ChangeMakers: Dialogue Across Difference

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The group stands in a circle listening to a speaker. A PowerPoint is displayed onscreen and on the surrounding wall
Participants listening
 A man speaks during a class activity

ChangeMakers is an intergroup dialogue program designed specifically for Miami faculty, staff, and administrators and is intended to supplement professional development and to advance Inclusive Excellence on Miami’s campuses. ChangeMakers engages peer cohorts of faculty, staff, and administrators in IGD theory and praxis so that, through semi-structured and facilitated dialogue through the four IGD stages, participants can speak more honestly and seriously, seek understanding, and explore challenging issues without devolving into debate. Like other IGD programs, ChangeMakers is not a once-and-done encounter. Instead, participants continue in a dialogue cohort meeting regularly over a single semester or academic year, building trust, respect, and accountability. In the process, participants explore their own cultural values, biases, assumptions, and their impacts on others, while cultivating cognitive empathy, honing skills in intercultural communication and collaboration, and building confidence to lead others in doing likewise.

Currently the CAWC sponsors at least one ChangeMakers cohort each semester. To apply for inclusion in an upcoming ChangeMakers cohort, please complete this questionnaire.

Why Should You Participate in ChangeMakers?

Diversity in university classrooms, departments, and centers presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is that faculty, students, and staff all experience conflict and tension related to the different views and lived experiences represented in these spaces. The opportunity is that by increasing cognitive empathy, or perspective taking skills, conflict and tension can be leveraged to enhance teaching, learning, and belonging for everyone. Research supports Intergroup dialogue (IGD) as an effective means to increase cognitive empathy.

Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) is an academic initiative for leveraging diversity as an institutional resource and an evidence-based strategy for moving the campus climate needle. IGD has been implemented in various formats on campuses across the country including Princeton, Cornell, Harvard, University of Cincinnati, Bowling Green State, Ohio State, and University of Toledo. Based on a theoretical model developed and researched for over 30 years by a cohort of 9 peer institutions*, IGD brings together participants from different social identity groups in a sustained and facilitated learning environment. Through sustained dialogue with diverse peers that integrates content learning and experiential knowledge, IGD encourages participants to be intellectually challenged and emotionally engaged. These facilitated relationships influence participants' understanding of their own and others' experiences in society and cultivate individual allyship and collective agency to affect social change.

*Multi-University Consortium: Arizona State University; Occidental College; Syracuse University; University of California, San Diego; University of Maryland; University of Massachusetts at Amherst; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; University of Texas, Austin; and University of Washington, Seattle.

Like other IGD programs, ChangeMakers is based on the following 4-stage model and 7 learning goals:

4 Stage Model
Stage and Learning Goals Activities

STAGE 1: Group Beginnings: Forming and Building Relationships

1. Clarify the meaning of “dialogue” and other forms of communication.
2. Establish the foundations for honest and meaningful dialogue.

  • Practicing being in “dialogue mode” of communication. Emphasis on listening, paraphrasing, giving and receiving feedback. Honesty about disagreements, without judgments about individuals.
  • Group-building activities; exploring goals and expectations
  • Exploring personal and social identities

STAGE 2: Exploring Differences and Commonalities of Experience

3. Increase awareness of multiple social group memberships and dynamics of inequalities.
4. Promote understanding of the systemic basis of group differences in perceptions and experiences.

  • Explore meaning of key terms such as prejudice, discrimination, and oppression and their impact on participants’ lived experiences
  • Encourage listening and perspective taking of experiences and perceptions different from one’s own
  • Exercises relating to socialization. Exercises related to privilege and oppression
  • Identity-based discussions to encourage introspection and deeper dialogue

STAGE 3: Exploring and Discussing Hot Topics

5. Encourage analysis of systems of privilege, power, and oppression.
6. Explore some of the roots of conflicting perceptions and experiences (historical, cultural, institutional, interpersonal).

  • Explore differences and similarities of perceptions/experiences of controversial issues across and in social identity groups
  • Practice how to process conflict in ways that are both honest and constructive
  • Continued practice of dialogic listening, understanding, respect for differences – even when there is conflict
  • Encourage informed/meaningful dialogue and inquiry
  • Probe for deeper levels of thinking, feeling, and responding.

STAGE 4: Action Planning and Alliance Building

7. Next Steps for participants who wish to move from dialogue to action and from agents of oppression to allies of liberation.

  • Explore ways to continue learning about diversity and democracy
  • What constitutes effective action and allying across social groups?

Origins and Future of IGD at Miami

The first known IGD program at Miami is a graduate course offered through the Student Affairs in Higher Education program. In 2016 an independent Program Review of Global Initiatives’ CAWC recommended creating a campus-wide IGD program to align with Foundation Goal 2 of the Miami 2020 Plan: “Promote a diverse culture of inclusion, integrity, and collaboration that deepens understanding and embraces intercultural and global experiences.”

In its report, the CAWC Program Review noted that although Miami University engages in many diversity initiatives, they are often not coordinated or sustained. As evidenced by Miami’s recent campus climate survey, there is little opportunity for faculty, staff, and administrators to reflect, build trust in one another, and engage meaningfully on difficult topics. The climate survey also suggests that, for many faculty, staff, and administrators, Miami’s campus climate is not inclusive, nor does it provide the kinds of opportunities that will deepen understanding and encourage collaboration across difference.

During the 2019-20 academic year, the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) sponsored the Faculty Learning Community (FLC) proposed by the CAWC called “IGD for Faculty, Staff, and Administrators.” The 12 faculty and staff members of that FLC researched IGD models for faculty and staff and made recommendations for a subsequent FLC to pilot the program. The CAWC’s 2020-21 FLC piloted intergroup dialogue accordingly among 12 members of Miami’s faculty and staff and focused on racial and ethnic diversity.

Also during the 2019-20 academic year the CAWC worked with the Center for Career Exploration and Success (CCES) to pilot two IGD cohorts for its staff members. At the conclusion of the program, CCES’s Associate Director for Diversity Initiatives observed:

The training that the CAWC provided to CCES co-facilitators was very impactful and is often referenced in ongoing conversations about diversity, equity, access, inclusion and belonging. I highly recommend the [ChangeMakers] model of IGD as it has a balance of education and prescriptive direction that provides a path forward for those who may be newer to IDG and facilitation in general. —Tekeia Howard

The Voices and ChangeMakers programs seek to advance the 2020 Presidential Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force Recommendations, Pillar 1 (Dialogue & Allyship), Recommendation 2: Expand IGD to include peer cohorts of faculty, staff, and administrators. This recommendation aligns with MiamiRISE Strategic Plan numbers 2, 3, and 4: Enhance cross-unit curricular collaborations; Cultivate cross-disciplinary research; and Position Miami as a teaching & learning national resource.

Faculty Resources for Embedding IGD into Existing Courses

Since spring of 2019, Global Initiatives, through its Center for American and World Cultures (CAWC) has provided IGD experiences to students through three formats including a 3-credit course, IDS 253: Voices of Discovery: Intergroup Dialogue, which is offered in the spring and fall semesters. Faculty members can embed a shorter version of IGD into existing undergraduate or graduate level courses through one of the following two options:

  • IDS 151 (+1 credit), a shorter, introductory version of IDS 253 which faculty members or departments can add to another course-increasing the number of credits by one; and
  • Intro to Voices (ITV), a co-curricular version of IDS 151 which can be embedded into an existing course by a sponsoring faculty member or department.

To request a consultation about options for embedding IGD into your course, please contact Tarah Trueblood (

Request a Consultation about options for embedding IGD

Request Embedding of IDS 151 or ITV

There is an increasing number of student IGD programs nationwide which presents an opportunity to assess the value of a diversity education effort across institutions. Success in delivering learning goals for Voices has been assessed since inception by Miami’s Discovery Center using a national multi-university evaluation survey tool. Voices is also evaluated through CQ, a cultural intelligence instrument implemented at Farmer School of Business.

As stated in the most recent evaluation report of the Discovery Center, when combining all of the prior semesters of student survey data:

Voices students reported gains consistent with those of the peer institution cohort in many significant measures. Voices students reported larger positive changes in communicating with people from other groups, confidence levels of taking self- and other-directed actions, confidence levels of intergroup collaboration, anticipated post-college involvement in redressing inequalities, involvement in social justice activities at Miami, and skills in dealing with conflict.

Assessment data show that IDS 253, IDS 151 and ITV all yield learning outcome gains.

Voices is the result of CAWC collaborations with various campus partners including Black World Studies, Farmers School of Business, Global Intercultural Studies, Justice & Community Studies, KICKGLASS CQ, META Collective, Office of Diversity Affairs, Psychology, and Residence Life.