Campus series zeroes in on getting comfortable with uncomfortable conversations

Contact: Deanne Puca

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Discussions hosted this fall by Western Michigan University's We Talk group are aimed at fostering a campus culture of responsible and respectful civic, social, political and policy engagement. The series includes five virtual, interactive presentations and a campus read of Jonathan Haidt's book "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion."

Visit the We Talk website for more information, to access program links and sign up for the campus read virtual chats.

We Talk fall programming will allow students, faculty and staff to:

  • Get the facts on what constitutes free speech rights and responsibilities on and off campus.
  • Join the discussion with Flint pediatrician Dr. 
    Photo of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.

    Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha will speak on "Making the Case for Public Health: From Flint to COVID-19," during a virtual presentation Wednesday, Sept. 30, for the We Talk series.

    Mona Hanna-Attisha whose research and advocacy helped end the city’s use of corrosive river water in 2015.
  • Learn how students can collaborate to advocate for positive change on campus.
  • Hear a keynote speaker on the history of women of color and their political influence as it relates to the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
  • Consider why it is worth listening to people you disagree with and learn tips for engaging in difficult conversations.

"It is essential that we become comfortable with being uncomfortable in conversation and learning settings. We should hone the skills needed to listen, learn and challenge differing viewpoints in a respectful way," explains Jeff Breneman, WMU's vice president for government relations. "Recognizing the divisiveness negatively impacting our society, a team of us on campus came together to consider: How do we lower the temperature and build a campus culture supporting viewpoint diversity? How can we use the academic environment to think about how we talk to each other?"

The Western Student Association is lending its support to the series as leaders and panelists, including Emma Baratta, vice president for WSA political affairs.

"In these times, virtually everything that people base their beliefs on is tied to their identity," says Baratta, a third-year student studying international and comparative politics and Spanish. "This can make it difficult to discuss hard topics or identity politics without attacking the other person because of who they are. Being able to discuss difficult topics that people passionately disagree on in a productive way is an incredibly valuable life skill and one that cannot always be taught in a classroom."

Schedule of events

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.