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Alumni and Friends Making an Impact

Yana Crossland sits in Roesch Library near the Dialogue Zone.

Reunion Giving for Growth

Reunion Weekend at UD is a fun time. Fellow Flyers reminisce about days on campus and talk about anything and everything from favorite professors to the best restaurant on Brown Street. Throw in a little talk about politics and COVID-19, and some might end up wondering how they ever got along so well. Dialogue can help and, thanks to One Day, One Dayton donors, more students, faculty and staff are learning how.

The Dialogue Zone at the University of Dayton is all about developing skills and techniques that take us from challenging conversations and conflict to opportunities for understanding and growth. And, now in its third year on campus, the Dialogue Zone has been able to expand its efforts thanks to funding provided by some of the unrestricted giving to the Class Reunion Gift Fund.

Jason Combs ’96, coordinator of the Dialogue Zone, said the funds have been used to assist with the development of an ongoing cohort program to train dialogue facilitators. The funds also allowed them to hire a graduate assistant for the first time, which has been a big help for Combs, who is a faculty member in the Department of Communication. They hired Yana Crossland, a graduate assistant studying applied behavior analysis.

“Yana has enabled us to do things that we otherwise weren’t able to do,” said Combs. “She’s done a lot of needs assessment work for student organizations on campus and exploring their specific needs. What are they experiencing right now? What are some of the challenges? What are some of the conversations they would like to have but haven’t had either internally or with others on campus?”

From there, Combs said they have been working with the groups to develop a vision of how they can serve them. Having Crossland as a graduate assistant has been wonderful, and her work is already bearing fruit.

Crossland found her way to UD thanks to Flyer alumna Fiona Corner ’16, who is the assistant director for leadership and development at Central Washington University, where Crossland earned her undergraduate degree. Corner was Crossland’s adviser at CWU, and she connected Crossland with faculty and staff at UD.

During the past semester, Crossland has designed and facilitated dialogues while also performing a lot of marketing and communication work for the Dialogue Zone. She also participated in cohort that is being trained to facilitate more dialogues on campus. She’s definitely excited to see what the group of facilitators achieves on campus next year.

“Personally, dialogue has really helped me see people for the complexities that they are,” said Crossland. “It helps me think a lot less in terms of black and white about issues, and it leads me to learn why someone holds a specific opinion. A lot of dialogue is about becoming a better listener and understanding that everyone is complex. There are reasons why people believe the way that they do, and it’s OK to explore those reasons.”

And whether difficult conversations come up at work, church or Reunion Weekend, students who participate in Dialogue Zone events and training are bringing greater skills to lead us toward understanding. That is really a gift for all of our futures that comes from the generosity of alumni giving back to UD.

“I’m here because of an alumna,” said Crossland. “And I appreciate that alumni continue to invest back into opportunities like this during One Day, One Dayton so I can continue my journey professionally and personally.”

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