Discuss Difference 2018


During the week of April 23-27, Student Leadership Development will be promoting the Discuss Difference initiative. We chose this week because it is also the National Week of Conversations sponsored by the Bridge Alliance Education Fund. Discuss Difference (and the National Week of Conversation) helps to promote the idea of having purposeful and civil conversations with peers.

What are socio-cultural conversations?

Socio-cultural conversations are formal or informal dialogues with peers about and across differences. Topics can include (but are not limited to) race/ethnicity, lifestyles, customs, social issues, political values, and religious beliefs.

 Why are socio-cultural conversations important?

Socio-cultural conversations with peers are the strongest predictor of socially responsible leadership capacity for students. Discussing differences impacts leadership development because these discussions require students to:

-Clarify and articulate their own perspectives

-Seek better understanding of others’ world view

-Understand how personal values fit into larger social structures and perspetives

-Discern how to work with different communities to initiate positive change

During these week, SLD will be promoting Discuss Difference on social media by sharing videos of staff and students sharing their ideas of how this idea presents itself at William and Mary. We will also be sharing events and opportunities happening around campus that give students the opportunity to learn more and talk with peers! Keep an eye out for more information on the blog this week and across our social media outlets.

National Week of Conversation


Conversations Across Differences

People in various spaces across the world with a range of platforms are grappling with what best practices to have difficult conversations across differences. There are experts like Heather McGhee, President of Demos who will host a talk later today titled, “How to talk to people who offend you” via the TED2017 conference. Discussions across difference benefit you because it allows you to be outside of your comfort zone. One reason why the Office of Student Leadership Development dipped our toes in the waters of encouraging conversations across difference is we recognize how important these conversations are for college leaders who are moved by what they care about to make the world a better place.

In a 2016 interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, President of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, Lynn Pasquerella stated, “So in a world that is increasingly globally interdependent, and where rapidly changing technology means rapid obsolescence, the best that we can offer students today is the capacity to work with others who are different from themselves in diverse teams. And to be adaptable and flexible in a world where the jobs of the future have not yet been invented.” One way that you can work with others who are different is through healthy communication. As you wrap up the semester and prepare for finals season, consider the ways that you can have healthy conversations across socio-cultural differences with members of the William & Mary community.

If you’re wondering where to access the Discuss Difference podcast, click on the hyper link embedded in the text.

Episode 1– An Introduction to Discuss Difference with Anne Arseneau, Director of the Office of Student Leadership Development and Melody Porter, Director of Office of Community Engagement

Episode 2- Discuss Difference: An Introduction to the Chat & Chew Series featuring Shené Owens, Assistant Director of the Center for Student Diversity

Episode 3- Discuss Difference: A Conversation with Dr. Jaime Settle, Assistant Professor of Government at William & Mary

Discuss Discuss: Podcast Episode One

Being a part of the William & Mary community allows students- in particular student leaders to have an impact on the types of conversations happening around campus across difference. This is one reason why Student Leadership Development is proud to release podcasts as a part of our Discuss Difference initiative.

Our first episode features Anne Arseneau, Director of the Office of Student Leadership Development and Melody Porter, Director of the Office of Community Engagement. The podcast is moderated by Dr. Drew Stelljes, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, Student Engagement and Leadership. Anne and Melody chat about a variety of topics related to why leaders thrive when they are able to discuss difference and navigate controversy with civility.

Discuss Difference podcast will cover a variety of topics related to socio cultural difference!

Discuss Difference podcast will cover a variety of topics related to socio cultural difference!

The next podcast will feature, Shené Owens, Assistant Director of the Center for Student Diversity. One upcoming opportunity to discuss difference is by engaging in the Chat & Chew series. The next Chat & Chew is Friday, April 7th!

We look forward to sharing these and if you have comments or thoughts on the podcast, please comment below.

An Introduction to Discuss Difference

William & Mary’s Student Leadership Development Discuss Difference is an opportunity for leaders to think intentionally about ways that you engage with people across socio-cultural differences. These differences range and include but not limited to gender, race, ethnicity, ability, socioeconomic status, neurodiversity, region, political leanings, etc. Research shows that leaders who can have healthy conversations across differences engage and thrive in their leadership efforts. Leadership experts reveal that discussing difference of views and seeing diverse perspectives advance leadership skills. Those discussions can be informal and formal and should include a wide range of issues.

There are various opportunities on campus to get involved with organizations and events where discussing difference lives at the center. Reading through list serves such as Diversity Happenings published by the Center for Student Diversity allows you to learn more about what is happening on campus. Here are a few suggestions for things you can do to inspire conversations across difference:

  • Have lunch with someone who has a different political point of view than you! Check out this initiative, Hi From The Other Side that provides a guideline for conversations.
  • Attend an event sponsored by a faith based organization that you are less familiar with.
  • Consider ways that cultural awareness will allow you to become a better leader. Read this great article!

Please join the Office of Student Leadership Development in celebrating discussions across difference. Throughout April, we will post a weekly blog that offers more tips and we have a series of podcasts. The podcasts feature W&M staff and faculty who care deeply about leaning into conversations around difference. If you are not an avid podcast fan, try listening and you may have a go-to medium for learning & sharing ideas (ultimately, inspiring you to have more conversations across difference!)