Conversation: A Vital Tool for Mending Our Democracy

Oct 23, 2019

04:00 PM - 05:00 PM

Iowa City Public Library, A

123 South Linn Street, Iowa City, IA 52240

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Painting -- three people sitting together talking.

Many of us long for complex conversations with a greater range of people, and yet we aren't entirely sure how to access such conversations. In this Obermann Conversation, we convene three people -- Lore Baur, Ben Hassman, and Sherry Watt -- who actively organize and facilitate conversations that might be perceived as difficult. Each of them will share some of the skills involved in holding a mutually respectful and beneficial conversation, as well as some of the power that this relatively simple tool provides for mending communities.

Lore Baur is a teacher at Southeast Junior High School and is a Certified Trainer for the International Center for Nonviolent Communication. 

Benjamin Hassman joined the UI Rhetoric Department as a lecturer in Fall 2015, and is Director of its Conversation Center. Directing the Conversation Center builds on his experience with peer-leadership programs like the Berwick Boys Foundation, formative time advocating for Service-learning at Onondaga Community College, and teaching for Gen-ed Rhetoric and the Rhetoric Minor, including Speaking Skills, Advanced Speaking Skills, and the Conversation Center’s own RHET 2090 Conversation Practicum. He wrote his PhD dissertation in Philosophy of Language on paradoxes and their implication for how we understand the relationship between our sentences and the world. His current interests include informal and intercultural communication especially as a lynchpin to learning.

Sherry Watt is an associate professor in the UI's Higher Education and Student Affairs program. Her research explores various reactions people have to difficult dialogues related to social issues. She applies her research by teaching learners how to develop the skills to engage across differences. Sherry has written opinion pieces for On Being, ACPA College Student Educators International, and the Chronicle of Higher Education Review. Trained in Parker Palmer's Courage & Renewal model, Sherry has almost 20 years of experience in designing and leading educational experiences that involve strategies to engage participants in dialogue that is meaningful, passionate, and self-awakening.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact in advance at