The Doyle Engaging Difference Program supports innovative learning experiences that equip Georgetown University students and faculty to constructively engage differences inside and outside the classroom. Now in its second decade, the program has fostered space for critical conversations on intercultural and interreligious engagement at and beyond Georgetown, helping to strengthen the culture of inclusive teaching at learning at the university.
How can Georgetown prepare its students for an increasingly global and multicultural world? That question was at the heart of why the Doyle Program was founded in 2009. The program began with a generous gift and accompanying vision from William J. Doyle (C’72), former chair of the Georgetown University Board of Directors. Doyle, who traveled internationally for business some 200 days per year, noticed a concerning trend over the course of his experience abroad: There was a gradual decline in civility—people were less empathetic, less inclined to listen to others across lines of difference.
Georgetown students—the next generation of leaders in academia, policymaking, and the professions—needed better resources to engage with global difference. The Doyle Program was founded to help support learning and teaching on diversity and inclusion at Georgetown, allowing the university to deepen its Catholic and Jesuit commitment to diversity and intercultural dialogue.
“The Doyle Initiative is really about diversity, tolerance, and understanding other people, having empathy for other people, realizing that opposing points of view are not all bad,” Doyle explained in 2014. “Georgetown is uniquely positioned to teach these skills.”
Now in its second decade, the program—administered jointly by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs and the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship (CNDLS)—has touched the lives of over 5,000 Georgetown students across campus, and over 200 faculty members have taught classes in the program. The university-wide program supports curricular engagement with difference and diversity in introductory and upper-level courses through Doyle Faculty Fellowships and Doyle Seminars, respectively. Students studying internationally also have the opportunity to reflect on their encounters with diverse host societies as part of the Doyle Global Dialogue. The program also provides opportunities for both students and faculty to apply for Doyle Grants and participate in Doyle Events to further engage in critical dialogue on diversity in co-curricular spaces.
While shaping classroom and co-curricular experience for countless Georgetown students and faculty, the Doyle Program has also contributed to wider efforts to strengthen inclusive teaching and learning at Georgetown, helping to build a community in diversity at the university. Looking at the past decade of program accomplishments highlights the ways in which Georgetown is working to create a more inclusive culture of teaching and learning today.
The work of the Doyle Program “continues to foster space for critical discussion and debate on intercultural and interreligious difference, enabling Hoyas to become engaged global citizens in an increasingly pluralistic world,” notes Vice President for Global Engagement and Berkley Center Founding Director Thomas Banchoff.
Engaging Diversity in the Curriculum
April 20, 2009. Georgetown University. Students gather in the ICC Auditorium for a town hall meeting, convened in response to a campus publication that prompted contentious discussions around diversity at the university. At the meeting, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia took the stage, using the opportunity to reflect on the need for dialogue across lines of difference.
“Our world is in desperate need of women and men who can overcome their own self-interest, their own limitations, their own provincial perspectives, and develop the skills to bring people together, despite their differences, despite the obstacles and blocks—women and men who can overcome the hardships and difficulties and build bridges of understanding across borderlands of difference,” he explained.
Building bridges of understanding is a core component of the Georgetown education, according to DeGioia, who pointed to the university motto—Utraque Unum (Both into One)—as a case in point. At the town hall meeting, the president also announced steps to foster respect for diversity and inclusiveness within the campus community. One such step was the founding of the Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness, which included working groups to address three interrelated aspects of campus culture: academics, admissions and recruitment, and student life.
How might the university revise the core curriculum so that students engage diversity with intellectual depth and rigor? Are there ways in which the curriculum and co-curriculum might be integrated to bring about such engagement? These questions were behind the recommendations issued by the academic working group—a collection of students, faculty, and staff—in April 2010. The recommendations included a proposal to create a university-wide diversity requirement for undergraduate students, a longstanding focus of student-led activism since the 1990s.
It was against this backdrop that the Doyle Program hosted the “2014 Doyle Symposium: Engaging Difference to Make a Difference” as a space for critical reflection on the future of the diversity requirement. Event participants—university leaders, faculty, students, and alumni—engaged in mutual dialogue to propose and consider strategies for ensuring that students encounter a wide diversity of experiences and perspectives on and beyond the Hilltop.
“Anything we start to imagine around what a curricular requirement ought to be is embedded in the question of who do we want our students to become?” explained Randall Bass, who was then serving as vice provost for education at Georgetown. “What kind of difference are we making to our students while they are here?”
That Doyle symposium helped to set the stage for the eventual Engaging Diversity Requirement. As part of the requirement, approved by the Main Campus Executive Faculty in April 2015, all Georgetown undergraduate students must take one course engaging domestic diversity and one engaging global diversity. By fulfilling the requirement, students become better able to appreciate and reflect upon how human diversity and human identities shape our experience and understanding of the world.
With engaging diversity as the central theme of Doyle Seminars and classes taught by Doyle Faculty Fellows, the Doyle Program came to play an increasingly important role in shaping the experiences of Georgetown students, with the bulk of Doyle courses fulfilling the new requirement for graduation.
The program has also continued to hold space for critical reflection on the diversity requirement. One such example came in 2016, when the program hosted “A Lunch Conversation on Higher Education and Race” as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Initiative. The event featured Dr. Benjamin Reese, president of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, and his daughter Laureen Reese (C’12), who played an important role in calling for a diversity requirement when she served as a student member on the Initiative on Diversity and Inclusiveness.
“Even though I did not see a diversity requirement when I was at Georgetown, it was something I was really active in advocating for,” the Georgetown alumna explained. “The fact that it’s being incorporated into Georgetown’s character now means so much to me.”
By holding much-needed space for dialogue on the Engaging Diversity Requirement, now a well-established part of the Georgetown curriculum, the Doyle Program has had a lasting impact on inclusive teaching and learning at the university.
Its approach to bringing together students, faculty, and staff for careful reflection on difference at the university has also helped to inform similar initiatives on campus like the Provost’s Diversity Advisory Committee, which has facilitated discussions on diversity and inclusion with first-year students. This approach to changing the curriculum, grounded in thoughtful dialogue across lines of difference, will continue to be key as the university community looks toward the future of inclusive and responsive teaching and learning at Georgetown.
Dialogue in Action
The classroom is just one of the spaces where the Doyle Program has contributed to integrating a wide diversity of perspectives into the Georgetown experience. The program has also helped students and faculty to put dialogue into action in the pursuit of the common good.
What starts in a Doyle Seminar classroom incubator grows into full initiatives, integrating the work we do as educators with the wider DC community—and beyond. Georgetown University’s Prisons and Justice Initiative (PJI), launched in 2016, seeks to “respond to the dual crisis of incarceration and recidivism” by working collaboratively with prisons and communities. PJI’s founding director Marc Howard envisioned a course redesign as a 2014-2015 Doyle Faculty Fellow and then launched GOVX-400: Prison Reform Project as a 2016 Doyle Seminar.
Both the Doyle Seminar and Howard’s course redesign were a dialogue between Georgetown University students and incarcerated students. GOVX-400 continues as an important part of PJI programming, with later courses on “Making an Exoneree” that were responsible for freeing a wrongfully convicted man, Valentino Dixon.
PJI’s Prison Scholars Program received a $1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to expand the program from DC Jail to Maryland and offer bachelor’s degrees. This, along with leveraging a Second Chance Pell grant, means Georgetown’s commitment to teaching in prisons is secure “for years to come, with a bachelor’s degree and an expanded footprint in Maryland,” said Joshua Miller, director of education at PJI.
Recently, the Doyle Program helped provide a different look at dialogue in action by supporting Amy Uelmen’s course on Religion and the Work of a Lawyer. Uelmen’s course has been offered since 2002 but was featured as a Doyle Seminar in fall 2019, when Uelmen brought together alumni, students, and faculty at a luncheon around Finding Faith in the Legal Profession, held during the Georgetown Law reunion weekend. “We work hard to identify our shared questions,” said Uelmen.
We may not have shared answers, but we have many shared questions. And then we focus on creating a welcoming, open space for conversation, and I would even dare to say a sense of community.
Her work on dialogue and ethics in the legal profession now reverberates through this alumni network. Michael Fakhoury (L’19), an alum of Uelmen’s course, began discussions to form a Religion and the Work of a Layer alumni network with Uelmen and Georgetown Law Dean William Treanor after recognizing how the seminar changed the way he viewed his responsibility for the world. “The goal is to further the conversations we began in the classroom,” said Fakhoury.
Students participating in the Doyle Global Dialogue integrate active dialogue and reflection into their study abroad experience. The program features Hoyas from the Hilltop studying abroad, as well as international students coming to Georgetown’s Main Campus and Qatar campus. Students connect through prompted reflections on the intersections of religion, politics, culture, and society.
“The creation of a truly global cohort prepares students to address global challenges,” says Ryann Craig, director of student programs at the Berkley Center. “DGD offers an integrative learning space that equips students to thoughtfully engage differences, particularly through the development of interreligious and intercultural competencies.”
Renée Vongai Mutare (SFS’24), a Georgetown University in Qatar student from Zimbabwe who is already working to connect global health solutions to local communities, shared about her Doyle Global Dialogue experience, noting:
“I have realized that there is a lot that could be easily dismissed in intercultural, interreligious experiences without taking things into careful consideration. It is hard to appreciate everything that is offered in an experience abroad if you do not take time to share your experiences with others. I've learned, and continue to learn, what it means to be a true global citizen.”
In recent semesters, the Doyle Global Dialogue has become a space where students studying abroad can support each other through global crises—the COVID-19 pandemic, worldwide responses to racial injustice, and the heightened awareness of our economic and moral ties brought to the fore by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Some even experienced their Doyle cohort as their strongest connection to the Georgetown community when the pandemic kept them from even moving to campus.
Neha Shrestha (SFS’24) began her collegiate career at Georgetown University in Qatar staying in her home country, Nepal. She was able to connect with her peers at GU-Q through the Doyle Global Dialogue, sharing that “I could relate to all the experiences of cultural clashes that people had after being in Doha without even being there because of the interactions I have had with my peers through the Doyle Global Dialogue.” She continued, “I know now what sweets people like to eat in Malaysia, and the holidays celebrated in Kazakhstan. I think it is because of the distance that we tried so hard to form these bonds. Obviously, we would have all preferred to meet under better circumstances, but we were able to make the best of our circumstances and salvaged the feeling of being a community despite the Zoom fatigue and the poor internet connections.”
Building on a range of dialogic pedagogy models—and harnessing the shared wisdom from the Berkley Center, CNDLS, Red House, the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching and Service, and the Office of Mission & Ministry—staff and faculty have begun meeting regularly as a Doyle Dialogue Collective. This space has emerged to encourage and support dialogue, negotiation, and mediation both within and beyond the GU community, addressing a range of dialogic pedagogy methods and programs. Most recently, conversations from the Doyle Dialogue Collective lead to the creation of the In Your Shoes: Georgetown Student and Faculty Dialogues pilot project in spring 2022, a collaboration between the Doyle Program, the Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics, and the Red House.
This pilot is rooted in the Lab’s signature In Your Shoes Project™, which uses two-way pair conversations between participants that are recorded, curated, transcribed, and then shared with the group in excerpted form through performance. Using this dialogue method, Georgetown students and faculty have exchanged their perspectives on campus, the classroom, and learning. Ijeoma Njaka, a Lab and Red House staff member who coordinates the program, has witnessed the impact of the program.
Faculty and students have so much wisdom to offer one another about their classroom experiences. Through the In Your Shoes approach, we have been able to surface and discuss topics related to teaching and learning that matter deeply to both students and faculty. It has been exciting to witness this meaningful exchange.
As the university entered a virtual learning environment in March 2020 due to the global pandemic, the Doyle Program took on new significance as a resource in inclusive pedagogy for faculty as they adjusted to teaching online. Building on previous programming on intergroup dialogue, the Doyle Program was able to pivot quickly in order to support faculty in making the shift to virtual learning with inclusion in mind.
Having laid the groundwork for dialogue at the "2019 Doyle Symposium: An Introduction to Intergroup Dialogue," the Doyle Program has been building on that foundation in order to foreground the tenets of dialogic pedagogy in our approach to faculty development and student programs. Focused on introducing staff and faculty to intergroup dialogue, the 2019 Doyle Symposium consisted of a three-day workshop-based event led by facilitators from the University of Michigan’s Program for Intergroup Relations. Crucially, the process for supporting intergroup dialogue developed and used by the University of Michigan connects to the Jesuit precept of cura personalis (care of the whole person), inviting us to attend to the care and development of the whole person in our work at Georgetown.
Participants enjoy a lighter moment at table discussions during the 2019 Doyle Symposium.
In order to meet the urgent need to prepare faculty to teach in a fully online environment, a Course Design Institute model was developed and implemented during the summer of 2020. Building on the foundations of the Doyle Program’s work with faculty in inclusive pedagogy, the Course Design Institutes offered department-based engagements over several days that covered aspects of course design and delivery in virtual modalities. The Doyle Program’s contribution to the development of the Course Design Institute model was vital to ensuring that inclusion, dialogue, and community were foregrounded as faculty prepared to teach online during the 2020-2021 academic year. In total, more than 1,200 faculty participated in the institutes, marking a significant and widespread initiative for the Doyle Program. Margaret Debelius, director of faculty initiatives and teaching professor at CNDLS, welcomed the opportunity for engagement.
With a full day of faculty development dedicated to inclusive teaching, the Course Design Institutes allowed the Doyle Program to reach an unprecedented number of faculty across our campus.
Alongside the COVID-19 pandemic, the uprisings for racial justice that spread across the United States and beyond during the summer of 2020 fueled a renewed commitment to working toward racial justice on our campus. Beginning in the fall of 2020, the Doyle Program launched a new event series, Doyle Conversations on Anti-Racism in Higher Education, designed to bring faculty, staff, students, and administrators to share insights, strategies, and experiences doing anti-racist work at Georgetown. Since its launch in the fall of 2020, the conversation series has hosted 10 events over four semesters on topics related to pedagogy, curriculum, and campus climate. Georgetown’s Cultural Climate Survey, conducted during the spring of 2020, further underscored the importance of the contributions of the Doyle Program in supporting a culture of inclusion at Georgetown.
The Doyle legacy of focused work with individual faculty for over a decade has led to growth in school and program specific work, paving the way for larger university-wide efforts. The fall of 2021 saw the renewal of conversations about the Engaging Diversity Requirement, beginning with a process of assessment and evaluation of the requirement led by the Hub for Equity and Innovation at Georgetown. In addition to work on this important curricular element, the Curriculum Transformation Initiative, funded by the Baker Trust, has expanded on the Doyle work by supporting hires and other efforts at the school and program level that strengthen the university’s capacity to engage with diversity and inclusion. Building on cohort work and school level engagement, we are poised to launch a university-wide inclusive pedagogy initiative that will enable all departments and academic units on campus to engage more deeply with inclusive pedagogy. Through the new initiative, academic units will explore and strengthen the content, pedagogy, and climate of their teaching and learning environments, all through the lens of inclusive and culturally responsive pedagogy. Michelle Ohnona, assistant director for diversity and inclusion initiatives at CNDLS, is excited about the future.
Our work over the past decade has grown into a groundswell of momentum around inclusive and dialogic pedagogy. We are poised to expand our efforts across Georgetown in new and exciting ways.
As we fortify our capacity to work on issues of inclusive pedagogy at Georgetown, the decade ahead will no doubt see the Doyle Engaging Difference Program continue to work bringing inclusive and responsive pedagogy to all Georgetown students and faculty across the curriculum. Building on the momentum of the Course Design Institutes, the Curricular Transformation Initiative for Racial Justice, and our continued support of engaged and experiential curricular and co-curricular spaces, the Doyle Program will continue its work of transforming the culture of teaching and learning at Georgetown.