Campus members will share their stories, hopes for country at next Talking Together event

Input from campus community members on their hopes for the future of a divided country will be the focus of the next Talking Together event.

"Sharing Our Stories: Moving from Division to Hope" will be held November 9 from 6-8:30 p.m. in the Eberhard Center. The event also serves as the ninth annual Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse Symposium. Register for the event online. Doors will open at 6 p.m. with refreshments served.

John Noltner, photographer, storyteller and founder of A Peace of My Mind, will be the keynote speaker. Noltner's address will include a multimedia presentation of portraits and short video clips of Grand Valley students, faculty and staff members who earlier that week answered a question: "What is one hope you have for our country during these divided times?"

portrait of John Noltner with scenic view of lake and cliffs behind him
John Noltner, photographer, storyteller and founder of A Peace of My Mind, will give a presentation at the November Talking Together event.
Image credit - courtesy photo

Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, Padnos/Sarosik endowed professor for civil discourse, said Noltner's work furthers his commitment to bridge divides through storytelling. 

"We're excited that John is bringing his distinctive brand of visual storytelling and deep listening to our community," Kelly Lowenstein said. "The students in the class have already enjoyed and learned from engaging with his work, and I'm confident other people with whom he interacts will have a similar experience." 

Collecting stories, viewing exhibit

Noltner will set up a studio in the Kirkhof Center, Pere Marquette Room, on November 7-8 to collect stories and portraits from campus community members. Drop-in times are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. on Nov. 7, and 1-5 p.m. on Nov. 8.

Also, a mobile exhibit of Noltner's work will feature portraits and stories from people who answered "What does peace mean to you?" Visit the exhibit in the Kirkhof Center, Pere Marquette Room, on Nov. 7 from 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Nov. 8 from 1-9 p.m.; and Nov. 9 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Lisa Perhamus, director of the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse and associate professor of educational foundations, said Noltner will also conduct a studio workshop with Seeds of Promise, a Center for Civil Discourse community partner.

"John's work fits so well with the mission of Talking Together," Perhamus said. "His keynote will come the day after the election and I'm confident our campus storytellers will share from their heart how the country moves forward out of division."

Talking Together

Talking Together is a yearlong series of discussions and workshops coordinated by four campus entities: Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, and WGVU Public Media.

In 2021, Shelley Padnos and Carol Sarosik expanded their support to establish a full-fledged civil discourse center, ensuring Grand Valley students will continue learning how to engage in civil discussions on controversial issues.


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