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The Deep Differences Project: Charrette Three – Courageous Crossings

Virtual February 28, 2022 at 1:00 pm ET Public Event

The intense polarization of American culture has also found its way into the academy, such that while nearly all universities purport to challenge students to expand their intellectual horizons, many campuses often foster ideological isolation. While religious identity can sometimes work to transcend these sociopolitical silos (as discussed in the first charrette), it can also contribute to self-separation and insularity among students. Students often select institutions that reinforce their religious and/or political values, join affiliated groups on campus, and make numerous other choices that diminish opportunities to meaningfully engage with peers from differing backgrounds, further fraying our civic fabric both on- and off-campus. In response, many colleges and universities have piloted new cross-institutional civic education programs designed to foster a renewal of democratic values, including a commitment to free expression, religious liberty, social cohesion, and bridging deep divides. 

This charrette will examine two such programs as an invitation to both adoption and adaptation. The first, “Bridging the Gap: Dialogue across Difference,” brought together students from Oberlin College in Ohio – known as a bastion of liberal thinking, where students are frequently dismissed as elite, intolerant “snowflakes” – and students at Spring Arbor University – a private, Christ-centered, liberal arts school in Michigan, whose students are labeled as conservative, intolerant evangelicals. The second program, “Politics in the Age of Trump: Speaking Across Our Differences,” featured a collaboration between Cairn University, a Christian university outside Philadelphia, and the University of Pennsylvania. 

Kevin Brown (Spring Arbor University), Tina Grace (Bridging the Gap), Meredith Raimondo (Oberlin College), and Jonathan Zimmerman (University of Pennsylvania) will share their learnings from these and similar experiences and challenge participants to reflect on what civic, dialogical programs they can implement at their institutions. 

About the facilitators:

  • Kevin Brown headshot

    Kevin Brown, Chief Diversity Officer, Spring Arbor University

    Kevin Brown serves as the chief diversity officer and director of intercultural relations at Spring Arbor University. Brown brings a wealth of experience to the role, having served in diversity roles for Albion College, Kenyon College, and DePauw University. He also provided leadership as Executive Director of the Minority Health Partnership of Calhoun County, served in executive leadership roles for the Cleveland Municipal School District and served as the Director of the Young African-American Males program for the Center for Families and Children.

  • Tina Grace headshot

    Tina Grace, Bridging the Gap Program Coordinator, Interfaith Youth Core

    Tina Grace, Program Coordinator, is partnering with IFYC to implement Bridging The Gap, a program that bridges communication gaps amongst opposing communities. Tina is a graduate of Spring Arbor University, earning a degree in Business. Before IFYC, Tina led multiple mission trips in New York City and Atlanta. They have also worked closely with the homeless population and worked at multiple summer camps. Outside of IFYC, you will see Tina spending their free time traveling, cooking, and working closely with hurting communities to build a foundation of strength and love.

  • Meredith Raimondo headshot

    Meredith Raimondo, PhD, Professor of Comparative American Studies, Oberlin College

    Meredith Raimondo is Associate Professor of Comparative American Studies at Oberlin College,  Her teaching and research interests include LGBTQ studies, health inequalities, and histories of social change.  She also has served as a college administrator with a focus on equity and diversity and building inclusive campus communities.

  • Jonathan Zimmerman headshot

    Jonathan Zimmerman, PhD, Professor of History of Education, University of Pennsylvania

    Dr. Jonathan Zimmerman is one of the foremost education historians working today. His work examines how education practices and policies have developed over time, and the myths that often cloud our understanding of teaching and learning. He has a particular interest in how political and social movements come to shape education. A former Peace Corps volunteer and high school teacher, Zimmerman has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chronicle of Higher Education, The New York Review of Books, and The Atlantic.

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Heterodox events are public conversations among academics and experts on a focused topic that offer an opportunity to showcase our values in action, and provide timely discussion of pressing topics. We are currently hosting regular virtual events in addition to periodic live events. Nearly all events, virtual or live, will be recorded and posted on our YouTube channel following the event.


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