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Fostering a Culture of Civility, Equity and Inclusion

Landis House

Three-year gift promotes impactful student programs

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

President John E. Jones III ’77, P’11, and Beth Jones P’11 recently made a gift to support Dickinson’s work in fostering a culture of civility, diversity, equity and inclusion on campus and beyond. The three-year, $150,000 gift enhances work through Dickinson’s Center for Civic Learning & Action (CCLA) and Popel Shaw Center for Race & Ethnicity and deepens the college’s work in empowering students to thrive, lead and communicate effectively in a complex and global society.

Civil dialogue support

Part of the Joneses’ gift will help enhance and support the college’s new program in Civil Dialogue Across the Curriculum, Campus & Community, funded through a grant by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. This program aims to equip students with the knowledge, skills and experiences to communicate effectively across differences. It includes faculty development and classroom learning as well as outside-of-class opportunities to strengthen civil dialogue skills under the guidance of trained student facilitators.

CCLA staff will mentor and guide the student facilitators with the assistance of a full-time, postbaccalaureate fellow—a position funded, in part, through the Joneses’ gift. This “dialogist-in-residence” position will be renewed annually over the course of three years.

In addition to recruiting, selecting and onboarding student facilitators, the fellow will prepare curriculum materials, under the guidance of CCLA staff and members of the civil dialogue leadership team; serve as a primary point of contact for campus and community partners during the development of issue-focused community dialogues; and assist the civil-dialogue team with faculty development and data collection.

Amplifying underrepresented voices

The Joneses’ gift also will be applied to hire a student worker for the Popel Shaw Center (PSC). This student worker will help plan and implement impactful PSC programs, under supervision of the PSC director. The gift also will provide for incidental expenses related to these programs, such as the cost of fliers and posters, event materials and refreshments, and gift cards/honorariums for keynote speakers and student-volunteers, as applicable.

Two “Brave Conversations” sessions will be held each month. These programs create a venue for students from underrepresented populations to gather and share their experiences at Dickinson.

Also supported by the gift: Campus mixers, bringing students from underrepresented populations together with local community leaders. Tentatively titled Community Connections, these events will help students from underrepresented communities to build connections, and cross-cultural communication skills, that aim to foster a greater sense of safety and belonging on and off campus. The gift by the college president and first lady will provide for two to three mixers each academic year.

The funding also supports two listening sessions each year, bringing together underrepresented students and members of the Carlisle Borough Council. As a result of these sessions, members of the Carlisle Borough will hear student perspectives on student-Carlisle connections and issues, and they will share what, if any, measures may be taken to help build stronger relationships between students and the community. 

Finally, the gift will support Black Girl Chronicles and Brother to Brother discussion groups and conferences. Both of these groups hold monthly meetings for Black/African American young people on campus and in the wider Carlisle community. The two groups will collaborate to host an annual conference, open to all members of the Dickinson and surrounding communities, designed to foster insight into Black/African American culture and its interconnectedness with other cultures, on campus and beyond. Black Girl Chronicles additionally will also host periodic special meetings, inviting keynote speakers and panelists chosen by student members, also open to all Dickinsonians.  

Effecting meaningful change

Together—and in concert with work outlined in the Inclusivity Strategic Plan—these programs and initiatives are positioned to effect critical change on campus and within the wider world, by building on and deepening initiatives already under way. That important work continues to deepen on campus as Tony Boston, Dickinson’s first chief diversity officer—a role created by Jones—takes the helm, spearheading the Dickinson community’s work to align with the Inclusivity Strategic Plan.

“Beth and I are passionate about Dickinson’s role in educating leaders,” says Jones. “We’re grateful to be able to support Dickinson’s mission to foster a campus culture that is diverse and inclusive and, in so doing, to develop leaders who will change the world.”

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Published November 1, 2022