Kristi Clemens Named Dialogue Project Executive Director

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The campus-wide program builds skills for having honest, difficult conversations.

Kristi Clemens
Kristi Clemens has been co-leading the Dialogue Project as the director of student and staff initiatives and will now be its executive director. (Photo by Rob Strong ’04)

Beginning July 1, Assistant Vice President and Title IX Coordinator Kristi Clemens will take on a new full-time role as executive director of the Dialogue Project, where she has been serving as the director of student and staff initiatives.

The Dialogue Project is part of Dartmouth Dialogues, a multi-pronged initiative launched by President Sian Beilock to help foster conversations that bridge political and personal divides. Dialogue Project initiatives this spring have included the One Small Step program with StoryCorps and events on anti-racism, collaborative dialogue skills, and the Middle East.

Clemens has been co-leading the Dialogue Project with Elizabeth F. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, who began hearing a few years ago from faculty that some students were having difficulty engaging in constructive discussions on controversial topics in the classroom.

President Beilock has made fostering dialogue a core component of her leadership at Dartmouth, which includes an emphasis on the importance of navigating difficult conversations on campus.

Having addressed that same topic in a 2013 book chapter about creating educational environments in which challenging conversations safely flourish, Clemens expressed her interest in the issue to Beilock and to Smith.

“This opportunity allows me to focus full-time on the project, which is really important to keep everything together and to continue to build it out and see where it goes from here,” says Clemens. “I will oversee the coordination of events, implementing trainings and workshops, liaising with One Small Step—all in support of a broader goal to improve dialogue in all corners of campus. Dean Smith will still be the primary contact with faculty.”

“I’m thrilled that Kristi has enthusiastically agreed to step into this new role, guiding skill-building efforts and events that dovetail closely with the larger aims and ongoing initiatives of both the Dialogue Project and Dartmouth Dialogues,” says Smith. “I very much look forward to our continued work together on this important initiative.”

Moving forward, Clemens says it will be important to infuse the aims and methods of the Dialogue Project throughout the campus.

“Having tough conversations is part of the college experience, yet collectively we may be losing some of that skill set. So how do we reintroduce it for students, faculty, and staff all around the campus? Focusing on the undergraduate experience, we’ll be looking at student affairs, including new student orientation, residential curriculum development, and student leadership training.”

And Clemens says Dartmouth is an ideal place in which to create that “big picture.”

“The Dartmouth community has a deep desire for kindness and connection, while also striving for distinction and innovation, which I think is something that is truly unique in this place,” she says. “With our new leadership, there is a desire to do something different. What I feel now in this moment is a real desire and energy to be at the forefront of national change. Higher education is absolutely at an inflection point for myriad reasons. This is a moment where I think we can build something really innovative and be a model for other institutions.”

With a bachelor’s degree from New York University and a master of education degree from the University of Vermont, Clemens has worked in higher education for over two decades, serving as assistant director of residential education at NYU before coming to Dartmouth in 2009, where she held a number of important roles in the Division of Student Affairs.

Sarah Harebo, the vice president of equal opportunity, accessibility, and Title IX, will serve as interim Title IX coordinator until a search is completed later this summer.

Charlotte Albright