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College News

Sustained Dialogue Executive Director Wins “Characters Unite Award”


Sustained Dialogue, a student organization at St. John Fisher College, is an organization that helps students make time to understand the different perspectives of their peers. The philosophy of the group is that engaging in conversations with those who may be different from you enables you to interact comfortably with all kinds of people, and helps build relationships across community divides.

The group is part of the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (SDCN), a national network promoting student dialogue. The organization’s executive director, Amy Lazarus, was recently selected for the USA Network’s “Characters Unite Award.” She was one of eight winners, selected from hundreds of applicants.

As part of its “Characters Unite” community affairs campaign to combat social injustices and bridge cultural divides, USA Network created the “Characters Unite Awards” to recognize extraordinary individuals who have made significant efforts to fight prejudice and discrimination, while increasing tolerance, respect, and acceptance.

The winners will each receive a $5,000 grant from USA Network and its Multichannel Video Programming Distributor (MVPD) partners to donate to their organization. The winners were chosen from online nominations that were open to the public.

“We see this award as recognition of all the great work being done by students across the country, including here at St. John Fisher College,” said Mariah Helgeson, Sustained Dialogue member.

The Fisher chapter of Sustained Dialogue was founded in 2006. This year, there are 10-15 students who regularly participate in weekly dialogues. The chapter has three student dialogue moderators, who attended a workshop in October led by SDCN Program Directors to learn facilitation skills. The group launched an "I am" campaign to address the recent increase in collegiate-level bullying and encourage students on campus to affirm their identities. In 2009, they took on issues of campus safety, domestic violence, and worked to clarify campus policies.

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