Democracy & Dialogues

Through the Democracy and Dialogues initiative, UConn is working to increase democratic and civic capacity by supporting community dialogues on critical issues, providing moderator and facilitation training for dialogues and deliberations, and partnering with campus colleagues and local institutions to increase meaningful participation by all community members.

This initiative is part of Dodd Human Rights Impact and supported by the Office of Global Affairs, the Office of the Provost, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Humanities Institute, UConn Extension, and the Division of Student Affairs’ Parent's Fund.

5 person panel discusses housing discrimination
A five-person panel, organized by Dr. Fiona Vernal (center), discusses housing discrimination. Participants include Joshua Serrano, Pastor AJ Johnson, Annette Sanderson, and Fernando Betancourt.

The Encounters Series

The Encounters Series is dedicated to fostering unexpected conversations around divisive issues and obscure knowledge. The program dives deeply into subjects that are of interest to the Greater Hartford community through facilitated, small-group dialogues followed by a question-and-answer style conversation with UConn faculty and community partners. Readings are provided beforehand to encourage informed and informal dialogue within conversations that often prove to be polarizing, and thus unproductive. Read more about The Encounters Series through Humanities for All.

Upcoming Events

Encounters - Destigmatizing Intimate Partner Violence

September 29, 2023 | 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm | Western Connecticut State University, Campus Center Building - Westside Campus Rooms 212/214

Domestic Violence is a pervading issue across our world. During the fiscal year of 2021, over 38,989 people sought domestic violence services in our state of Connecticut alone. This number is not reflective of all those who endure domestic violence, as violence often goes unreported. We need to shatter the silence. Through education, engagement, and empowerment, this program will shed light on domestic violence and create social change.

Join us as we learn, listen, and reflect through small group discussions with facilitators, and engage with experts in domestic violence services about this critical issue. A light dinner will be provided.

Register here

Encounters - Possesing Harriet

October 11, 2023 | 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm | HartBeat Ensemble, Carriage House Theater, Hartford

Please join us for Encounters - Possessing Harriet, a special dialogue event that features small group discussions, on critical questions about the play, as well as specialist feedback and engagement. This conversation model will dive deeply into the themes of Possessing Harriet through facilitated, small-group dialogues followed by a question and answer-style conversation with our community partners. Readings from the play are provided beforehand to better encourage informed and informal dialogue within conversations that often prove to be polarizing, and thus unproductive. HartBeat Ensemble will collaborate with Dodd Human Rights Impact using their patented Encounters model to provide audiences an opportunity to take a deeper dive into the intersectionality of abolition and suffrage in the 19th century and what it means in today’s battles around reparations and voting rights.

Register here

Past Events (Fall 2023)

Navigating Difficult Conversations: A Workshop on Dialogue Facilitation

September 26, 2023 | 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm | The Dodd Center for Human Rights, Room 162

Do you avoid difficult but important conversations? Have you wondered how to navigate a conversation that could be polarizing? Are you interested in gaining skills for engaging in meaningful dialogue with people who think differently from you? Join us for an immersive training experience, where you will

• Elevate your facilitation skills to become an invaluable leader in guiding “difficult” discussions;

• Develop expertise in fostering collaboration and mutual understanding through structured dialogue;

• Explore proven methods for maintaining, and engaging in productive conversations.

Register here

Our Conveners

Jasmin Agosto
Hilary Bogert-Winkler
Janna Israel
Brendan Kane
Erica Laplante
Jason Mancini
Brenda Miller
Dana Francisco Miranda
Chris Newell
Endawnis Spears
Rebecca Taber-Conover
Sally Whipple



Dialogues for Common Ground: American Identity & Connecticut’s Civic Reconstruction
Democracy is a Connecticut tradition. The “Constitution State” has for centuries been a place of evolving civic life, and has often inspired and informed the national approach to the rights of individuals and the electoral process. The 21st century brings new challenges and opportunities to innovative political engagement: locally, the “Land of Steady Habits” is a racially and ethnically diverse, economically unequal, and politically decentralized state; nationally, our democracy is under pressure from polarization, disinformation, and even violence. How might Connecticut communities harness the state’s long history of political innovation and reconstruct robust civic practices to address our present moment and look to the future?

The “American Identity and Connecticut’s Civic Reconstruction” program brings the conversation back to first principles, to the founding of the American democratic experiment, and aims to foster meaningful and informed discussion around the values that form the basis of our nation. In doing so, it encourages everyone to learn more about our shared history and to value and participate in our democracy.

This past program was funded by Connecticut Humanities through the 'A More Perfect Union' granting program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Included programs titled Women’s Suffrage, Monuments and Democracy In Historical Perspective, From Suffrage to Election, American Dreams, Radical Women Artists, and Race and Community Dialogue.
Read More (PDF)


Included programs titled Uncovering Black and Indigenous Histories, Public Punishment, Race and Remembrance, Afrocosmologies, Race and Community, Public Punishment Race and Remembrance, The 2020 Census, Moderator Training, and Food Systems and Sustainability.
Read More (PDF)


Included programs titled One Year After Maria, Treaty of Hartford, Surrealism and War, Encounters Conference, La Amistad, Emily Mae Smith and #MeToo, and States of Incarceration.
Read More (PDF)

Prior to 2018

Programs include The Voting Rights Act, Confronting Racism Through Dialogue, Guns, Rights, and the State, The Declaration of Independence, and more.
Read More (PDF)

Democracy & Dialogues Fellowship Program

The fellowship program is a University-wide partnership with participation from academic, service, outreach, and administrative units. Fellowship teams engage in a year-long shared learning process, develop projects that apply dialogue and deliberation to specific content areas and curricular settings, and make use of, and potentially contribute to, current research in practice.


Our People


Brendan Kane

Brendan Kane

Director, Democracy & Dialogues Initiative
Associate Professor, History & Literature, Cultures, & Languages


Nana Amos

Program Manager, Dodd Human Rights Impact

Rachel Jackson

Rachel Jackson

Associate Director of Operations, Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute

Brendan Kane

Brendan Kane

Director, Democracy & Dialogues Initiative
Professor, History & Literature, Cultures, & Languages