Wheelock College

Campus Conversations on Race: A Talk Worth Having ®


Abstract and Mission:

The Association of American Colleges' 2008 research report Making Diversity Work on Campus recommends that

"...colleges encourage cross-racial dialogue among students by providing a structured format in which they can regularly participate and learn how to engage positively in such conversations."

To that end, a program model is being established on a network of campuses across the nation. It is called Campus Conversations on Race: A Talk Worth Having (CCOR). The CCOR program trains faculty and staff who in turn train students to co-facilitate peer group discussions on race utilizing a structured format over a series of regularly scheduled sessions that utilize case studies to engage conversations. The program is action oriented with its closing session titled "Where do we go from here?".

Discussions about race and race prejudice have never been comfortable or easy. Such prejudice is, after all, a corrosive force that has bitten into the fiber and attacked the whole social structure of American society. Ridding ourselves and our communities of race prejudice and healing the wounds sustained from it require an effort of sustained, heroic proportions. Those who step forward to assist in this process by co-facilitating campus conversations on race are offering heroic deeds of service that benefit their own school community, and, ultimately, humanity as a whole.

Youth have long been in the vanguard of social change in America. The momentous achievements of the Civil Rights Movement were largely driven by the courage and sacrifice of young people, including giving their lives to promote social justice and racial harmony. As contemporary students summon the courage to act, through training, hosting, and co-facilitating campus conversations on race, they are not alone. Each year their ranks swell as many others step forward. Collectively, they are becoming a potent force as they render a vital service on campuses across the nation.


An important underpinning of CCOR, wherever they are held, is the perspective that race reconciliation and amity are the next steps in America's development. This viewpoint casts a reassuring perspective on the issue: the recognition of the nobility of all human beings and the organic oneness of all peoples. These principles are also expressed in the motto of the United States of America: E Pluribus Unum — Out of Many, One.

CCOR is an instrument for advancing cross racial understanding among students. The program trains faculty and staff who in turn train student volunteers in the use of critical group facilitation skills. The trainers also serve as advisers to the student co-facilitators. A structured format including a published Co-Facilitators Guide, a CCOR Participants Handbook, templates for promotion and recruitment of students, a summary of best practices generated over five years by faculty, staff, and student participants, are all part of the resources that support campuses in the CCOR Network. The CCOR program is based on a proven model of facilitated group discussion which uses case studies and contemporary news articles, music, and internet video clips to engage participants. Over the past ten years, William H. "Smitty" Smith, Ed. D., initially as a Senior Fellow and later as a trustee of the Phelps Stokes Fund, developed variations of the case study based dialogue approach pioneered by the Study Circle Resources Center. The case study approach has been employed with very favorable results by numerous religious, educational, governmental, organizations and institutions. The potential of effecting large scale societal change through improved race relations can be realized as CCOR empowers students to bring their proven ability to affect social change to the subject of addressing issues of racial and cultural bias and bigotry in America.

The Value of Conversations to Students

CCOR is a program in which students engage in discussions on race and ethnicity. The discussions are facilitated by a team, usually two, students who have been trained to do so. The format of the conversations uses case studies as the starting point to engage the views of participants. The purpose is to provide students a forum for discussion of one of the most vital and critical issues we face in contemporary society, racial and ethnic prejudice and bigotry. It is paramount for students who are preparing to be the professionals and leaders to begin to gain an understanding of the perspectives and cultures that will soon be the new majority in our society. This rapidly changing paradigm will be the object of the purveyors in every societal sector for succeeding decades in the century. This means that campus conversations on race are important and significant to the learning experience for students. It is the responsibility of colleges to formally, systematically, address this important aspect and challenge of societal change.


How CCOR Works for Students

Each CCOR group is limited to ten volunteer student participants. The participants engage in five two hour sessions each over a five to eight week period. The final session includes an opportunity for students to evaluate their experience and to formulate individual and/or group actions they will pursue after the sessions have ended. The action phase is a call to students to engage in some positive action to affect race relations in their field of study and leisure pursuits. Participants sign up for CCOR sessions on a volunteer first come basis. Facilitation for the group sessions is provided by two student co-facilitators who have undergone sixteen hours of training and are certified as CCOR Co-facilitators.

Campus Conversations on Race One Day Train the Trainer Workshops

The Campus Conversations on Race Program was created by the National Center for Race Amity’s (NCRA) Executive and Founding Director, William H. Smith, Ed. D. In August of 2012, the program achieved a milestone in the transference of the ongoing management to a new National Director and hosted by Colby College one of the CCOR Networks most outstanding campuses for implementation. Joseph Atkins, Ph. D., Professor and Associate Dean of Students serves as the CCOR National Director. NCRA works in a close advisory capacity with Dr. Atkins.

The CCOR initiative provides one day Train the Trainer Workshops for faculty and staff who in turn train and serve as advisors to students on their campuses. The Train the Trainer workshop focuses on skills, practices, and resource materials developed over the past eight years by students, faculty, and the CCOR staff. The training equips students with effective and practiced skills in small peer group co-facilitation. Upon successful completion of the one day workshop participants are certified as CCOR Co-facilitator Trainers.

The Campus Conversations on Race College Network provides teleconference and in-person briefing sessions for those interested in becoming members.

For more information contact ccorgroup@colby.edu

National Center for Race Amity
200 The Riverway, Boston, Massachusetts 02215 | 617.879.2025
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