Reflections of the Semester and the Program by Camille Ancessi
Dear Future Students of the Semester in Dialogue Program,
Upon the announcement of my admission into the Semester in Dialogue Program, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Although I had read everything that I could find pertaining to the course, I was left with many unanswered questions. For those of you that find yourselves in a similar position, I hope that this blog post will help demystify what the Semester in Dialogue is and some of the highlights you might look forward to. Although every Semester will be different, considering the difference in topics and professors, the core values and intentions of the program are consistent: to hone in on the power and importance of dialogue through experiential learning.
One important pillar that will surely mark your experience with the Semester in Dialogue is the emphasis it places on non-theoretical learning. I have never completed a course feeling so satisfied with the hands-on skills that I have acquired. Between learning facilitation, practicing dialogue, giving constructive feedback, writing, and event planning, the list of learning outcomes from this course goes on. The major difference between the Semester in Dialogue and any other course is that all of these learning outcomes are practical in nature.
The second important pillar that characterises the Semester in Dialogue experience is the format of the class, itself. Having been at UBC for the last 2 years, I have become accustomed to large lecture halls where professors don’t know your name unless you make a regular appearance in their office hours. Starting the Semester in Dialogue at SFU was like stepping into a completely different academic world. A typical day would consist of bringing in different speakers with knowledge of the Vancouver housing crisis (since our Semester's focus was on housing), and engaging with them and their expertise. It is through the medium of dialogue that we were able to learn from each other. Although stepping into this class format can seem daunting for those that are used to more conventional learning environments, the benefits of engaging in this way are much greater than any lecture-based class (in my clearly non-biased opinion).
Engaging with others in a way that emphasizes speaking to understand over speaking to respond is the very foundation of this course. Through the Semester in Dialogue, you will not only bear witness to the level of skill that is actually required to engage with others, but you will also become fluent in the practice of dialogue.
Dialogue is the process through which we are able to bridge the gap between two different ways of perceiving and understanding. This is the most important skill set that you will learn throughout this course, and I am also starting to believe that it is the most important skill that any of us can learn in life. Dialogue is about putting all of our differences aside, and coming together to fully connect as humans. It is about highlighting the ways in which our desires and values overlap, and leveraging this to create more opportunities for collaboration.
Judging by the reflections of my class on our final day of the Semester in Dialogue, I feel confident in saying that the growth and learning that emerged from our seven weeks together, was profound. In summary, this is a course that will leave you feeling invigorated by your newfound skills and abilities. I encourage you to walk into it with an open mind and spirit of curiosity, to experience it for yourself!