University initiative will create culture of civil conversation, interrupt polarization

Talking Together image of two quote boxes joined together in two blue tones
The yearlong series of events will begin September 21-22 with events planned for the Allendale and Pew Grand Rapids campuses.

Four campus partners have collaborated to bring to Grand Valley and the community a yearlong series of programs designed to foster a culture of civil conversation and provide participants with tools to interrupt polarization.

"Talking Together: Strengthening our Communities through Conversation" is sponsored by 

the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse, Kaufman Interfaith Institute, Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, and WGVU Public Media. 

Two events kick off this series on September 21-22

  • September 21, reception and workshop at 4 p.m. at the Alumni House on the Allendale Campus; this event will include remarks by President Philomena V. Mantella followed by a “How To Talk To Your Neighbor” workshop.
  • September 22, Constitution Day Celebration at 7 p.m. at the DeVos Center, Loosemore Auditorium, Pew Grand Rapids Campus; John F. Kowal and Wilfred D. Codrington III will discuss their book, "The People’s Constitution: 200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union."

Lisa Perhamus, director of the Center for Civil Discourse and associate professor of educational foundations, said the initiative grew from conversations among the partners who then received support from Mantella, as this initiative aligns with goals in the Reach Higher 2025 strategic plan.

"Talking Together represents both growth for the Padnos/Sarosik Center for Civil Discourse but also an opportunity for Grand Valley to be a leader in creating a culture of conversation where people are invited and supported to talk with one another across differences and, through conversation, recognize each other’s humanity," Perhamus said.

Mantella said Talking Together elevates the strategic plan by empowering students. She expressed appreciation to the teams that made this initiative possible.

“This series of community conversations will advance our students as they become ambassadors of civil discourse and constructive conversation and are positioned to use this skill at their work spaces and in their future communities," Mantella said.

Each month during the academic year will feature an event for members of the public and Grand Valley communities to engage in conversation. WGVU Public Media will produce a monthly broadcast program and digital media telling the story of each event from the perspective of leaders and participants.

View more details and the schedule on the Talking Together website. The initiative is co-sponsored by the Division of Inclusion and Equity/Network of Advisors for Racial Equity and the Division of Student Affairs.


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