Dignity and Respect in Action: Community Conversations

silhouettes of heads with thought bubbles

A series of group conversations for students, faculty, and staff to build skills to overcome division while talking about real issues affecting our campus and society at large. These conversations are designed to help us engage others in discussions that are based in empathy and invite diverse perspectives in an effort to create shared understanding and combat polarization. 

Themes that have been explored thus far include respectful dialogue and inclusion, feelings that arise when controversial speakers and topics are brought to campus and difficult conversations in the classroom.

Lunch or dinner will be served at each session. Staff supervisors are asked to provide release time for participants and ambassadors.


Wednesday, February 26, 11:15am-1:15pm
Campus Center, Amherst Room
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Thursday, March 5, 4:00pm-6:00pm
Campus Center, Amherst Room
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What Are Community Conversations?

The Dignity and Respect In Action: Community Conversations focus on skill building around respective dialogue to allow us to better engage with one another.  Attendees will learn about the LARA (Listen, Affirm, Respond, Add) method of communication, designed to help us engage in discussion empathetically in a way that invites diverse perspectives in an effort to create shared meaning. 

The Format

  • Up to 60 people per session, broken into small groups with a trained Climate Ambassador. 
  • Lead facilitators provide the room with an overview of the LARA method of communicating through respectful dialogue.
  • Small groups are given a topic to spur conversation around a specific issue affecting our campus.

The Goal

To help students, faculty, and staff improve communication across differences and create positive relationships with others in the UMass community. 

The Challenge

We come from diverse backgrounds and experiences that lead to varying levels of comfort and ability to interact thoughtfully across difference. Poor interactions can be very harmful, and worries about being misinterpreted can make interactions stressful. These concerns can keep individuals from engaging with others who don’t share their background or lead to miscommunication when they do.

The Plan

Community conversations provided spaces to help individuals develop skills and participate in conversations in the face of disagreement. All conversation participants receive skill focused training and materials and will be part of a small group conversation around subjects affecting our campus and the world at large. 

The Outcomes

by participating in Community Conversations, participants reported experiencing:

  • Increased active listening skills
  • Increased ability to sustain respectful engagement when disagreements occur
  • Increased ability to comfortably disengage from conversations that are unproductive or potentially volatile
  • Increased comfort engaging in conversations where people have differing perspectives than you
  • Increased level of empathy and understanding towards different experiences