SAU Offers Revolutionary Bridging the Gap Program, Spurring Courageous Conversations on Campus

SPRING ARBOR, Mich., Nov. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --A Spring Arbor University (SAU) will offer the "Bridging the Gap" program for the second time this January, with both Oberlin College and Cornerstone University participating. The revolutionary Bridging the Gap program initially ran in January 2020 and resulted in students from two institutions with significant ideological differences finding common ground and a roadmap for how to bridge the gap with their peers.Recently the Nantucket Project released a film highlighting the program's success. Watch the trailer here.A Polarization and demonization of the "other" are increasingly prevalent in America, and there are limited opportunities for deep and informed engagement across lines of difference, particularly on college campuses. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, almost half of the registered voters for Biden and Trump reported that they don't have a single friend who supports the other major party candidate.A The goal of the Bridging the Gap program is profound, to challenge the notion that Oberlin College students are often known for being bastions of liberal thinking, while students from SAU and other Christian colleges are often labeled as conservative, intolerant "evangelicals."A Bridging the Gap was introduced to SAU through Simon Greer, a nationally-recognized entrepreneur, and social change leader. The program began with simple, yet profound guidelines for its participants: "The intention is to take seriously the things that others hold dear. If it matters to them, then it will matter to us; we will not try to convince anyone that they are wrong or change them; and rather than thinking we are diminished by listening carefully to ideas we might disagree with, we will trust that we are enhanced by it." Students learned and practiced skills such as listening, providing feedback, and telling their stories. They explored each other's values, worldviews, political ideas, faith traditions, and much more. Students were encouraged to hold to their convictions and not to blur differences or seek watered-down compromises. Elizabeth Stewart, a senior communication studies major from SAU, said, "We knew the course was a safe space to learn and a safe place to disagree. Greer designed it around hearing others' perspectives and made sure we were set up to be curious, listen, agree, disagree, and focus on intellectual humility."
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