A Workshop with Essential Partners

Connecting in an Age of Uncertainty:
Building Belonging and Student Success

Tuesday, June 9, 2020
9:00 AM - 11:30 AM

The pandemic has disrupted the academic and community aspects of higher education including a key aspect for many students - belonging.  Incoming and current students benefit from high impact practices that foster supportive relationships with peers, faculty, staff, and community partners in ways that enhance their academic, personal, and civic development. 

Incoming students are mourning the loss of social connections, ceremonies, sports, and celebrations of their senior years of high school. Rising 2nd and 3rd-year students are weighing their educational path and institutional choices in the midst of uncertainty. And students entering their final year filled with anxiety and distance while they prepare for the transition into a social and economic turbulent environment.  

While many campus programs and practices have continued in some form, most programs and initiatives were significantly altered or halted when campuses closed and the education field moved online.  As a result, colleges and universities are struggling to create the kinds of connection, inclusion, and commitment that happens when a campus can come together.

  • How do you shift that anxiety into common purpose and belonging? 
  • How do you create connections strong enough to hold your community together? 
  • How do you make sure that the next school year—even remote—is essential to the lives of your students?

About the Workshop 

This workshop will explore the power of dialogue to build connections, emotional intelligence, patterns of civic engagement that will prepare your students for the coming school year – distanced or in person. Adapting their 30 years of experience designing and facilitating dialogue into a virtual space, Essential Partners will assist campuses to explore how dialogues have the power to shape your students' experience of this challenging times, bring them back to campus in the fall deeply rooted in their own strengths, invested in one another, and committed to participating fully in college life.

In this introductory workshop, participants will:

  • Participate in a small group Reflective Structured Dialogue about people’s experiences of the crises.
  • Discuss how trauma-informed spaces and clarity of designed conversations can create connection, support emotional wellbeing, and build empathy.
  • Discuss opportunities of summertime to build a commitment to return in the fall.
  • Introduce participants to the potential ways they may further collaborate with Essential Partners on training and program design during the year to come.  
  • Receive one complimentary follow-up consulting hour to discuss the possibilities on their campus.

Who Should Attend?

  • Student Affairs leaders who are seeking ways to build campus community. 
  • Orientation and First Year Program staff who are helping incoming students navigating the college going process.
  • Diversity, Inclusion, and Student Success staff who support first generation and low-income students. 
  • Faculty who are looking for innovated pedagogies to shape student learning in their classes.
  • Leadership development and/or civic engagement faculty and staff who desire to build students’ abilities to build communities and work through differences.  

About Essential Partners

For 30 years Essential Partners has empowered colleges and universities to have the most important conversations in ways that build connection, trust, and understanding.  In this unique moment of isolation, uncertainty, and disconnection, we need to break our usual patterns of communication and create new and powerful ways of speaking and listening to each other.

Featured Facilitator

John Sarrouf is is co-Executive Director for Essential Partners. He has facilitated dialogues on issues such as guns in America, police – community relations, Israel-Palestine, Muslim-Jewish relations, abortion, human sexuality in the Christian Church, and race in America. He has helped to start dialogue programs at universities, organizations, cities and towns across the country. He served as the Assistant Director of Difficult Dialogues at Clark University and helped start the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Gordon College. John lead a team from five universities studying the use of dialogue for the development of intellectual humility, conviction, and engagement in the classroom with funding from the Templeton Foundation. He is the author of several dialogue guides about issues like the opiate crisis, the border wall, firearms in America, and the red-blue divide.