In the spring of 2019, Cyrus Rad foresaw meeting his commitments as a member of the men’s soccer team and Electrical Engineering student holding him in Raleigh for the summer, but with additional time and a desire contributing to the greater good. Caldwell Fellows Director Janice Odom, learning of her student’s quest, connected Rad to the Office of Outreach and Engagement and the Institute for Emerging Issues who welcomed him as a summer intern for creating spaces for intentional campus conversation across the widening chasms of social difference. IEI’s guiding vision and Rad’s steady leadership discovered eager campus partners. Eighteen months later, a steering committee of staff and faculty support the student volunteers who lead what is now The Campus Conversations Project.
Following research into myriad approaches for civic conversation, Living Room Conversations was adopted as the NC State model. The LRC ‘Conversation Agreements’ set grounding guidelines for civic conversation and their curriculum resources provide a wide range of meaningful topics. Twenty students have become trained CCP facilitators. Through fall 2020, they led 17 virtual conversation events with 340 participants. Topics included: More Curious, Less Furious, Exploring Race & Ethnicity, To Vote or Not to Vote, Police and Community Relations, Alone – Solitude or Isolation, Anxiety and the Election, The American Dream, and Political Bridge Building.
Partnerships/hosts from spring and fall have included Honors and Scholars Village, Caldwell Fellows, NC State Libraries, Campus Republicans, Campus Democrats, Engineering Without Border, VOICE – Veterinarians as One Inclusive Community for Empowerment, Braver Angels, and the Chancellor Leadership Development Program (Shelton Leadership Center).
Committed to the principles of civic conversation, faculty in the Department of Communications provided students in four sections of COM 110, Public Speaking, with a CCP experience. Survey comments from the 77 participants affirmed its value.
“It was a good way to hear different perspectives in a respectful environment.”
“ It is definitely something we need to do more often as people.”
“….especially beneficial in this time of isolation to help build connections.”
The Campus Conversations Project addresses a critical social need and promotes civic engagement as a value of higher education. At the state level, this value is a priority of North Carolina Campus Compact, which has awarded CCP a civic engagement that will fund communication resources to elevate the mission of CCP and the work of its growing cadre of student facilitators and faculty/staff supporters.
To learn more about the Campus Conversations Project and how to become involved, visit our website: https://oe.ncsu.edu/ccp/