The new academic year dawns against the backdrop of local, national and international issues that are sure to be the topics of robust campus discussion. The presidential election. Administrative change at the university. Police shootings. Ongoing conflicts and crises on every continent.
“Any of us can feel overwhelmed in the face of all the conflict and disagreement we see every day in the news,” Acting Chancellor Ralph J. Hexter noted. “Failure to listen and respond with respect and civility only exacerbates such discord. As a public service-minded university, we thought it would be beneficial for UC Davis to explore the role our campus can play in promoting more constructive and thoughtful dialogue, regardless of the topic at hand.”
And, so, for Fall Convocation next Tuesday morning (Sept. 20), the campus has chosen a theme of “Inspiring Dialogue and Community.” It is a theme that will carry over in a series of programs throughout the year, starting almost as soon as convocation ends.
“Dialogue is a unique approach to appreciating and bridging our different opinions and experiences,” said Carolyn Penny, director of the Office of Campus Dialogue and Deliberation. “We aren’t required to change our minds on issues. But, through deep listening and serious consideration of other people’s concerns, we can build community even when disagreement persists. Participants do not give up their own identities.
“It is not easy work and it is not usually quick. Dialogue processes are used internationally, nationally and locally to connect people to others unlike themselves. I can’t think of a better commitment by the UC Davis campus community, particularly in light of charged issues that impact all of us.”
The morning and afternoon programs are open to everyone in the campus community. The convocation will be from 10 to 11 a.m. in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. Or, if you prefer, watch the convocation via live stream.
Dean Kevin R. Johnson of the School of Law will serve as the master of ceremonies for a program that promises to be traditional yet contemporary, interspersed with video and students’ spoken-word performances. Acting Chancellor Hexter will launch the new academic year, and alumna Tani Cantil-Sakauye ’80 and J.D. ’84, chief justice of the California Supreme Court, will deliver the keynote.
The spoken-word performers, their majors and performance titles:
- Valentin Sierra ’17, Native American studies — “Poetry as Ceremony”
- Takarra Johnson ’19, African American studies — “Great Teachers”
- Denisha Bland ’18, communication — “Explain Please”
All three students are participants in Sacramento Area Youth Speaks, or SAYS, founded at UC Davis in 2009.
Piano music by Hannah Yan ’18 and Marilyn Swan, faculty affiliate in music, will greet convocationgoers as they enter the hall, and the UC Davis Chamber Chorus will sing the national anthem. (There will be more music at convocation’s end, by the Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh! — as people exit the hall and walk to the reception across the street on the Vanderhoef Quad.)
Dialogue through the year
The convocation theme, “Inspiring Dialogue and Community,” will be the focus of a yearlong series of programs, starting Tuesday (Sept. 20):
- “Dialogue in Action at UC Davis” — Topics include the distinctions among debate, dialogue and discussion; campus spaces conducive to dialogue; ways in which the campus community can support and encourage successful dialogue; issues that would benefit from dialogue; and the campus community’s next steps. 1:30-3 p.m.
- “Where Do You Stand?” — Fun, dynamic program where participants consider where they stand on various issues — big and small — and hear where other people stand. This session is primarily for undergraduate, graduate and professional students. However, the program is open to all members of the campus community. 4-5 p.m.
Both workshops will be held in the multipurpose room at the new International Center, at the north end of California Avenue, just off Russell Boulevard. Space is limited; registration required for "Where Do You Stand?"
As for what comes next, here’s what Penny had to say: “I expect the calendar of dialogue events will evolve considerably as we move through the academic year. Dialogue requires authentic interaction among participants of varying points of view. However, events can take many shapes from one-time engagement to sustained interactions.
“I encourage all parts of the campus community to think about ways they would like to be involved — and let us know what they have in mind. We look forward to working with numerous campus partners to support successful dialogue opportunities throughout the year.”
Penny said the calendar already includes Sustained Dialogue Moderator Training (Oct. 28-29). And, she said, “Keep an eye out for 90-minute fall workshops on ‘Choices in the Heat of the Moment.’” These workshops are open to all members of the campus community.