I write to tell you about a fun and valuable experience we added to our orientation program for all our entering classes. Beginning with the Fall 2022 quarter, we introduce each entering Baylor Law student to a model for civil discourse through a workshop developed in partnership with Baylor University’s Public Deliberation Initiative. We conducted this workshop for our Summer 2023 entering class earlier this week. You may still be in spring finals, but we just started the second week of our summer term!
Through these Public Deliberation Workshops, we encourage students to adopt a better way to engage in conversations with one another in law school. This skill also can be used in the future as they represent clients or causes.
Public Deliberation training encourages participants to earnestly and respectfully listen to others with different life experiences and viewpoints. The goal is NOT to change others’ minds on the issue at hand; instead, we want students to find shared values and build community that can lead to innovative problem-solving. We desire to help our students embody professionalism, model civility, and advocate more effectively. This approach also can create a culture of respect for colleagues with different backgrounds and perspectives that will enrich our classrooms and programs, support our efforts for student well-being, and better equip our students to be difference-makers in society.
Second- or third-year law students serve as workshop facilitators during the sessions. Trained to be public deliberation facilitators during our Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) course, they keep the workshop participants on task while remaining neutral. After training and participation, the law student facilitators receive certificates as public deliberation facilitators. For more information on the program, please see my most recent post on the Professional Identity Formation Blog, titled Training Law Students to Converse Respectfully: Public Disclosure Workshop. You are also invited to contact me. I am happy to help you consider how to offer a similar training at your law school or organization.