“Bridging the Divide” at UW-Eau Claire

Article from WEAU 13 News
By Eleanor Bland

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – The Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership has a new program called “Bridging the Divide”.

It’s goal is to bring students together with different political views and allow them converse in a small group setting.

The program is happening on four different campuses, one of them is UW-Eau Claire.

In conjunction with the Thompson Center, the Menard Center for Constitutional Studies is running the program.

“Each one of these meetings will be on a different topic related to public affairs. This will give students a chance to hear from each other. And it doesn’t mean that they’re going to leave those meetings all agreeing with each other, but to have an opportunity to discuss them in a format where it is trying to get the different perspectives out on display so students can hear from one another and ultimately have a better understanding of what other people might be thinking”, said Director of Political Science at the Menard Center, Eric Kasper.

Teaching leadership and communication skills is what this program is all about.

“There’s the misconception that students nowadays are afraid to speak up and afraid to have difficult conversations. But really, in my experience, that’s just not true. That our students are wonderfully engaged. They want to have these conversations. But the bridging the divide program is an opportunity for them to practice these types of skills. It’s an opportunity for students to come together in what is perhaps a safe environment over food and have discussions over topics that they might feel are difficult, that they might feel are difficult, challenging to engage with their fellow students”, said Program Coordinator, Phil Rechek.

Two students from UW-Eau Claire applied to be student liaisons to better themselves and learn.

These students will coordinate and help run the events.

“There’s benefits to both me as well as other students here on campus. I’m excited to be propelled into a leadership position. I’m excited to be able to be working with students in an environment where I can kind of not only in a leadership role, but also be working with these students”, said Alexander Jensen, one of the student liaison’s.

“I think that there are still a lot of ways where I can improve when it comes to active listening to others, coming up with ways to be respectful with one another and still be able to have that counter speech and disagreement without it getting disrespectful. So I personally want to build my own skills there and also just be able to watch other people grow in those skills as well. I think that’s something that’s really important to me”, said Grace Schnabl, the other student liaison.

The meetings will be open to all students on campus and will begin in the 2024 spring semester.