Common Ground Multicultural Dialogue Program

Common Ground Dialogue Logo Common Ground is a program through the Department of Resident Life that provides structured opportunities for diverse groups of 12-14 students to come together to engage in peer-led dialogues about issues that have important implications for our twenty-first century multicultural society.

Common Ground dialogue groups are especially great programming opportunities for RAs!

What do I need in order to set up a successful dialogue group on my floor/in my hall?
  • A diverse group of 10-15 students who want to participate in a dialogue about a serious multicultural topic and who are committed to attending every session or the entire session, depending on the format. Groups usually run 45 minutes - 1 ½ hours.
  • A quiet, private, comfortable space that is big enough to accommodate the group. Most groups arrange the chairs in a circle.
  • An idea for a topic that would be interesting for your group to discuss. If you need help developing an idea, just let us know!
Key characteristics of Common Ground Dialogue Groups:
  • Diversity of participants. As much as possible, a Common Ground group should be comprised of students who bring multiple individual identities and perspectives to the dialogue. Dialogue groups with too many members who have similar points of view and who are similar on several dimensions of identity may not provide as much exposure to the multiple perspectives that exist on a given issue.
  • Peer-led. All Common Ground dialogue groups are co-led by pairs of University of Maryland undergraduate students called Peer Dialogue Leaders who have gone through extensive training. Common Ground is a student-oriented program; all dialogue groups are for students and led by students.
  • Voluntary participation. Participation in a dialogue group must always be voluntary.
  • Commitment to attend and participate. Group members must be willing to come on time and participate in the entire session. In the case of the four-session format, group members must commit to being on time for and attending every session.
  • A climate of respect for multiple perspectives. One of the fundamental principles underlying the Common Ground program is that some of the most powerful learning occurs through exposure to and consideration of multiple perspectives. Therefore, one of our most important goals is to create a dialogue group environment in which members talk openly and candidly about serious multicultural issues while also listening carefully to the views and experiences of others, especially if someone has a view that is different from their own. Because multiple perspectives are so important to dialogue and to learning, there is never a "right" or "wrong" view on a particular issue. In addition, group members shouldn't feel pressured or obligated to change their minds. Instead we hope that each person emerges from the experience with a deeper and more complete understanding of the issue and its complexities.
What is my role as an RA?

Because of the power dynamics associated with your position, you as the RA should not participate as a member of a dialogue group you arrange for your floor. Instead, your role is to:

  • Stay aware of the needs and interests of your floor/hall and develop ideas for dialogue group topics that might be interesting to your residents.
  • Make all logistical arrangements for the group (e.g. solicit and confirm group participants, initiate all contacts with the Common Ground program staff, arrange a date and time for the group, reserve and set up an appropriate space, and send out reminders to ensure participation).
  • Follow-up as necessary.
Who do I contact to set up a group?

Nicole Mehta
Program Director
2101 Annapolis Hall
Phone: (301) 314-7608