Wednesday April 10, 8:00 am – 11:00 am
Early: $150 Advance: $175 Onsite: $195
W5 - Build Bridges, Not Walls: Courageous Conversations across Campus

Contemporary American higher education finds itself increasingly challenged to provide thoughtful leadership rooted in facts and guided by integrity and democratic process. As campus leaders, each of us is called to understand and defend the humanistic pillars of academic freedom and First Amendment rights. At the same time, we must resist efforts that demonize and divide students, faculty, and staff along various lines of difference. Effective campus leaders seek ways to navigate relationships with local, state, and national politicians and stakeholders in an environment of competing agendas that sometimes curtail the work of faculty and staff charged with preparing the next generation of professionals and citizens for participation in democracy.

Presenters John Raible and Sarah Thomas of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will share their perspectives on how these dynamics play out on their campus in the middle of America’s Heartland. Using issues-based critical storytelling, scenario exploration drawn from actual campus situations, and group problem-solving and strategizing, workshop participants will be invited to leverage their own funds of knowledge to promote and facilitate courageous conversations on controversial topics. Participants will leave with action plans that advance their own work, whether in the classroom, program, department, college, or administrative unit.


Sarah L. Thomas
Assistant Professor, English
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Sarah L. Thomas is an assistant professor of practice in English Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she teaches classes on adolescent literature, content area reading, methods, and undergraduate and graduate curriculum studies foundations. Her recent work appears in Emerald Publishing’s English Teaching:  Practice and Critique (ETPC), entitled ‘English education as democratic armor: responding programmatically to our political work drawing from Cornell West’s philosophy and the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. Dr. Thomas’s research interests include teacher induction, educative mentoring, creative and critical pedagogy, democratic and international education.  Her current research focus involves collaboration across campuses featuring comparative education for refugees in South Africa and eastern Nebraska.

In the midst of recent First Amendment and academic freedom challenges, xenophobia, and racism on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus and beyond, Dr. Thomas has served as a faculty senator, offered testimonials at numerous state Education Committee legislative hearings, written Op-Eds on democratic education, civil discourse, and presidential rhetorical power, and led the secondary education faculty toward new department initiatives including conferences on wellness and well-being in schools, for students, and among faculty during an exceptionally stressful political episode.  Collaborating cross-institutionally to advocate for vulnerable student and faculty populations remains a central focus in her work.


John Raible
Associate Professor of Diversity & Curriculum, Department of Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

John Raible is Associate Professor of Diversity & Curriculum in the Department of Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is also affiliated with UNL Women’s & Gender Studies and the Institute for Ethnic Studies. Prior to becoming a teacher educator, Dr. Raible gained practical experience tackling problems related to diversity in K-12 schools during fifteen years as a classroom teacher in Compton, California, Ithaca, New York, and in the Navajo Nation in New Mexico. John has worked as a trainer and consultant for numerous school districts, colleges, and adoption agencies on issues of family diversity, transracial and international adoption, and multicultural education. His Checklist for Allies Against Racism is still in demand after 20 years in circulation.

John currently teaches courses related to multicultural education, including Paulo Freire & Education for Social Justice, Educators and Social Change, and Education in a Pluralistic Society. His research has been published in journals such as Equity & Excellence in Education, Teaching & Teacher Education, and Race, Ethnicity, and Education. His numerous presentations span a variety of audiences, including the National Association for Multicultural Education, the Wisconsin Department of Children & Families, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning, the Louisiana Department of Social Services, the National Court-Appointed Special Advocates for Children, Black Administrators in Child Welfare, the Hunter College School of Social Work, Holt International, the New York State Citizens’ Coalition for Children, the Barker Foundation, the American Anthropological Association, the American Educational Research Association, the Africana Studies Center at Cornell University, Ithaca College’s Education Department, and the University of Washington School of Social Work. John’s media appearances include Sally Jesse Raphael, the Joan Rivers Show, Essence Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the BBC Radio World Service. Dr. Raible is the recipient of the 2010 Friend of the Children Award from the North American Council on Adoptable Children and the 2017 G. Pritchy Smith Educator of the Year Award given by the National Association for Multicultural Education.