The Center for Civic Learning and Action (CCLA) is excited to announce that former Dickinson student, Lily Gage (class of 2023) has joined the Dialogues Across Differences program, as the first Dialogist in Residence. This compelling new program has been funded by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations through the generous grant of $276,296 for a three-year facilitated program across campus for teaching, engaging, and reflecting on civil dialogues across campus, and how these conversations can be used as a catalyst for change.
Gage has engaged in dialogue facilitation since they were a teenager; in high school they worked with a program named Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), in which they facilitated conversations for students and parents about what healthy and unhealthy romantic relationships look like. At Dickinson, they worked for the Office of LGBTQ Services as a Training & Education Pride Coordinator in which their main responsibility was conducting RAISE (Red Devils Advocating for Inclusive Spaces for Everyone) Trainings. They also facilitated conversations for students, faculty, staff and administration about different aspects of LGBTQ identities, the struggles that LGBTQ college students and citizens face in the United States and exploring our personal biases.
Through their work at CCLA, Gage plans to foster and maintain connections both among the Dickinson community and between Dickinson’s campus and the Carlisle community. As a student, they noticed some town-gown tensions and believes “it is incredibly important to maintain healthy and supportive relationships with the Carlisle community; both Dickinson students and Carlisle residents contribute to and benefit from living in Carlisle, and strengthening relationships with the local community will only make Carlisle a more well-supported and thriving environment and will benefit everyone involved.”
The program that Gage will be leading as the Dialogist in Residence (DIR) is Dialogues across Differences, formerly known as Civil Dialogues. This is a program designed to create community agreements, expectations, and ask questions that seek to build understanding, rather than operating from a place of fear. It is important to foster trust and listen carefully—especially when there is disagreement. A crucial part of the DIR position is to connect and expand the dialogue across campus and our community as a whole on the important conversations that help shape how Dickinson as a community moves forward in a transformative and effective way to connect and understand.
As a DIR, Gage will recruit, train, support, and evaluate a cohort of 10-15 paid student employees called Civic Dialogue Facilitators. After the training of these students is complete, it will be the DIR’s responsibility to coordinate the planning and evaluation committees to ensure that the dialogues are effective and meaningful, and to support the student facilitators to enact programs with campus and community groups. The Dialogues Across Differences Program, at its core, is about connection and conversation. As Dialogist in Residence, Gage will work closely with campus, community partners and outreach groups, the staff and faculty at the Center for Civic Learning and Action (CCLA), and their counterparts at the Clarke Forum for Contemporary Issues to intertwine the Dialogues Across Difference program into new and existing initiatives.
Gage looks forward to taking on this important role as the DIR, and is “excited to continue fostering an interconnected, open-minded and united campus.” As a former student, and very recent graduate, of Dickinson, Gage is uniquely aware of the aspects of campus life that individuals from outside of Dickinson may not be aware of. While they never noticed any extreme tensions on campus, they are passionate about creating a more interconnected Dickinson community, and Carlisle community in general. Something that Gage wants people to understand about this program is that “it is not about debate nor trying to convince someone to ‘join your side’. Our country has become extremely polarized, and the intention of this program is to communicate productively across difficult topics. Finding common ground between two sides of a tension is one of the first steps to creating a more empathetic and democratic society”.
The Dickinson community and CCLA are excited to see how Gage takes on this role and truly makes it into a tool to help transform and better our campus, community, and students. The Dialogues Across Differences program is a crucial step in the right direction of creating spaces and conversations on our cultures most prominent and controversial issues, and through it will create positive change and understanding across the increasing prominent and problematic divides that hinder our ability as a community to come together for good.