Sustained Dialogue Program Gives Students an Opportunity to Learn from Each Other

Five years ago, Northwestern started the Sustained Dialogue (SD) program in response to racist incidents on campus and a recognition that much of the divide amongst the student body came from a lack of being in relationship with one another and deeply listening. The program began in collaboration with the Sustained Dialogue Institute, a national organization that works to improve communities throughout the country through honest and open conversations. SD at Northwestern has grown considerably over the years, with 912 students having participated since that first session.


The Sustained Dialogue program gives students a space to talk about difficult subjects like identity, privilege, and oppression and enables them to challenge their own beliefs through a series of small group discussions. Groups can range in size from five to eighteen people and all of them are led by student leaders who have already gone through the program as well as a two-day training.

Each group meets for 90 minutes one day a week for a full quarter. This quarter, there are ten different time slots being offered, and each registrant will be put in one of their top three choices. Since students are put into groups based on timeslot, making these groups somewhat random, participants also get to know people who they likely would not have met otherwise, allowing them to learn from their different experiences.

When asked what they considered to be the biggest benefit of participating in the program, one student described it as a great opportunity to improve “your communication skills, your interpersonal skills, your self-awareness,” and mentioned that “you get to learn how to engage in conflict in a healthy way.” Other students who went through the program also referenced the way that SD opens up conversation about sensitive or “taboo” subjects by offering a safe space where everyone has one common goal: to learn.

To sign up, fill out the Sustained Dialogue registration form before January 2. Groups will begin meeting the first week of winter quarter on Monday, January 7. What better way to ring in the new year than by challenging yourself to grow a deeper understanding of yourself and the world around you?