Ask Big Questions Fellows Trained at Washington University

Aug 15 2013

Students from 25 college campuses in the U.S. and Canada attended a training for Ask Big Questions (ABQ) Fellows July 31-August 2 at Washington University in St. Louis.  An initiative of Hillel, the foundation for Jewish campus life, ABQ brings people of diverse backgrounds and viewpoints together to converse about “Big Questions” on topics that matter to and can be answered by everyone, questions like, For whom are we responsible?  When have you been a stranger? What could we sacrifice to change the world?  The training used the civic reflection method to teach new Fellows to convene and lead reflective discussions on their campuses.  The training was led by Thomas Toney, Senior Program Coordinator with Chicago Cares; Allison Schuette and Liz Wuerffel, faculty members at Valparaiso University;  and Elizabeth Lynn, director of the Institute for Leadership and Service at Valparaiso University and the founding director of the Center for Civic Reflection.   

Trainer Allison Schuette praised the eagerness, enthusiasm and openness of the students and the way ABQ draws on the power of stories to resist reducing the complexity of our lives.  “When we listen to each other’s stories,” Schuette said, “we’re engaging on a deeper level—engaging with each other, but also with values, beliefs, philosophical conflict.  So we’re coming at what it means to live together in a community from a richer, deeper place.”  

Elizabeth Lynn noted the “great synergy” between the ABQ concept and the civic reflection method, saying, “The idea of helping students engage their peers in discussions of Big Questions is brilliant, and our framework for helping people facilitate discussions is a perfect fit with their purpose.” 

Each Fellow is expected to build a minimum of 30 relationships with a diverse network of students on campus and to facilitate at least five reflective conversations during the academic year.   Last year, 167 ABQ Fellows led over a thousand conversations on campuses across North America.

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