Conversation: A Vital Tool for Mending Our Democracy

Wednesday, October 23, 2019 - 4:00pm
Iowa City Public Library
123 Linn Street
Iowa City, IA 52240

Many of us long for complex conversations with a greater range of people, and yet we aren't entirely sure how to access such conversations. In this Obermann Conversation, we convene three people -- Lore Baur, Ben Hassman, and Sherry Watt -- who actively organize and facilitate conversations that might be perceived as difficult. Each of them will share some of the skills involved in holding a mutually respectful and beneficial conversation, as well as some of the power that this relatively simple tool provides for mending communities.

Lore Baur is a Certified Trainer for the International Center for Nonviolent Communication and an NVC Academy team member. She has a masters’ degree in education from the University of Iowa and has taught public school since 1993.  She organizes and offers trainings in Nonviolent Communication and Restorative Circles to teachers, parents, and teens, as well as faith and service organizations in her local community.

Benjamin Hassman is a Lecturer in the Rhetoric Department and Director of it's Conversation Center. The Center works to build informal and intercultural communication skills at the University of Iowa. Hassman's teaching focuses on service-learning, working to build bridges between collegiate academics and community applicability. 

Sherry K. Watt is a Professor of the Higher Education and Student Affairs program in the UI Department of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies. She grew up as an army dependent/”brat” and lived in the Midwest, Southeastern, Northeast, and Western United States as well as Belgium, and Germany. Professor Watt’s area of research explores various reactions people have to difficult dialogues related to social issues. This line of inquiry extends into studies about how to facilitate individual skill development and create environmental conditions for productive controversial dialogues.  She has been a facilitator prepared by the Center for Courage and Renewal in their Circle of Trust approach since 2007. She has over 25 years of experience in designing and leading educational experiences that involve strategies to engage participants in dialogue that is meaningful, passionate, and self-awakening.