It’s an increasingly uncommon situation: divisive topics coupled with thoughtful discussion marked by mutual respect. But that’s precisely the goal of a nationally recognized partnership between the University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University.
It’s called the “Books of the Year” program and arises from a Ford Foundation grant to foster safe environments for discussions of difficult topics. John Dede of UAA’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness explains…
The UAA and APU partnership was one of 26 institutions selected nationwide in 2006. Two years later the combined partners were one of 13 to receive carry-on funding. Actually, Books of the Year has grown to two years. Dede says one year was simply not enough time for effective classroom use and community outreach. Recently, UAA/APU announced the to books and theme for 2011-13. The theme is “money and morality.”
Much of the Difficult Dialogues program focuses on the classroom, but hardly in the bonding manner of a campus-wide required freshman text. For it’s not just the topics promoted, but the methods used to produce meaningful classroom discussions that are important.
Part of Dede’s responsibilities is to foster public outreach programs, and that includes with the Books of the Year. Plans are still being made, but he says a joint UAA/APU committee is considering a number of options.
As an example, Dede says UAA/APU might offer a fall forum centering on affordable child care in Anchorage and people who are having a tough go while trying to achieve their employment goals.
The Big Short and The Working Poor are available with a 20 percent discount at the university bookstore with curriculum guides on the Books of the Year file at the UAA website. Upcoming public events will appear at the same web location as they are finalized.
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage