Volcker Alliance Launches New Initiative to Combat Polarization on University Campuses

School collage CDC

Fourteen universities will develop curricula to help students lead and engage across difference

New York, NY – Today, the Volcker Alliance launched the Constructive Dialogue Curriculum Initiative, a partnership with the Constructive Dialogue Institute (CDI) to help schools of public service implement innovative curricula that prepares the next generation of public service leaders to bridge divides and work collaboratively across differences.

The initiative includes fourteen schools of public service that are members of the Deans Summit, a collaborative network of schools that confer degrees in public policy, public administration, public affairs, and related fields. The Deans Summit, which is supported by the Volcker Alliance, launched the Constructive Dialogue Curriculum Initiative in direct response to the alarming growth of political polarization on campuses across the nation and out of a belief that schools of public service have a unique role to play in preparing university students to discuss topics and policies that reach across society’s divides.

Over a period of 18 months, participating schools will develop a new course or adapt an existing course to teach the skills for collaborating across difference, embedding CDI’s signature Perspectives program within their larger curricula. Participants include:

“Political polarization is growing at an alarming rate, democratic systems are being tested and weakened, and the population’s faith in public institutions is at an all-time low,” said Sara Mogulescu, president of the Volcker Alliance. “We believe civil, constructive discourse is a pillar of effective democracy and this initiative will help rising leaders entering the workforce—public sector, private sector, or otherwise—to practice these skills.”

“As schools of public service, we are in a unique position to equip our future leaders with the tools needed to lead across difference,” said Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, dean of the Clinton School of Public Service at the University of Arkansas. “I am confident that the curriculum we develop through this initiative will bolster our faculty, staff, and student's ability to have productive conversations on campus and in their respective communities.”

Through this initiative, the Volcker Alliance aims to surface best practices that can inform other interested educators and leaders. A white paper that shares qualitative and quantitative data on student outcomes and potential implications for public service education is expected to be released in summer 2025.


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