White organizes student-led discussions to increase interest
By Hannah Dunbar
The University of Findlay’s Buford Center holds a Day of Dialogue series once a month throughout the academic school year. Located at 1222 N. Cory St, the goal of the series is for students to come together to talk about ideas in a space where they feel comfortable according to Johnathan White, graduate assistant for intercultural student services.
“Sometimes we might be in a classroom where the teacher has their own agenda and the students may not have a lot of time to discuss their ideas,” said White.
White said the Buford Center tries to express it is a space where students are able to talk about ideas where you might not be able to talk about them anywhere else. The Buford Center was described as an “open-door policy” by White.
“It’s a great chance to learn something new whether or not you have the same or different ideas as your peers,” said White.
Alexas Nussbaum, junior social work major, has attended most of the dialogue series this year. There are several reasons why Nussbaum continues to attend the Buford Center Day of Dialogue.
“I attend to support my fellow student leaders who are involved with the center,” said Nussbaum. “I also feel that the dialogues unite our students and teach us to respect each other’s differing opinions while in a safe space.”
According to White, the discussions have been going great. The dialogue series began in September 2015 and will conclude this month. Each discussion the Buford Center has continues to get better and better White said. This semester White has the opportunity to select the topics the students will talk about each month.
“I have been trying to pick current topics that will engage students,” said White.
For the past several dialogue series, White has chosen topics such as the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the 2016 presidential election. The Buford Center’s vision for this series is to have student-led discussion according to White.
“I don’t want to be up there giving my opinions and forcing a student to have a certain thought process,” said White. “I try to take a back seat during the dialogue.”
For each discussion, White contacts students who have connections with the topic. For example, for the Flint water crisis discussion, two students who live in Flint, Michigan led the discussion. The same process occurred for the dialogue series in March. Students who are active in political groups on campus as well as political science majors were invited to lead the discussion on the 2016 presidential election.
“I try to reach out to people who already know something about the subject because it’s easier to hear coming from your peers rather than someone you can’t relate to,” said White.
White’s goal is to gravitate away from the classroom setting in order to create a more comfortable atmosphere for students. White is not the only person who believes there is a need for student dialogues on campus.
“Social issues are often difficult to talk about, especially on a campus where we seem to be divided in our political views,” said Nussbaum. “But these conversations are extremely important and need to be brought to the forefront.”
Nussbaum feels that our campus is far behind other universities when it comes to implementing diversity initiatives. However, having students come together to start a conversation is the first step towards being able to make a change Nussbaum said.
The next Buford Center Day of Dialogue is on April 12 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Lunch is provided to all students who attend and is funded through the Buford Center. According to White, there is not a specific topic chosen for this month yet. The topics are not typically set in stone because something major could happen in the meantime that could change the entire discussion said White.
Reminders for the dialogue series are sent through the Buford Center’s Intercultural Services Facebook page as well as an email from UF Update a few days prior to the event.
“I welcome students to come in with an open mind and ready to learn some new information,” said White.