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      President's Message

      Common Ground Initiative Advances into Spring

      Common Ground

      The Common Ground Initiative continues after a successful event at the National Constitution Center in the fall.

      After a break from the rigors of fall classes and exams, it is good to see classrooms filled this week with invigorated students and dedicated faculty members, excited for the opportunities that come with a new semester.

      One of those opportunities includes getting more involved with Widener’s Common Ground Initiative, our effort to engage the Widener community in challenging conversations that explore differences in open and respectful ways.

      We launched the initiative at a fall event at the National Constitution Center. It included a panel discussion followed by student-led breakout sessions using an innovative approach that emphasized understanding, empathy and advocacy – all through a framework of civility.

      I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations this spring on campus.

      First, I’ll be hosting a series of small group discussions that bring together students, faculty and staff to explore the principles of common ground. We will look at what’s involved in having challenging conversations while listening to one another respectfully, and learn from different viewpoints. We have already begun assembling the groups, which will be limited to 12 to 15 people. Those who are interested should indicate their availability. Everyone is welcome and no expertise is required – please join me!

      Our Political Engagement Committee, which seeks to engage students in discussion and debate, made the Common Ground Initiative a central part of its work in the fall. This spring, the group turns its attention to emphasizing advocacy and engagement, and also has plans for table talk events that find their roots in common ground. These informal discussions around tables in University Center promote respectful conversation. Watch for them.

      In addition, our faculty members will be getting even more involved with common ground principles this spring when they continue intergroup dialogue training sessions. The sessions, designed and led by faculty, help professors to guide them through thoughtful discussions about our collective similarities and differences, and prepare them to more deeply explore challenging societal issues in the classroom. This important work enriches the academic experience for our students and contributes to our vibrant campus environment.

      Widener continues to lead the way in modeling civil debate. I hope you will join us as we deepen the university’s commitment to the pursuit of common ground. Together, we will make it a great spring semester.

      With pride,



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