About National Conversations

David Wright, Provost"I believe there is a serious need for a convener of conversations about the great issues we face in our time, and from the leading voices on those issues. This role is certainly in keeping with our university’s heritage, and we plan to host these conversations in a Christ-centered context that is irenic, non-defensive, non-aggressive, and welcoming of all perspectives. Out of these conversations universities, including our own, can identify several topics for in-depth research, teaching, and consulting around which we can found informed responses to society’s needs."
-Dr. David Wright
Founder of National Conversations
Provost, Indiana Wesleyan University

The Goal of the National Conversations Series

Indiana Wesleyan University realizes the need to convene national conversations about the great issues we face in our time. Reflecting its university’s mission, these conversations will take place in a Christ-centered context that is irenic, non-defensive, non-aggressive, and welcoming of all perspectives. Through these national conversations, it is hoped that academic institutions and their various partners, especially publishers in various media, will identify several topics for in-depth research, teaching, and consulting. For many institutions, this series will provide valuable insights for prioritizing the creation and/or enhancing of high-quality research centers and initiatives. Each of the national conversations will be filmed and recorded in various formats, adding to the new knowledge base in various ways. CSpan will be invited to offer live coverage for each event, and a wide variety of auxiliary helps will follow. Besides numerous article and book possibilities (print and online), the interviews and discussions will be packaged for wide dissemination, e.g., webinars, CDs, podcasts, DVDs for standalone sessions for a variety of organizations, and curricular helps for college classes.

The Format

Each national conversation will take place in a conversational format, much like the Milton Friedman “Free to Choose” series. Participants will receive key materials to read and/or view at least a month prior to the event, allowing for a discussion springboard. The group discussion will last 50 minutes, or the exact time that fits the broadcaster’s format. Following the 50-minute session, a half-hour Q & A time will follow, allowing the invited guests to interact with the panelists. All will be recorded. Each of the panelists will be interviewed separately for follow-up materials, and several of the audience guests as well. During the reception, the media guests will help to foster group discussions around the topic.

Needs & Outcomes

Need: Becoming engaged in the national conversation
During the past four years IWU has brought nearly ninety visiting scholars to campus as part of the Lilly Scholarship Initiative. Many of these have served in dual roles as consultants, and nearly all of them have given similar advice—to help the national audience learn about the positive things transpiring at IWU. In short, the vast majority of educational and political leaders outside of Wesleyan circles do not know about IWU, or have a rather limited or inaccurate view.
Need: For a convener of conversations among Christian educators
This is a crucial time in American and global history, a time when the Christian message and approach to social crises and political dialogue is needed.
Need: Producing premier activities in the public eye
The “National Conversations” are not without precedent, but are normally hosted by Ivy League schools, such as Yale’s series. However, the nation and international community are wanton for Christian educators that can serve in a diplomatic and irenic way to foster dialogue (especially in ways that can lead to implementation). The level of these conversations needs to equal if not surpass those conducting them from other philosophical positions, thus the decision to utilize the National Press Club.
Outcome: To facilitate the institution’s reputation among the national audience
This irenic dialogue will not only involve key people nationally, but also be viewed by large and diverse audiences. As with Elon (now in dialogue with us), Alverno, USC and others with key missional dynamics, the National Dialogues can help IWU to establish a common name among the academy. Also, in the line of our Wesleyan tradition, the topics and follow-up materials will provide valuable helps for the underprivileged and often disenfranchised.
Outcome: To extend our world changing mission
IWU has among the tightest missions of all colleges, according to the eminent educator, Dr. John Gardner. We have various dynamics in place to endorse it on campus, and a rather intentional purpose-guided approach. The National Conversation series would manifest this philosophy, demonstrating it to the world and inviting it to consider this approach. In essence, it’s enacting our mission while inviting others to do the same.