Event Details

The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way we approach many things, and higher education is no exception. In our latest installment of Speech Spotlight, we explored what expression and engagement look like during this unprecedented time.

On Thursday, May 21st, the Center hosted a webinar—”Virtual Introductions for Incoming Students: Building an Inclusive Campus Community in an Online World“—on the challenges we face in building inclusive learning communities now that campus orientation programs and some fall programming will now be conducted online.

Fellows Lara Schwartz and Andrea Malkin Brenner, authors of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (And When You’re There), and American University class of 2020 member and Project on Civil Discourse coordinator Isabella Dominique described effective ways to onboard new students online and shared techniques for building trust, transparency and respect in classroom and campus conversations. Center Executive Director Michelle Deutchman moderated the discussion.



Andrea Malkin Brenner

Sociologist Educational Consultant, and College Transitions Specialist; 2019-2020 Fellow

Andrea Malkin Brenner, PhD is a sociologist who consults with colleges that wish to create their own first-year transitions courses. She served as a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at American University for over twenty years. She created the nationally-recognized American University Experience (AUx) Program, now a mandatory full-year course that serves as a college transition course and a cross-cultural communication class focused on race, inclusion, and discourse across difference. She is the co-author of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (And When You’re There).

Isabella Dominique

Class of 2020 and Program Coordinator of American University’s Project on Civil Discourse

Isabella Dominique is a May 2020 graduate of American University. During her senior year, she was the Program Coordinator for the Project on Civil Discourse, but has been working with the program since its inception. She majored in Political Science and is hoping to pursue a career in civil rights law. Isabella was just awarded the 2020 Outstanding Service to the University Community award for her work with the Project on Civil Discourse, the campus NAACP chapter, and other volunteer positions that pushed the campus forward.

Lara Schwartz

Director of American University’s Project on Civil Discourse; 2019-2020 Fellow

Lara Schwartz teaches at American University School of Public Affairs, where she founded and directs the Project on Civil Discourse. She specializes in civil discourse and campus speech, constitutional law, civil rights, politics, communications, and policy. Drawing on her experience as a legislative lawyer, lobbyist, and communications strategist in leading civil rights organizations, Lara emphasizes collaborative learning and universal design in her teaching. She has served as a Faculty Fellow at AU’s Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning. She is the co-author of How to College: What to Know Before You Go (And When You’re There).

Related Resources

Speech Spotlight Series

#SpeechMatters Conferences

Fellows Program