Inaugural Dialogue Across Difference Grants Awarded by Office of the Provost

The seed funding aims to promote conversations where faculty, staff, and students can confront difference and find mutual understanding.

May 24, 2024

The Office of the Provost announced the inaugural recipients of its Dialogue Across Difference (DxD) seed grants this week. The initiative aims to promote a culture of civility and empathy on campus by playing host to difficult but important conversations.

“This initiative and the conversations it creates are more important than ever to our community,” said Provost Angela Olinto. “The opportunity to meaningfully engage with diverse perspectives is at the heart of every great university. There is no substitute for being able to sit down and respectfully talk through difficult issues and to learn from differing points of view. We are very excited to see these proposals come to life as Dialogue Across Difference continues to grow and helps keep the conversation going at Columbia.”

The grants will fund seven projects led by a total of 18 Columbia faculty—all with the shared goal of creating new spaces for critical conversations. Topics range from cultivating civil discourse among student leaders to dealing with academic upheaval amid geopolitical conflict. The projects, which include workshops, symposiums, and other programming, will begin rolling out this fall.

Inaugural awardees of the Dialogue Across Difference seed grants

Awardees span multiple disciplines and professional backgrounds, from social work and surgery to international and public affairs. For a full list of DxD projects, awardees, and the full suite of Office of the Provost awards conferred this Spring, see the Announcement of the 2024 Office of the Provost Faculty Awardees.

Some DxD-funded projects will build on existing work and scholarship. Peter T. Coleman, Lecturer in Professional Studies, will present his workshop, The Way Out. The workshop is an expansion of Coleman’s 2021 book of the same name, and like the book, will explore how to overcome toxic polarization and partisan divide in the United States.

 “Essentially, we are translating 20 years of research on overcoming toxic polarization published in my book, ‘The Way Out,’ which has already been developed into a four-week challenge,” Coleman says. “We are now developing it into a more engaging, user-friendly, and gamified online workshop and app. We hope to offer this to the Columbia community as one effort among many needed to open up our culture to better navigating our differences.”

Dialogue Across Difference launched in December 2023 as part of the Values in Action initiative. Previous conversations convened under the DxD banner have covered subjects including climate migration, political polarization, and conflict in the Middle East.

“Even in times of tension, the productive and thoughtful dialogues that take place countless times each day across our campuses nurture the learning that flourishes here,” said Dennis Mitchell, Executive Vice President for University Life and Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement. “This initiative reflects our commitment to fostering an inclusive, resilient community of learners where debates are rooted in rigor and civil discourse and where freedom of expression thrives in an environment of mutual respect.”

For more information on Dialogue Across Difference and future programming, visit the Office of the Provost.