28 February 2019 | Story Leonie Bolleurs
Student Affairs Dialogue
Long-term goals of the Dialogues Programme are to have students trained as strategic facilitators who can facilitate dialogue. Pictured here with students is Shawn Stützner.

A word can start a war, it is said; but it could also build peace. The Student Affairs Dialogue Programme at the University of the Free State aims to create a framework for peacebuilding dialogue between students – both on and off campus. This project relates to Social Inclusion, Social Cohesion, and Critical Diversity as part of the larger UFS Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP). “We deeply care about and commit ourselves to create a campus climate that is socially just,” explains Shawn Stützner from the UFS Dialogue Programme.

Movement on a mission

The long-term goals of the Dialogues Programme are to have students trained as strategic facilitators who can facilitate dialogue. The vigorous training that these facilitators go through, also gives them incredible graduate skills, Stützner explains. For example, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, communication skills, self-awareness, emotional intelligence, peacebuilding and conflict analysis. Such skills will not only benefit the students and their workplace, but also the community in which they serve.

Training to take the lead

“Currently, we are in the middle of our training process of about 25 strategic facilitators, and the participation has remained consistent. Our students are eager to be part of meaningful and engaging projects. This pilot project is aligned with the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice, exposing students to practical opportunities as part of their training,” says Stützner.


Through this dialogue initiative, the team hopes to eradicate all forms of unearned power and privilege, internalised oppression, internalised domination, and discrimination.

Get involved

“We encourage students to look out for the advertising of the Campus-Wide Dialogues, and for all to participate,” Stützner urges. “We will be having a build-up to the Campus-Wide Dialogues Day, with interaction in demarcated areas on campus culminating toward the Campus-Wide Dialogue in the Centenary Hall. With this first dialogue session, we also hope to close the gap between the co-curricular activities of residence students and off-campus students.”

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