Faculty Resource Network

An academic partnership devoted to faculty development. Now in our fourth decade, we remain committed to this partnership, and to fostering connection, collaboration, and collegiality among our members.

2019 National Symposium


Critical Conversations and the Academy

When: November 22-23, 2019
Where: Miami, Florida

Call for Proposals

Proposal Submission Deadline: Monday, April 22, 2019

Symposium Description
Conversation has always been at the core of education. Discussion-based seminars, in which students develop their critical thinking through thoughtful dialogue, serve as a paradigm for learning in higher education. Yet today conversation is increasingly being replaced by contention. Instead of civil discourse and respectful disagreement, we are witnessing a bifurcation of opinion into isolated echo chambers fueled by social media and the 24-hour news cycle. At this critical juncture, we need to ask the following questions: What is the role of the Academy in cultivating conversations on campus and in the classroom? How can our teaching provide students with models of productive conversations?

Conversation and the Challenge of Free Speech
Since the time of the campus free speech movements in the 1960s, a consensus has emerged that free speech should be encouraged and protected, whereas censorship stifles academic discourse and the exchange of ideas. In recent years, however, these tenets have been challenged by student protests over controversial campus speakers, which have resulted in the disruption of speeches perceived to be offensive or harmful. What is the appropriate balance between preserving free speech as a democratic and intellectual activity, versus the creation of an inclusive campus environment where all students feel welcome and valued?

Moving from campus to classroom, many professors must navigate challenging conversations with students about race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality, among other topics. How can faculty members encourage honest dialogue among students while still remaining sensitive to their varied life experiences? At a time when higher education is giving increased attention to trigger warnings, microaggressions, and safe spaces, how do these considerations influence the classroom as a site for academic discourse?

Conversation in an Era of Technology
In “The Flight from Conversation,” M.I.T professor Sherry Turkle warns of the insidious impact of mobile devices and social media on face-to-face conversation. We have all witnessed this behavior among our students—given a moment of downtime, they are more likely to take out their phones than talk to each other. According to Turkle, we are learning how to be “alone together.” In our pursuit of online connection, communicated in bite-sized texts or tweets, we are sacrificing our engagement in the complexity of extended personal conversations. As college faculty, we must address the ubiquitous reality of smartphones in the lives and hands of our students. How do we promote the value of conversation “in real life” when students are becoming less comfortable with this type of social interaction? Do we banish smartphones and electronic devices from our classrooms, or can we harness technology in creative ways to foster meaningful dialogue that supports intellectual and interpersonal growth?

Encouraging Faculty/Student Conversations
When we think of our own path to the Academy, it is likely that we can identify influential professors who served as mentors by guiding, encouraging, and challenging us. Mentorship is based on formative conversations between faculty members and students. Unfortunately, these important interactions are less frequent than they should be. In a Gallup-Purdue survey of nearly 30,000 college graduates, only 22% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement that “I had a mentor who encouraged me to pursue my goals and dreams.” How can we promote conversations between professors and students that lead to transformative academic experiences? How can our institutions encourage and support research experiences for college students that provide intellectual mentorship through sustained conversations with supervising faculty?

Supporting Collaborative Conversations Among the Faculty
There is also much to be gained by conversations among the faculty, particularly when they prompt us to step outside our traditional disciplinary boundaries. We are witnessing the emergence of new types of scholarly inquiry and creative pedagogy that are only possible through the cross-fertilization of ideas from different intellectual perspectives. How can today’s Academy encourage and support faculty conversations that lead to cross-disciplinary collaborations in teaching and research?

We encourage you to join us at the 2019 FRN National Symposium to engage in your own conversations about these important themes.

Breakout Sessions and Poster Topics
We invite proposals for breakout sessions and posters in all areas related to the theme of the symposium. We particularly encourage submissions that illustrate how participation in an FRN – sponsored activity (e.g., a Network Summer or Network Winter Seminar, participation as a scholar in residence, etc.) has influenced your research and teaching.

Examples of suitable topics are listed below; however, we also welcome submissions on additional topics

  • Negotiating with free speech on campus and in the classroom
  • Promoting an inclusive classroom and campus environment
  • Supporting productive dialogue in the classroom
  • Facilitating restorative conversations
  • Examining the impact of smartphones and social media on student conversations
  • Utilizing technology to promote meaningful online interactions
  • Reimagining office hours to encourage faculty/student conversations
  • Mentoring students through undergraduate research
  • Developing cross-disciplinary collaborations in research and teaching

Guidelines for Submission of Proposals
We request a one-page abstract (between 300-500 words) of the intended breakout session or poster presentation. The abstract should outline the content and structure of the session, together with its intellectual merit and education value for the symposium participants. The abstract should include the names, institutional affiliations and contact information for each presenter. Please clearly indicate whether your proposal is for a breakout session or a poster presentation.

Breakout sessions are scheduled for one hour. We encourage submissions by a group of 2-4 presenters, which emphasize collaboration and are organized around a common theme. Proposals submitted by individuals (if accepted) will be combined with other proposal topics within the breakout session.

POSTER PRESENTATION: Poster presentations may be submitted by individuals or by groups of any size.

Proposal Submission Deadline: Monday, April 22, 2019.

Please send your abstract and supporting documentation as an email attachment to: frn@nyu.edu.

Previous National Symposia


  • 2020 National Symposium: "Curriculum Innovation for Transformative Learning"
  • 2019 National Symposium: "Critical Conversations and the Academy"
  • 2018 National Symposium: "Transforming Teaching Through Active Learning"
  • 2017 National Symposium: "Engaging With Diversity in the College Classroom"
  • 2016 National Symposium: "Teaching a New Generation of Students"
  • 2015 National Symposium: "Advancing Social Justice From Classroom to Community"
  • 2014 National Symposium: "The Global Imperative for Higher Education"
  • 2013 National Symposium: "Reinventing Liberal Education"
  • 2012 National Symposium: "New Faces, New Expectations"
  • 2011 National Symposium: "Emerging Pedagogies for the New Millennium"
  • 2010 National Symposium: "Engaging Students in the Community and the World"
  • 2009 National Symposium: "Challenge as Opportunity: The Academy in the Best and Worst of Times"
  • 2008 National Symposium: "Defining and Promoting Student Success"
  • 2007 National Symposium: "Advancing Women and the Underrepresented in the Academy"
  • 2006 National Symposium: "The Millennial Student"
  • 2005 National Symposium: "Spirituality and Higher Education"
  • 2004 National Symposium: "Beyond Brown vs. Board of Education: Diversity and Higher Education"
  • 2003 National Symposium: "Approaching Assessment: The Road Ahead"
  • 2002 National Symposium: "Being a Professor..."
  • 2000 National Symposium: "The Future of Liberal Arts Education"
  • 1999 National Symposium: "The Teaching and Learning Continuum"