This page summarizes some of the past teaching and community work I’ve been involved in, as well as some of the recognitions I’ve received over the years.
Dialogue Teaching & Community Practice. My past teaching and community work has been dedicated to making space for thoughtful, good-hearted people to find understanding (and affection) while exploring together the deepest of disagreements. This has included teaching, research and direct facilitation, as well as organizing to lay the ground work for dialogue in different settings:
1. University classes, presentations, and invited talks. I helped co-create and lead one of the first known liberal-conservative dialogue course on an American campus – taught over the course of two years at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign (see here for a published evaluation of the course).
Since then and my book with Phil Neisser, we have enjoyed chances to present to individual classes as well, including joint workshop in Michael Popovich’s undergraduate politics class in 2012 at the State University of New York, and two presentations together the following year at the following locations:
- Diversity seminar in the Clinical-Community Program University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
- American Government, LDS Business College, Salt Lake City, UT.
In 2014, I was invited to give a talk at the University of Illinois as part of the “Diversity & Social Justice Education Lecture Series,” Sponsored by the UIUC Office of Inclusion and Cultural Relations. This was entitled, “The (bright) future of liberal-conservative dialogue and why it’s worth the hard work.”
Later, we were brought in by Grinnell College in Iowa to offer some joint workshops (one of the sweetest experiences of my life):
2. Conference presentations and workshops. I’ve also enjoyed a number of joint presentations about dialogue at various conferences over the years:
- 2004 with Heidi Weaver, John Backman, Arthur Peña, & Phil Neisser. “Making space for sacred convictions in dialogue and deliberation: Threat, necessity or opportunity?” National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation Conference, Washington, D.C.
- 2008 as a panelist on a workshop entitled, “Framing dialogue in a way more accessible to a broader audience / Attracting conservative citizens to dialogue events.” Biennial Conference of the National Coalition of Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), Austin, TX
- 2013 with Phil Neisser on a joint presentation, “Confab Call on Liberal-Conservative Dialogue.” National Coalition of Dialogue & Deliberation.
- 2016 with Kendall Wilcox, “Dialog Skills for Treasonous Friendships“
- 2017 as a panelist on a workshop entitled, “Conflict And Peacebuilding in the United States: What is the Problem and the Peacebuilding Solution?” Alliance for Peacebuilding Conference, October 12 “Peace now, More than Ever,” Washington, D.C.
3. Community presentations, workshops and organizing. Phil and I were invited in 2013 to give several workshops in Flint Michigan to a community organization wanting to spark more productive exchange.Most of my community work since has been focused on direct organizing in Utah. This initially began with the primary from Living Room Conversations, I began working on a reconnaissance to learn about past local efforts in promoting understanding across divides. It turns out, a lot of wonderful things had already happened! (see Softening the Great Divide(s) in Utah: A True Story).
Eventually, I began collaborating as well with Utah Humanities and the Village Square, working together help cultivate our local ecosystem, ultimately creating our own Utah chapter of the Village Square (bringing together religious and non-religious, liberal and conservative citizens to learn how to promote higher-quality conversations…and maybe even have some fun together in the meanwhile!). Each year, we try to come up with a “season” of events to help promote higher-quality conversation in our state – based on the issues that feel in greatest need of more conversation. Here is some video footage from some of our events:
- Village Square Utah Inaugural Event – Sexual Orientation and Faith Conflicts – Highlights Version (UNCUT Version PART 1 & PART 2)
- A Living Room Conversation – Highlights (Full Version)
We’ve done events focused on secular/religious dialogue, as well as conversations on immigration, climate change, and policing. This culminated in being a co-organizer & Trainer for the Utah Citizen Summit, November 2017 (see Utah citizen summit explores ways to bridge state, nation after divisive election season). The following year, I participated as a dialogue facilitator at the follow-up summit in January 2018.
Rather than just “holding events,” our goal has been to help cultivate, preserve and protect the “civic ecosystem” in our state. This Bridge Alliance blog summarize some of our efforts over these years: Preserving and Protecting Our Precious Civic Ecosystem (re-posted on the Living Room Conversations’s Huffington Post blog here). Here is the flyer that provides more details – and here is a link to where you can apply for the Utah Civic Engagement Fellowship.
[For more videos, flyers and details on various dialogue events I’ve been involved in, check out the Red + Blue summary page]
Mindfulness Teaching. One of the great privileges of my life has been training as a Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction teacher. This has included 7 and 10 day retreats, and a number of trainings sponsored by the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts School of Medicine.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve taught 14 adult MBSR classes, including one at the Utah Air National Guard and others at Davis Behavioral Health. I’ve also taught 4 teen MBSR classes. (Watching teens learn to meditate is amazing!) And I’ve given both professional and community presentations on mindfulness over the years as well, especially as applied to mental health.
I’ve also participated in helping create two online classes that help people learn mindfulness in the context of mental health and addiction.
Educational & Professional Recognitions
- (2017 – present) Invited on the Board of the National Coalition of Dialogue & Deliberation
- (2017 – present) Invited on the Board of the Bridge Alliance
- (2017 – present) Invited on the Board of the Faith Matters Foundation
- (2015 – present) Invited Partner for Living Room Conversations
- (2015 – 2017) Director and Co-director of the Utah Chapter of the Village Square. Currently Jay Griffith and Shelly Sawyer-Jenson Co-direct the Organization
- (2015) Founders Award, with Phil Neisser Public Conversations Project (SUNY-Potsdam, News Release)
- (2012) Work with Phil Neisser is recognized on This American Life, Episode 478, Lisa Pollak: “Red State Blue State” the week before President Obama is elected.
- 2001, Valedictorian, Brigham Young University
- 1996, Valedictorian, Viewmont High School