Campus Diversity & Inclusion

Constructive Engagement at Union College

Engaging one another to understand differing viewpoints is vital to any enterprise and central to the core of learning at Union College.

Constructive Engagement aims to broaden our perspectives on different issues and presents an opportunity for us to engage in meaningful conversations instead of debates. Aligning with the College’s vision and strategic plan, the Constructive Engagement initiative provides the opportunity for every Union student to lead, to develop wisdom, empathy and courage. We foster a learning environment where students, faculty and staff are empowered to engage with one another through intentional dialogues and reflection that helps us learn and grow as a community.

The Union College Forum on Constructive Engagement was launched with a symposium on the inauguration of President David R. Harris in the fall of 2018. This symposium is aimed at enhancing our appreciation of the value of constructive engagement across perspectives. The series has continued with a number of guests from non-profit organizations.

Support for Constructive Engagement comes from Kelly Williams '86 and her husband, Andrew Forsyth, through the Williams Legacy Foundation.

Constructive Engagement events

Town & Gown

Monday, May 22, in O’Brien 117 at 4 p.m.

Panelists will include:

  • Tyerohn Coleman ’24, current student
  • David J. Hogenkamp ’06, Project Director, Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority
  • Elena Montoya ’22, Assistant Dean of Admissions
  • Andrew Morris, Associate Professor of History
  • Will Rivas, Executive Director of the Children of Our Community Open to Achievement (C.O.C.O.A) House
  • Julianna (Juls) Sweet ’21, Assistant Dean of Admissions

Representation and Dynamics in the New Congress

Wednesday, February 1, 2023 at 4 p.m. in Olin 115

Panelists Clifford Brown, the Robert Porter Patterson Professor of Government, and Zoe Oxley, Professor of Political Science, will discuss who members of Congress are, emphasizing the ways members represent and misrepresent the public, and what Congress is likely to accomplish (or not accomplish) over the next two years. Following the discussion, Brown and Oxley will open the discussion to the audience participants to hear their points of view.

Perspectives on abortion is next topic for Constructive Engagement

Thursday, April 21, at 12:45 p.m. (common hour) in O’Brien 117

Join us for a conversation with Rebecca Shrader, who will join us to share her, perhaps, third side of the story. She has shared her personal experiences and beliefs on NPR’s “This American Life.” To listen, visit



October 12, 2021
This Forum will feature a discussion about mask-wearing. Members of the Union community are invited to complete an anonymous survey prior to the event.

The session will be facilitated by the College's Diversity Officers:

  • Dru Alvez, Assistant Director of Intercultural Affairs
  • Christa Grant, Assistant Dean for Intercultural Affairs
  • Deidre Hill-Butler, Associate Professor of Sociology/Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • Mary Simeoli, Title IX Coordinator and Interim Director of Equal Opportunity

Civil Discourse across political differences

January 14, 2021
Moderated by President David R. Harris, the conversation will focus on the importance of engaging in civil discourse across political differences from the perspectives of students, faculty and staff.


October 13, 2020
Two former members of Congress -- Republican Charles Bass and Democrat Albert Wynn -- discuss police reform. Moderated by President David R. Harris and student Jahnae Morgan '21.

Racial Injustice: What Can U Do?

June 4, 2020
Topic: The Union community reflects on the question: When you heard about the recent racial injustices, what were your immediate reactions and feelings? These were their responses.

“Cheaters, Felons and Abusers: Second Chances for the Hardest Cases”

Hanna Stotl and Theodore O’Neill

May 19, 2020
Hanna Stotland
Theodore O’Neill

Topic: Perspectives on giving second chances to students who have been expelled from colleges and universities for Title IX, honor code and other offenses.

“Firearm Ownership”

November 19, 2019
Topic: Organized by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and Students for Gun Sense, a conversation about others’ perspectives on Second Amendment Rights.

The Gift of Our Wounds: Finding Forgiveness After Hate

Pardeep Singh Kaleka (left) and Arno Michaelis

April 29, 2019
Pardeep Singh Kaleka
Arno Michaelis

Topic: A conversation featuring a former white supremacist and a Sikh whose father was killed in a mass shooting at a temple.

“Constructive Engagement: What We Know and What We Do”

Scott Page

Sept. 7, 2018
Scott E. Page, professor of political science and economics, University of Michigan

Topic: Moderated by President Harris, this event featured a discussion with Page and a panel of community leaders, students, faculty and staff.