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A Deeper Conversations panel.
Deeper Conversations: The Possibility of Peace, part of the academic series on the historical and political context of the Israel-Hamas war, was held on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, in Simmons Auditorium.

CMU’s Deeper Conversations Initiative Aims To Build Bridges of Connection and Understanding

Media Inquiries
Peter Kerwin
University Communications & Marketing
Abby Simmons
Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Carnegie Mellon University has launched Deeper Conversations(opens in new window), a university-wide initiative aimed at bringing together new and existing opportunities to explore divergent viewpoints and take a broader view on some of today’s most challenging issues.

In his community message(opens in new window) announcing the initiative, President Farnam Jahanian noted, “I strongly believe that facilitating civil discourse and modeling its power to unify, educate and build bridges is precisely the role that higher education can and should play in a society increasingly marked by division.”

An anchor effort of Deeper Conversations is an academic series from CMU’s Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences(opens in new window) and Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy(opens in new window). The series will aim to illuminate the historical, political, cultural and narrative background of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and to study the current Israel-Hamas war from multiple perspectives over the course of the spring semester.

“As an educational institution, our role is not to advocate for one side of any controversial issue; it is to educate our students and community about the issue and provide a forum in which we can discuss the issue safely and rationally,” said Richard Scheines(opens in new window), the Bess Family Dean of the Dietrich College.

"The human toll exacted by this conflict is devastating," said Ramayya Krishnan(opens in new window), dean of the Heinz College. "This region has a long history. To develop an understanding that is respectful of all who are impacted, we need continuous dialogue among those with expertise and lived experience of that history.”

The deans of both colleges saw an opportunity to bring an interdisciplinary lens to sharing expertise and experience across the university’s diverse community. They charged faculty and key staff members with developing a series that was both accessible and substantive.

“We have members of our faculty who are experts on the Middle East, and who have already collaborated to teach about the region from both an Israeli and Arab perspective,” said Scheines.

An additional anchor effort for Deeper Conversations is devoted to recognizing and combating hate, specifically the concerning rise in reports of antisemitism and Islamophobia across society. This work is led by Wanda Heading-Grant(opens in new window), CMU’s vice provost for diversity, equity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, and the Office of the Vice Provost for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion(opens in new window)

“We must work together and equip ourselves to confront injustices, inequalities and harms in this world,” Heading-Grant said.

“Although the Israel-Hamas war and its attendant suffering is ongoing and urgent, the background to the conflict is long and complicated. Our students are concerned about it, and many care about the role that our country should play in the war and the region, so providing a way for our community to learn about it right now is important,” Scheines added.

The academic series(opens in new window) designed to support that mission launches Jan. 31 on a hopeful first note: The Possibility of Peace.

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Students speak in a courtyard at CMU.

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CMU’s Deeper Conversations programming takes a variety of forms — from workshops and lectures to cultural events — and is open to students, faculty and staff across the CMU community. Learn more

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