Working paper series

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IGR’s working paper series seeks to connect scholarship in social justice and dialogue-based education programs. The papers emphasize leading research and practice innovations conducted by leaders in the field of intergroup dialogue. All papers in the series are subject to rigorous peer review by IGR faculty and staff.


#1. Breaking Ground Through Intergroup Education: The Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR), 1988-2016

     By Kelly Maxwell & Monita Thompson

     This paper traces the history of the University of Michigan’s Program on Intergroup Relations, from its inception in 1988 through 2016. It discusses the national and local factors that led to the initiation of this program and the development of its unique form of social justice education – peer-facilitated, academically credited intergroup dialogues. As the Program has grown over time it has extended its core agenda in other educational projects such as CommmonGround, residence hall advisor training, outreach and partnership efforts with other academic and student life units, the Intergroup Dialogue National Institute that disseminates the Program’s vision and practices to other colleges and universities, and various research projects.

#2. ‘There is nothing interesting about us’: Racial Identity and the Balance of Shared/Peer Teaching in Intergroup Dialogues

     By Chaddrick Gallaway

     This research paper examines some of the ways in which voice and power are shared in interracial dialogues. White students often report at the outset that they feel they have little to offer: they often are unaware of the meaning and impacts of their racial identity and are cautious about making racial mistakes or giving offense to students of color. This stance can result in uneven vulnerability and transparency in participation by different racial groups. Thus, students of color often report carrying both the opportunity and the burden of educating their white peers. Gallaway examines these dynamics and provides a number of useful suggestions for facilitators dealing with these issues.

#3. Balancing Asymmetrical Social Power Dynamics in Intergroup Dialogues

     By Roger Fisher & Taryn Petryk

     This paper explores the concept of ‘multipartiality’ in dialogic facilitation. The authors argue that facilitators need to think about and adopt varied techniques to balance power among participants as they deal with the issues of dominant narratives and power asymmetry. “Neutral’ facilitation fails to challenge the power that socially privileged groups bring to these settings, and facilitator ‘advocacy’ of lower power groups’ positions typically alienates others. Facilitator (and hopefully participant) skills of inquiry, counter-narrative generation, and empathy are described as techniques to effectively manage group dynamics and imbalances in social power and privilege. 

#4. CommonGround: A model for inclusive leadership in social justice education

     By Laxmi Shastry, Tyra Bandt & Danny Alvarez

     CommonGround (CG) is part of The Program on Intergroup Relations (IGR)’s social justice education program at the University of Michigan. CG offers interactive workshops that are facilitated and coordinated by trained U-M undergraduate and graduate students to help promote social identity development and enhance group dynamics while building a community of social justice educators on campus. This paper focuses on the team that runs the CG program, its unique inclusive leadership structure, and how other programs can adopt and replicate this structure. It also highlights how the program model promotes student-centered leadership and embeds social justice into the program’s structures and operations. Two sample workshop agendas are provided as examples of CG’s curriculum.

#5. Student leaders of color negotiating their racial identities in a historically white student organization

     By Laura Sanchez-Parkinson

     People of color in historically white organizations continuously negotiate their racial identities. This negotiation may result in the form of assimilating and adapting to or actively challenging mainstream norms. In this study, thirteen student leaders of color were interviewed regarding their experiences in a historically white student organization. The results suggest that students of color undertake various behavioral strategies in order to operate effectively in the organization. Four behavioral strategies are described and analyzed: 1) Oppressed Oppressor, 2) Subservience, 3) Warrior, and 4) Cultural Split. A variety of practical applications for white students and higher education staff and faculty are recommended in the effort to create more inclusive and welcoming organizations.

#6. White student comfort and conflict in racial dialogues

     By Mark Chesler, Kelly Maxwell, Swathi Shanmugasundaram, Vidhya Aravind, Alexander Kime, Theresa Ross, Charles Ruiz & Ashley Tijung

     This research paper compares the experiences of white students participating in two types of racial dialogues: white racial identity (intragroup) dialogues and interracial (intergroup) dialogues containing white students and students of color. Issues of white students’ relative comfort and conflict take center stage, as they report experiencing both the positive and negative effects of cognitive/emotional dissonance and conflict in the dialogic learning process. Fear of offending others and the safety to take risks in self-disclosure, as well as a frustrated desire to learn about ‘others’, were more often reported by students in the white-only dialogues, while white students in the interracial dialogues more often reported tension/discomfort and cognitive/emotional learning about the lives of others. Both types of dialogues increased students’ learning about personal/structural white privilege and racism as a white problem.

#7. IGR at UPMU: Absorption, Resistance and Breaking from Neoliberal Diversity Policy

     By Stephanie Hicks

     Research on Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) has typically focused on its effectiveness as an intervention in higher education classrooms designed to increase students’ awareness of social diversity and encourage their positive interaction with students from different social identity groups (race/ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, religion, gender, citizenship/national origin). This qualitative case study identifies and contextualizes the theoretical underpinnings of a dialogue-based diversity and social justice curriculum initiative based on IGD theory and pedagogy at UPMU, a large, public, urban research university in the Midwest. Specifically, this study asked, What theories and values underlie the Dialogue Initiative (DI) process at UPMU?

#8. What is Incilivity in the Academic Environment? And What Can We Do About it? With particular attention to race and gender equity concerns*

     By Mark Chesler

     Current media draw attention to increasing levels of incivility in our national culture and as well in our colleges and universities. Examining claims and counter-claims of academic incivility requires not just a focus on individual actions or interactions, but on patterns of behavior that take on greater meaning via their repetition and institutionalization. While incivility may occur in all social and academic interactions, also like all such interactions incivility is neither race nor gender-neutral. Nor, despite a primary focus on student incivility to other students and to faculty members, is this all we need to attend to faculty incivility toward students and to other faculty members also matters. In discussing these interactions I draw attention to the role that social power, explicitly race and gender power/privilege, plays in academic incivilities and in responses to them. I also suggest some ways in which incivility in the classroom may be addressed - reactively and proactively.