Scholars and practitioners of public discourse at 18 institutions of higher education across North Carolina convened on April 5 to connect and collaborate at the inaugural North Carolina Campus Discourse Leaders Conference, hosted at the University of North Carolina  at Chapel Hill. 

Envisioned as the first of many gatherings, the event was co-organized by the Program for Public Discourse at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC Campus Engagement, the Deliberative Citizenship Initiative at Davidson College, the Kernodle Center for Civic Life at Elon University and the Free Expression and Constructive Dialogue Task Force at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Recognizing that many individuals and programs are advancing this work on their own campuses while remaining disconnected from similar efforts occurring in the state, the NC Campus Discourse Leaders Conferences provided an opportunity for participants to share their unique approaches and challenges that they have experienced, while learning from each other in highly interactive breakout discussions with colleagues at institutions that are both similar to and different from their own.

 The conference was structured into four sessions, each beginning with an introductory presentation on a key topic of discourse from the co-organizing partners before opening into round-table discussions. Campus discourse leaders shared the strategies they have been implementing in their own programs, discussed challenges they have been faced with, and offered future points of discussion. Session topics included:

  • The Context of Public Discourse on College Campuses Today
  • Strategies for Fostering Robust Discourse in the Classroom
  • Strategies for Fostering Robust Discourse on Campus and in the Community
  • Strategies for Connecting and Collaborating across Campuses

The NC Campus Discourse Leaders Conference inspired a commitment to ongoing collaboration and support among attendees and organizers, with plans already underway for future events and initiatives aimed at advancing the mission of dialogue and discourse on college campuses statewide.

Participants left the conference with a new network of colleagues from across North Carolina, new opportunities for collaboration on projects related to public discourse, and new ideas to consider and implement back on their campuses. 

NC Campus Engagement co-organized this event with a great team of partners. Thank you to Kevin Marinelli and the UNC-Chapel Hill Program for Public Discourse for hosting and to the co-organizing planning team: Matthew Metzgar (UNC Charlotte), Anne Moore (UNC Charlotte), Graham Bullock (Davidson College) Andrew Moffa (Elon University). Special thank you to Alissa Bouttavong for her logistical coordination.