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Student Experiences

Finding Common Ground for Action

As the BYU Marriott School of Business welcomed students from more than 45 states and 40 countries in the 2022-2023 school year, creating an environment of belonging has continued to be a priority. With the goal to enrich belonging on campus, the Experience Design Society (ExDS) and the Marriott Inclusion Business Society (MIBS) co-hosted Sit with Me, an event focused on practicing collaborative dialogue.

Large group of people eating while watching a presentation
BYU Marriott assistant professor Sarah Agate teaches students how to conduct deliberative dialogues.
Photo courtesy of Michaela Horn.

At the event, Sarah Agate, an assistant professor of experience design and management (ExDM), instructed attendees on conducting deliberative dialogue in order to enact change. Deliberative dialogue, a concept she teaches in her Emotional Intelligence for Experience Designers course, is a process for talking about challenging topics in a nonconfrontational way. The purpose is to help people express their opinions and listen to others—an important practice, Agate stressed, in a polarized society.

“I’m here to make a positive change in myself and the environment around me,” said Noah Arntsen, a junior studying graphic design from Mount Ulla, North Carolina. He found out about the event from a friend in the ExDM program and was excited to practice a new communication skill.

When people practice deliberative dialogue, they explore different angles of an issue. Agate explained that “engaging in deliberative dialogue is a great approach to deal with problems where there are multiple answers that feel right.” For example, there are several ways to answer Agate’s question, “How can we help BYU feel like a place where people belong?”

Poster board covered with little notes under the words how can we create a sense of belonging at BYU
Students at the "Sit with Me" event worked together to answer the question, "How can we create a sense of belonging at BYU?"
Photo courtesy of Michaela Horn.

The event activities invited participants to discuss ways people at BYU could better create a community of belonging. The purpose of a deliberative dialogue is not about reaching agreement, Agate said, but looking for shared objectives guided by similar values.

In order to find common ground, Agate recommended seeking strengths from opposing views, assuming that multiple people have different parts of the answer, asking how you could be wrong, and listening to understand. “How are you going to implement what you have learned tonight in your jobs and careers? What are you going to do now?” Agate asked.

One of the students at the event, Emily Erekson, a junior in the ExDM program from El Paso, Texas, said, “It’s so important to me that I am someone who others can feel safe around.” She hopes to facilitate that type of environment by listening to others when discussing difficult topics.

Photo of four women standing next to a writing board
Michaela Horn, Sarah Agate, Camryn Tippetts, and Melissa Andrew organized and hosted the "Sit with Me" event.
Photo courtesy of Michaela Horn.

“Remember that listening is as important as speaking,” said Brinley Dayton, a student facilitator from Alpine, Utah, at the event. ExDM seniors Michaela Horn, Camryn Tippetts, and Melissa Andrew helped coordinate the event during the winter 2023 semester.

Although the “Sit with Me” event only spanned a few hours, Agate invited everyone to continue to sit with others as they emulate the Savior. “If we can be more Christlike, we can help people belong,” said Agate.


Written by Liesel Allen