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MU to Offer Inaugural Difficult Dialogues Course in Spring 2011 Semester

Course to open conversation, educate on diverse discourse

January 19th, 2011

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Beginning this semester, the University of Missouri will offer a new class that will educate students on the value of academic freedom and open dialogue. The course, “Difficult Dialogues: Controversial Subjects in Higher Education,” will address the increasing social, intellectual and political divides throughout society and promote productive conversations when there are differences in opinions. Roger Worthington, the assistant deputy chancellor and chief diversity officer at MU, along with Eryca Neville, a Faculty Fellow for the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative and an assistant teaching professor in the MU College of Education, will facilitate the course. Neville expects the course to create and foster positive dialogue among students.

“Good dialogue does not mean forcing people to concede opinions, but rather coming together and embracing the conversation that allows us to understand each other’s points of view in a respectful manner,” Neville said.

The new course will teach the techniques needed to promote intellectual pluralism, as well as productive and healthy dialogues. The Difficult Dialogues class will be team taught by top faculty members from departments across campus. Topics discussed will include law, arts and culture, sexual orientation, intellectual diversity, genetics and medicine, media literacy, race and family, and women’s empowerment. Neville believes that opening communication regarding these topics will lead to positive results at MU and help create leaders for the future.

“The more we engage in conversation and speak directly to one another as opposed to talking at each other, we will begin to realize that we share a lot of common ground,” Neville said. “We need to move past much of the rhetoric so that we can connect in dialogue with one another. This would be an excellent class for anyone who is striving for a leadership position in the 21st century.”

MU is offering the Difficult Dialogues class as a three-credit hour course. The class will meet on Thursdays at 4 p.m. in Strickland Hall on the MU campus. It is open to both undergraduate and graduate students and registration is still open to all students.

The Difficult Dialogues Initiative (DDI) is a part of the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative at the University of Missouri. Through the Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative, MU constantly strives to become a more inclusive, creative and innovative learning and research environment with the ultimate goal to facilitate the competent functioning of students, faculty, staff and administrators in a diverse and competitive global society.