‘Open Floor’ Helps Students Traverse Conversational Minefield

John D. Maize, instructor of speech communication/composition, focuses on finding common ground among the people with whom we communicate ...

... and Craig A. Miller, associate professor of history/political science, encourages empathy and understanding in assessing others' differences of opinion.

Attentive students add to their intellectual toolbox before breaking into one-on-one to practice what they've learned.

With the event organizer visible at left background, aviation students Kerry K. Loeb (left), of Glen Mills, and Samuel J. Pham, of Camp Hill – another of the Penn College's CPEs – turn a discussion prompt into meaningful interaction.

“The Open Floor,” planned by Community Peer Educator Tia G. La to foster respectful discussion – even when parties’ opinions diverge – was held this week in the Thompson Professional Development Center. Two Penn College faculty members began Tuesday’s event with a half-hour primer on open communication, then students were paired in a “speed round” of conversations addressing such contentious topics as the Confederate flag, all-gender restrooms and immigration. “The ultimate goal of the event is to empower students and equip them with some of the skills they need in order to make the connections that are so necessary for creating an intellectually diverse and open campus,” said La, a pre-physician assistant major from Guam and a CPE in the diversity and campus/community engagement core group. “This event really targets the heart of what we’re trying to do: encourage students to become more well-rounded individuals, promote the college as a place for personal growth, and get students talking and interacting with one another.” The evening concluded with a debriefing, in which students reflected on how intimidating some conversations can be … and shared their triumphs and revelations in persevering through the difficulties.
– Photos by Rachel A. Eirmann, student photographer

Pennsylvania College of Technology is a special mission affiliate of The Pennsylvania State University