Weekly Groups

Sustained Dialogue brings together groups of UVA students each week to discuss important issues affecting the UVA student body. Each group is led by two trained student moderators and is composed of 10 to 15 student participants from a diversity of years, majors and backgrounds. Over the course of a semester, SD participants will dialogue on a variety of topics and build relationships with one another. Groups are also encouraged to actively address social issues at UVA by implementing social action projects at the end of each year.

Open Dialogues

Sustained Dialogue at UVA also hosts one-off ‘Open Dialogue’ events, which provide all students an opportunity to discuss a controversial current event or relevant topic. Past Open Dialogue topics include AccessUVA and Socioeconomic Diversity, Hate Crimes and Tolerance, Sex and Relationships etc. Open Dialogues are often co-sponsored with other student organizations. If your organization is interested in co-sponsoring an Open Dialogue with SD please contact us.

The History of SD at UVA

Students founded the University of Virginia chapter of Sustained Dialogue in 2001 in response to several incidents of racial intolerance on grounds. Students hoped SD would be an outlet to discuss race related tensions within the UVA student body and an avenue for students of different backgrounds to connect with each other and engage in productive conversations. Since 2001, hundreds of students have participated in discussions about race relations at UVA and a variety of other important topics. Read more about Sustained Dialogue’s history at UVA here.

SD Campus Network

The UVA Chapter of Sustained Dialogue is part of a national organization called the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network (SDCN) that makes Sustained Dialogue possible on college campuses nationwide.

“The Sustained Dialogue Campus Network is made up of students from colleges and universities using dialogue to transform their campus’ social tensions and make their communities more cohesive. SDCN’s mission is to train, mentor, and connect student leaders who initiate and sustain dialogues to build cohesive, engaged, and diverse campus communities across the country.

SDCN is an initiative of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue (IISD), headquartered in Washington, DC. IISD is a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 2002 to promote the process of Sustained Dialogue for transforming racial, ethnic, and other deep-rooted conflicts in the United States and abroad.”

Harold Saunders and The Sustained Dialogue Model

The notion of sustained dialogue, a multi-step process in five stages, was coined by Dr. Harold Saunders, President and founder of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue (IISD).The Institute explains SD as a “systematic, open-ended political process to transform relationships over time…First, it focuses on transforming relationships that cause problems and conflict – relationships that may appear calm but are undermined by destructive interactions for a variety of reasons.  Second, it offers a process that unfolds through five stages in a series of meetings.”  The UVA chapter of Sustained Dialogue follows this model.

“Dialogue is a process of genuine interaction through which human beings listen to each other deeply enough to be changed by what they learn. Each makes a serious effort to take others’ concerns into her or his own picture, even when disagreement persists. No participant gives up her or his identity, but each recognizes enough of the other’s valid human claims so that he or she will act differently toward the other.”

– Dr. Harold Saunders, President and founder of the International Institute for Sustained Dialogue (IISD)


Although this organization has members who are University of Virginia students and may have University employees associated or engaged in its activities and affairs, the organization is not apart of or an agency of the University. It is a separate and independent organization which is responsible for and manages its own activities and affairs. The University does not direct, supervise or control the organization and is not responsible for the organization’s contracts, acts or omissions.

Sustained Dialogue at UVA does not restrict its membership, programs, or activities on the basis of age, color, disability, gender identity, marital status, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, veteran status, and family and genetic information.