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Community Dialogue thrives under new format to discuss concerns

Students and administrators find success in a new way of organizing their conversation
Dean of students, Todd Adams, and Katherine Conte from ASG. Photo by David Lee/The Daily Northwestern

A student-led effort to rethink Northwestern University’s Community Dialogue sessions led to a new format for the ongoing discussion series and a collaborative list of new recommendations.

Students and administrators worked together at the Winter Quarter Community Dialogue, held Wednesday (Feb. 27) at Foster-Walker Dining Hall, tackling tough issues in small groups designed to more deeply explore students’ concerns and ideas. Unlike previous Dialogues, which were less structured, the new format centered around four themes: academics, campus life, student well-being and activities.

"The students came to us, and wanted to create a different way to bring more dialogue in this space so that we could make real progress together,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin. “In the end, the students were right, and we appreciate the spirit of collaboration with which they approached us. It was a true partnership." 

President Morton Schapiro, Provost Jonathan Holloway, Dean of Students Todd Adams and Associate Provost and Chief Diversity Officer Jabbar Bennett all attended.

“We discussed topics that were provided by the students and made sure their voices were heard,” Bennett said. “The whole process, since its inception, has emphasized student ownership.”

The Dialogue was sponsored by Associated Student Government (ASG), Quest+, the Division of Student Affairs and the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. Groups discussed issues such as mental health and wellness, student leadership challenges and the work-study experience.

Agneska Bloch, ASG’s vice president of academics, and Madisen Hursey, co-president, Northwestern Quest Scholars Network, helped lead the session. 

“The Community Dialogue offered students and senior leaders from academic and student affairs the opportunity to discuss important topics of mutual interest,” Todd Adams said.

“Quest Scholars and ASG did a wonderful job hosting and coordinating a productive event, where many thoughtful ideas were shared. I look forward to working with the students and administrators alike as we take many of these ideas into actionable steps.”

In one group, Katherine Conte, ASG’s vice president of analytics and a second-year student at Weinberg, said some student leaders face challenges, especially if they are the first in their families to go to college.

Priorities for them, Conte said, include “finding a way to fund student leaders and the work they’re doing for this university.” She added, “Many of these students are students of color, low-income and middle-income students.”

Recommendations from each breakout group will be reviewed by Telles-Irvin and Bennett, among others.