In September 2017, President Martha E. Pollack announced the formation of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate, composed of faculty, staff and students on the Ithaca campus, and charged with making specific recommendations about how Cornell can implement meaningful institutional change that leads to a campus climate that is more diverse and inclusive, and that expresses greater respect and understanding (Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate, 2017). The task force will identify the problems that are preventing us from being a fully welcoming and inclusive community and make specific recommendations about how our community can move forward with greater respect, understanding and inclusivity” (2017). In the extensive outreach conducted by the Campus Experience sub-committee, members repeatedly heard that IDP is an excellent model for diversity education on campus and should be mandatory for all students. Thus an early recommendation emerged from the Task Force to offer mandatory introductory intergroup dialogue sessions to all incoming students.
In August 2018, the Intergroup Dialogue Project (IDP) launched the Community at Cornell program. Incoming students completed a short reading followed by a written reflection that introduced the concept of dialogue and asked them to reflect on how they might use it in their time at Cornell. During Orientation, every student attended one of 169 sessions over the course of 5 days. Each student was assigned to a single 3-hour session with 19 of their peers and 2 trained IDP facilitators. In addition to IDP’s current undergraduate, graduate, and staff facilitators, IDP recruited 22 of their recent alumni facilitators from across the country to support this massive effort.
In January 2019, IDP expanded the program to include incoming transfer students and adapted their curriculum so that the sessions could be completed in 2.5 hours.
In summer 2020, when it became clear that in-person sessions would not be able to take place during Orientation due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the IDP team worked to develop an additional component to add to the Community at Cornell program that students would still be able to complete during their Orientation: Connection, Challenge, Change – a series of 3-short videos where students and recent alumni share their experiences and advice around the themes of connection, challenge, and change. The in-person Create Community Across Difference sessions will be held later in the academic year.