Engaging in Candid Conversations

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A “Brave Space” with Room for Every Voice To Be Heard


Mason is home to a community of diverse students, who come from many different backgrounds all over the world. With this diversity, Mason students have the unique opportunity to come together with their peers and share their views on a variety of topics affecting the world as well as their own community.

Candid Conversations is a new program on campus that focuses on personal growth through connections in one’s community.

Candid Conversations is an open dialogue for students and staff who are interested in sharing their views and experiences regarding a variety of topics such as gun control/gun violence, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and reproductive rights/abortion. Attendees are offered a judgement-free space in which to share these views, with the goal of each attendee walking away with a new perspective on the topic(s) discussed.

Andrina Jackson, interim associate director for special diversity initiatives, refers to this environment as a “brave space” and “a space that we intentionally enter with the awareness that we may be challenged at some level … while actively engaged in that space.”

The “brave space” model aims to challenge everyone who attends while allowing them to share their views in an environment without judgement. This model also encourages students to feel welcome in this challenging setting.

Jackson stated that Candid Conversations was created “with a lot of intention and care for the Mason community.”

Jackson also said, “It was important for us to create a space where we could reframe how we would ordinarily engage in conversations around controversial issues. We wanted to prove that it is possible to have controversy with civility. Additionally, we wanted to make sure that we created a format that was inclusive, interactive and easy for people to replicate in other types of dialogue-centered spaces across campus.”

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In addition, Jackson said, “We believe that everyone is an expert when it comes to articulating their lived experiences, opinions, values and beliefs. …[At] Candid Conversations, every issue counts and every story matters.”

When asked about how students and staff could be better united by this program, Jackson said, “We believe that when we are able to speak truthfully and without the pressure to censor ourselves, then we are able to build more organic relationships that allow us to go beyond the surface level.”

She continued, “Candid Conversations is where we start the process of engaging in difficult conversations, but we hope participants will feel empowered to keep the conversations going once they leave and return back to their residence hall, classroom, workplace or larger community.”

For students interested in attending a Candid Conversation, there will be another on March 18 with the discussion regarding reproductive rights and abortion in the Johnson Center at George’s. Later events include an April 15 discussion about anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and colonialism in Merten Hall room 1201. Both events will be from 1:00 to 2:15 p.m.