Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
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What is a DAT?

Posted on May 11, 2009

In my last blog, I wrote about the difficulty people of different races and ethnicities often experience when trying to discuss their differences.  I posited that not much will change with respect to racial and ethnic mistrust and misunderstanding  in this country until  "folks learn how to have open and honest conversations about race and ethnicity."  Fortunately, an intercultural dialogue model has been used successfully to engage people in conversations about difficult subjects.

The notion of using such a model has been discussed by the President's Action Committee on Inclusive Excellence (PACIE) since its inception.  Indeed, it was decided about three years ago that we would implement this model as a method of engaging the campus in dialogue about some of the areas of concern identified in our campus climate survey.   This year PACIE has been sharing the student results from the climate survey, the last group of those surveyed to be analyzed;  and in the spring of 2009 the first two Dialogue Action Teams (DAT) were organized.

Dialogue Action Teams are organized by a diverse group of people representing the entire community.  They include folks who represent the numerous perspectives in the Wheaton Community. They are guided by two trained facilitators who also represent the community's diversity, and employ a fair-minded discussion format.  The primary intention of the DAT is to move a community from talk to action.

A DAT consists of a small, diverse group of eight to twelve people;  the groups meet for five two-hour sessions.  Each DAT sets its own ground rules, which helps the group share the responsibility for the quality of the discussion.  The role of the facilitators is to help manage the flow of the group discussion.  The sessions begin with personal stories and examine the particular problem identified by the group. The ultimate goal of the DAT is take dialogue and turn it into a plan for action and change.

The two DAT's that have been operational this spring appear to have been successful.  I look forward to learning more about their action plans.

It is my intention to participate in a DAT this summer.  I need to find two facilitators and an additional five to nine people who are willing to commit to participating in five two-hour sessions. I would like to begin in early June.  If you are interested in joining me, please send an email to:  president@wheatonma.edu.

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