2021 NASPA Virtual Conference

Engaging with Community Circles


by Willa Kurland, University of Washington
2021 Community Dialogues Subcommittee Member

The NASPA annual conference is well-known as a place for connection, community, and the exchange of knowledge among those most invested in the future of our field. While we hope that this year will be no different, the ways in which we are able to connect have shifted. Luckily, as a new addition to conference programming, the Community Dialogue Series has been created with the virtual space in mind. Navigating the realities of a virtual conference has been central to the subcommittee planning, with recognition that this annual conference will be both similar and different to previous. 

How can I engage in the Community Dialogue Series? 

Opportunities to engage with the Community Dialogue Series spans over the course of two days. On Monday March 22nd and Tuesday, March 23rd, participants will be able to attend the Community Dialogue Speaker sessions of their choice. Tune in to hear from leading professionals who will share knowledge about their areas of expertise, corresponding with the four conference themes. 

Following the Community Dialogues on Tuesday,  (4:30 – 5:40 p.m. ET), participants can attend Community Dialogue Circles, an opportunity to further debrief the Community Dialogue Speakers' sessions from that morning or the previous day. 

What are the Community Dialogue Circles, and why should I attend? 

Community Dialogue Circles will be small groups of no more than 19 participants, with a focus on critical dialogue, reflection, and action-orientated discussion. Using Friere’s liberatory pedagogy and concept of “culture circles'', trained facilitators will lead these small groups in further co-creation of knowledge. Each circle will also correspond with one conference theme and speaker session from the previous day. You’ll have the opportunity to dive deep into the subject matter, with those just as eager to discuss. 

We hope this provides an opportunity for participants to name, problematize and deconstruct issues which are paramount to their lived-experiences. The 70 minute sessions will be facilitated with intention and respect to the individual experiences and identities that participants bring to the virtual space. As a participant, your knowledge and expertise will be crucial to the success of Community Dialogue Circles. At the end, each participant will have the opportunity to explore their individual commitment to the topic at hand. There will also be a mechanism for staying connected to the other participants, post-conference.

While this won’t replicate the hallway conversations or late night debriefs with your conference roommates, joining the Community Dialogue Circles will provide a space for lasting connection. Who knows, you may even (virtually) run into someone you know! We hope you’ll consider joining us.

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