Montana State University

MSU students selected to attend international retreat for social change

June 6, 2014 -- Tanya Reinhardt, MSU News Service

Amy FielDarby LaceyCarmen McSpadden

Amy Fiel   High-Res Available

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BOZEMAN— The International Institute for Sustained Dialogue selected Montana State University as one of 14 colleges to participate in a leadership retreat July 20—25, at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa.

Attending the retreat are MSU students Darby Lacey, a junior from Great Falls, majoring in English literature and biochemistry, and sophomore Amy Fiel, a Three Forks native studying family and consumer science.

The college retreat is sponsored by the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue headquartered in Washington D.C. and is designed to explore identity, leadership and inclusion.

“We are honored to have been selected for this leadership and immersive dialogue training at Bucknell University,” said Carmen McSpadden, director of the MSU Leadership Institute who will also attend. “We hope to leave the retreat with improved decision making skills, understanding empathy at a deeper level, and increased knowledge about how to create action out of ideas.”

According to McSpadden, the MSU chapter of Sustained Dialogue, housed within the Diversity Awareness Office, was started in 2011. Students from the MSU Leadership Institute, including MSU Fulbright Scholar Sasha Dingle, worked with administrators to make Sustained Dialogue a formal campus program.

Lacey became a certified moderator and dialogue participant last fall and will serve as a student program coordinator.

“I believe dialogue and identity awareness are essential to creating a welcoming campus that celebrates all students, and I can't wait to share what I learn at the retreat with MSU,” said Lacey who sees a need for Sustained Dialogue on campus.

“I don’t think most people are trying to be maliciously racist, sexist or homophobic, but sometimes jokes or slights occur. Participation in Sustained Dialogue helps students understand why certain choices are hurtful to others,” Lacey said.

The Institute for Sustained Dialogue is a non-profit organization founded in 2002 that develops everyday leaders to improve their campuses, workplaces and communities. The retreat is the latest addition to Sustained Dialogue’s campus work building more inclusive and engaged environments and shape life-long leaders and problem solvers.

According to Fiel, who has prior experience as an international aid volunteer, she has seen how cultural misunderstandings sometimes create fear. Fiel believes sustainable dialogue can help transform how differences are viewed, creating understanding and inclusion.

“I am excited to attend the retreat this year as a representative of MSU,” said Fiel. “I am looking forward to building relationships with other students, and participating in meaningful dialogue about how we can engage our differences as strengths to create an accepting campus where people of all identities can thrive.”

Lacey says she uses the skills developed through sustained dialogue daily and feels empowered to intervene when she witnesses something that might be oppressive.

“Sustained Dialogue teaches participants to see all sides of a conflict and to continually push for human dignity in all establishments and personal interactions,” said Lacey who plans to pursue a career in medicine.

At the institute, teams of students and advisors will experience the retreat curriculum firsthand before learning how to implement the program back on campus. Current research demonstrates an intense, immersive experience followed by sustained engagement is the best way to create attitudinal and behavioral change.

In addition to MSU, participating universities include: American University, Case Western Reserve University, Claflin University, College of William and Mary, Gordon College, Hofstra University, Ohio University, University of Alabama, University of Nebraska Omaha, University of Tampa, University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and Wake Forest University.

Carmen McSpadden, (406) 994-7667, cmcpadden@montana.edu