinct controversial issues. Now, facilitators also want their participants to become more active and make an impact on campus. Ramlakhan said facilitators are now asking themselves, “What can our participants do with this knowledge moving forward?”