Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Peace and Conflict Studies Program has a new course offering titled “Dialogue and Dialoguing”. The course, which will be offered in the fall, aims to familiarize those interested in conflict resolution with the basics of starting a dialogue and how to successfully sustain a dialogue between parties in conflict.
“Building sustainable peace is all about having a dialogue,” said Professor Harvey Dinsmore, who will teach the class. “It’s really quite sad that at a place like Swarthmore, you have students who can’t start a dialogue, or appreciate its transformative power. It’s really quite a difficult skill to master, the dialogue. I myself have witnessed the speechlessness that often emerges at the negotiating table,” he said.
Fortunately, there is hope for the dialogue-challenged. “Dialogue and Dialoguing” starts from the very basics, focusing on throat and vocal exercises to ensure that students are physically prepared for the challence.
Skye Larson-Cooper-Neilsberg ’11 is one student who plans on taking advantage of the new course. “Dialogue is so important, and I really don’t feel like I’m where I should be with my abilities,” she said. “It’s really exciting that there’s this new course that’s really going to empower us to fix these global problems that just aren’t getting resolved. I’m just really ready to clear my throat and start seeing these issues in a new light”
Professor Dinsmore plans utilize role-play in the classroom in order to bring different conflicts alive.
“Role-play is such a powerful tool for dialogue. It requires a lot of physical energy and letting go of vulnerability on the part of the students, but in my experience, students have found it to be a truly gratifying experience,” he said.
The skills that students learn in “Dialogue and Dialoguing” will extend beyond the classroom, as students prepare their final paper: an analysis of a selected conflict and presentation of a viable solution to the United Nations Inter-governmental Authority on Dialogue.
“I’ve laid it [the course] out in a way that’s very practical and accessible for the students,” Professor Dinsmore said. “By the end of the course, students will have presented a comprehensive solution using dialogue for selected conflicts such as Israel and Palestine, Colombia, and Darfur. We’re hoping these solutions will get to mediators on the ground as a fresh perspective on the art of the dialogue.”