North Central College received grant funding for movie club dialogue events to help students, faculty and staff discuss polarizing issues introduced by movies. It was so successful the program is continuing as Project Re-Connect: NCC Movie and Dialogue Club. 

North Central News

Movie club dialogue program helps campus community address differences and promote understanding


Laura Pohl

Sep 16, 2020

Working across differences

North Central College was selected as one of six institutions to receive the Working Across Differences Fund grant from Ashoka U. The $10,000 grant supported the College’s “Reclaiming Civility Project,” which aims to foster a cohesive understanding and collective approach to address polarizing topics or events. A portion of the grant funded movie club dialogue events to help students, faculty and staff discuss polarizing issues regarding race introduced by movies. It was so successful the program is continuing into 2020-2021 as Project Re-Connect: NCC Movie and Dialogue Club.

It all began during Anti-Hate Week in fall 2019, when more than 50 members of the campus community watched and discussed the documentary “13th,” an in-depth look at the U.S. prison system and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality. A second event featured a screening of “Stories Beyond Borders” which focuses on immigration and undocumented student experiences. (A third event planned with the Muslim Student Association was cancelled due to the pandemic.)  
 
Jennifer Shah, assistant professor of education, helped lead the movie club dialogue program with thoughtful planning and by establishing design, implementation and research teams. “Students from Black Student Association, Latinx Student Association and Project LEAD participated in the implantation team, which met with me to come up with the discussion questions. I remember having really raw dialogue around topics they were so passionate about,” explained Shah, whose area of scholarship is diversity and inclusion in pre-service education. “I believe strongly that students should be taught to be advocates for themselves and for others and I was witnessing that happen.”
 
María González ’22, who’s majoring in Spanish and secondary education, was an event organizer. “The movie club was a place where I could share my thoughts on topics that most people are afraid to talk about,” she said. “I knew we would have a safe conversation where no one would go off on something I would say. We all respected what each person had to say.”

A graphic for a quote by North Central College student Maria Gonzalez: The movie club was a place where I could share my thoughts on topics that most people are afraid to talk about,” she said. “I knew we would have a safe conversation where no one would go off on something I would say. We all respected what each person had to say.”

Among the takeaways: campus job titles and last names should be left at the door. “It helped everyone feel like they were present in the space at the same level when having conversation,” said Jeremy Gudauskas, assistant vice president and co-director of the Center for Social Impact. “This program helped us toward our goal of cultivating meaningful and productive dialogue, especially in difficult times and through challenging topics. A new ‘Chirp Toolkit,’ for example, is a comprehensive dialogue training resource that can be used across campus by students, staff or faculty.” The Toolkit was developed by Kamelotte Gregory, assistant director for social impact, and Stephania Rodriguez '14, assistant director of multicultural affairs.

The student research team gathered qualitative and quantitative data, assessing participants’ comfort level and their overall experiences. A report on the results of the full grant and outcomes was submitted to Ashoka U in July.  
 
“The team found that 100 percent of students, faculty, and staff reported gaining new insights,” Shah said. “When asked what the biggest takeaway was, one participant responded, ‘Learn more. Hear others.’ I see this level of awareness and openness to learn as success.”  

Dialogue events continued virtually over the summer and more are planned under Project Re-Connect.