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The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Dartmouth Dialogue Project partners with StoryCorps

The partnership was launched on April 3 in an event led by President Beilock and StoryCorps president Dave Isay.

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On April 3, the Dartmouth Dialogue Project launched a three-year partnership with StoryCorps One Small Step, a nonprofit that facilitates conversations between people across the political spectrum. 

About 150 people attended Wednesday's event, which was held in Filene Auditorium and led by College President Sian Leah Beilock and StoryCorps president Dave Isay. Isay said StoryCorps is a way to “bring people closer together for authentic conversation” by highlighting the shared lived experiences of those with opposing political beliefs.

The partnership matches students, faculty, staff and alumni with people from different political parties to have recorded conversations led by a StoryCorps facilitator, Isay said. The questions that direct these conversations encourage participants to connect over their personal experiences, he added.

Dartmouth is the first college campus to partner with StoryCorps One Small Step on a campus-wide initiative, Isay said. According to Dartmouth Dialogue Project co-director Kristi Clemens, the program responds to a nationwide “fear of engaging with disagreement” on college campuses. 

“We expect that everybody in our community will engage in dialogue across differences, and we’re going to teach you how to do it,” Clemens said. “The One Small Step partnership is just one way that we’re going to try to infuse this skill-building throughout all pockets of our community.”

Isay said One Small Step will train Dartmouth students to facilitate these one-on-one conversations,  in order to keep those types of conversations on campus  even after the three-year partnership ends.

“This would be the first time that we’ve trained others to be facilitators,” he said. “That shows the faith that we have in Dartmouth students.”

Clemens added that training Dartmouth community members to be StoryCorps One Small Step discussion facilitators will deepen the “skill building” work of the initiative.

“Participating in a conversation is one part of it, but actually doing the facilitation and asking the questions and following that conversation is a skill set,” she said.

In her inaugural address, Beilock highlighted her commitment toward creating “brave spaces” and developing the tools to have difficult conversations on campus.

Isay said the Dartmouth Dialogue Project provides a “fantastic” example of facilitating discussion across a college campus. 

“I think [the Dartmouth Dialogue Project is] visionary,” Isay said. “I think that Dartmouth was ahead of the wave of dysfunction on campuses, and it speaks to the strength of the College, the strength of the leadership and the strength of the student body that Dartmouth is looking for a different way than a lot of other universities.”

Lily Arrom ’25 said she attended the launch event because she had previously heard of StoryCorps in a high school class and was “interested” to learn about its partnership with Dartmouth.

Arrom said she thinks the effectiveness of the program will depend on student engagement and awareness about the opportunity. 

“I think many people have their own tendencies towards cynicism given today’s climate,” she said. “But I want to be more hopeful.”

Clemens added that the Dartmouth community’s response to the Dartmouth Dialogue Project program has been “so positive.” 

“There’s a real hunger for this,” she said. “There’s a desire to engage with each other in a way that’s not just surface level and in a way that’s not just academic, but really to connect with people and to see the humanity.”

Students, faculty, staff and alumni can get involved with Dartmouth’s partnership with StoryCorps One Small Step by filling out their matching questionnaire and signing up to record a conversation by April 22 on the group’s website.

Correction Appended (April 8, 10:43 p.m.): A previous version of this article referred to the Dartmouth Dialogue Project as "Dartmouth Dialogues." While the Dartmouth Dialogue Project is one part of Dartmouth Dialogues, Dartmouth Dialogues is an umbrella term that refers to several initiatives across campus. A previous version of this article also referred to Kristi Clemens as a co-director of Dartmouth Dialogues rather than the Dartmouth Dialogue Project. The article has been updated to distinguish between the two terms.