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How Dialogue is Helping Transfer Students

by Megan Rose Donovan

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Earlier this semester, a group of transfer students gathered in room 3-190 at Baruch College to read and discuss approaches to creating, consuming and conserving energy sources. First, students read through a Choicework discussion guide, which outlined the debates about energy production and consumption. Then, they immediately dove into a lively conversation about their visions to address energy issues in the future.

These group discussions are part of a semester-long seminar to help transfer students acclimate to student life at Baruch. Over the course of ten weeks, students come together to discuss their transition and receive support and advice on the many facets of college life. They also spend six sessions sharing their perspectives with fellow students about three social issues that may hit close to home: jobs and the economy, immigration and energy. Their discussions are framed with tailored versions of our Citizens' Solutions Guides.

We've heard about and been troubled by the hurdles college students face when continuing their education at a new institution. The sessions at Baruch are part of an effort to see how group dialogue on politicized social issues can help transfer students build community while also conveying the mission of their new institution. What weve seen so far is more than just acclimatization its collaborative problem solving and community building.

Baruch students received training from the Public Agenda team to moderate the discussions in a way that fosters open, inclusive dialogue with no predetermined conclusions. The discussion guides, which each include three different approaches to the issue at hand, have helped students break out of a for or against debate and kept the conversation moving.

"I think people really wanted to find a solution. They really wanted to know how this thing can be solved," said Viral Shah, a 22-year-old student moderator majoring in finance.

"I liked that we were able to pivot in the discussion and focus on how seemingly terrible one idea is, and then add in things that could get people to think. It was nice to have the room for provocation of some thought," said Ian Wildman, 42, a student moderator and political science and philosophy double major.

"There were a couple of dominant voices, but everyone talked to one another, not just the assistant fellows," said another moderator.

These deliberative sessions can get students interested and engaged in a fresh way on social issues that relate to their lives. We also hope they help students build rapport, ease and ultimately community with each other.

If you're interested in developing a similar curriculum with your own students, contact Allison Rizzolo.

You can read more about the attitudes of and issues facing transfer students in our study of transfer pathways between community colleges and universities in Indiana.


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