Skip to main content

Project Dialogue

Project Dialogue is a University-wide program that seeks to involve the entire Vanderbilt community in public discourse and reflection connecting classroom learning with larger societal issues. Project Dialogue dinner series give students and faculty an opportunity to engage in conversation on a range of topics (including beliefs, ethics, and values) around the dinner table over a delicious meal.

Speakers and Artists for Project Dialogue have included: Sandra Bernhard, Naomi Wolf, Cornel West, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Oliver Sacks, Danny Seo, Mary Lucking-Reiley, Neil Howe, Scott Turow, Adrienne Outlaw, John Douglas, Gore Vidal, Barbara Ehrenreich, Al Franken, John Ashcroft, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Elie Wiesel.

Project Dialogue on AnchorLink

Series in Project Dialogue include: “This I Believe” and Narrative 4. Please see the
schedules below.

Project Dialogue 2021-22

“This I Believe” Series (Thursdays from 5:15 PM – 6:15 PM at OUCRL, 401 24th Ave. S)

The title/topic of this dinner series is based on the National Public Radio dialogues on belief. (See ). Guest faculty will lead the dinner conversation with students. Faculty are invited to follow the following guidelines in preparing their “This I Believe” essay:

Tell a story about you: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in the events that have shaped your core values. Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work, and family, and tell of the things you know that no one else does. Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should be real. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the shaping of your beliefs.

Be brief: Your statement should be about 500 words. That’s about three minutes when read aloud at your natural pace.

Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on one core belief.

Be positive: Write about what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid statements of religious dogma, lecturing, or editorializing.

Be personal: Make your essay about you; speak in the first person. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Tell a story from your own life; this is not an opinion piece about social ideals. Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. We recommend you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.

“This I Believe” (free) dinners will be on the following dates at 5:15 PM during the 2021-22 academic year:

Sept 16 with Lyndsey Krinks, VU Divinity School alum, author, and co-founder of “Open Table Nashville”

October 21 with Dr. A. Churchwell, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Nov 11 with Dr. Yara Gonzalez-Justiniano, Assistant Professor of Religion, Culture, and Psychology, with emphasis in Latinx Studies

Feb 24

March 24

To reserve your place at the table, text “RSVP, your name, and the date of the event” to 615-294-5857

Spring 2022 Dates will be coming soon!


Narrative 4: The story exchange is a powerful model based on the belief of Narrative 4’s founding authors. They understand that we will see the world and ourselves more empathically through the exchange of personal narratives. Today, this belief is supported by the work of neuroscientists, as well as by the experiences of story exchange participants. ( and The story exchanges are led by a Narrative 4 facilitator.

Narrative 4 Events 2021-22

“Fireside Tales,” Oct 21, 6:30 PM – 7:15 PM @ 401 24th Ave. S.
Up to six people will each share a 5-minute story from their life based on the theme, “My First Year at Vanderbilt”
Storytellers on Oct 21 will include: Dr. Gayathri Narasimham, Teresa Xu, Kauthar Gaber, Dr. Traci Ray, and Taqiyyah Elliott

“Fireside Tales” is a night for VU students, faculty and staff to tell true stories of their life. We’re excited to hear your 5-minute story. See

Here are 10 guidelines that can help you as you think about what you might want to write:

  1. Your story needs a beginning, middle, and end (plot, character, outcome)
  2. Tell us your story – not your interpretation of the story! Right from the start your audience should be wondering, “What’s going to happen next?” “I think I know someone like that character!”
  3. Get the permission of anyone who is being referred to in your story. And to help your audience remember names, give them a description or share an image that would help us remember their name.
  4. Remember the guidelines on giving speeches that you learned in high school? This is a great chance to use them! (i.e. think of a great opening line and ending for your story! Develop the middle and take care with transitions.)
  5. Be respectful of a diverse audience. Your story will be stopped if the content is offensive, hateful, stereotyping, or crude. Could you share your story in class? If not, don’t share it at “Fireside Tales.”
  6. Your time starts when you get on the podium/stage. A bell will sound after 5 minutes so please time your story before you share it! Yes, really. You’ll be stopped after 5 minutes!

Want to submit a story for consideration? Great, thanks! Read on!

  • Submit your name and email address to
  • Please include the title and a 3-sentence summary of your story
  • Please share your 4-sentence bio to give us a bit of background on you.

Nov 13, 2021: Narrative 4 will be co-sponsoring, with the Law School, a block of free tickets to a screening of the new 2021 Sundance film “Mass” at the Belcourt Theater on November 13. Film trailer:   (content of the film includes conversation related to gun violencence).

Jan 26, 2022 from 6 PM – 6:30 PM “Fireside Tales”  Storytellers share 5-minute stories on the theme “Social Media and Me”




Narrative 4 Events 2019-20

Jan 26, 2020, 7 PM: Screening of “Free Trip to Egypt” (Tarek Mounib) at Kissam C210 MPR
The screening of this feature-length documentary is free and open to Vanderbilt student, faculty and staff with a VU ID card. (The screening is not open to the public.)

The Story Behind the Documentary, “Free Trip to Egypt”: Seeking to build a bridge of mutual understanding and friendship, a Canadian-Egyptian entrepreneur living in Switzerland decides to reach out to the very people who fear him. He travels across the United States to find Americans concerned about an Islamic threat and makes them an intriguing offer: a Free Trip to Egypt. The initial reactions range from disbelief to hostility, but eventually a diverse group from various backgrounds is selected, including: a teacher, a police officer, a Marine veteran, a single mom, a preacher and a beauty pageant queen. All have their preconceptions but are receptive and courageous enough to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Soon enough, the band of travelers arrives in Egypt where the Americans are paired with local Egyptians just as diverse as they are. What happens when a retired school instructor and her husband are united with a young Egyptian revolutionary? Two photo journalists from different countries and experiences are placed together? A Christian missionary and a former Miss Kentucky from his congregation are joined with an orthodox Muslim family where the mother covers her face? The answers are provocative, surprising, funny, magical, emotional, revealing, enlightening and ultimately life-changing — in other words, all things human — in this profoundly original and inspirational feature-length documentary

Story Exchange: Sunday, Feb 2, 2020, 7 PM,

Story Exchange: Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 9 AM – Noon, 401 24th Ave. S. (OUCRL)
Open to students, faculty, staff and community members

Story Exchange: Sunday, Sept 22, 2019, 2 PM – 4 PM at 401 24th Ave. S.
Text “RSVP 9/22” and your name to 615-294-5857 to reserve your space

“This I Believe” 2019-20

Sept 19–Dr. Ramanujam, Professor of Management, Owen Grad School

Oct 17–Dr. Haerin Shin, Assistant Professor
Vanderbilt University English Department




Nov 7–Dr. Divya Chaudhry, Lecturer in Hindi-Urdu
Vanderbilt Asian Studies Program




Jan 30–Dr. Sheba Karim, Writer in Residence
Vanderbilt University English Department




Feb 20–Dr. Richard Pitt, Associate Professor of Sociology
Affiliated Faculty, VU Div School, Ethics and Society
Affiliated Faculty, Women and Gender Studies


2018-19 Project Dialogue: “This I Believe” Conversation Leaders

   Sept 6 — Dr. Robert Grajewski; Director, Wond’ry Center


Sept 13 —   Dr. Matthew Walker, III, Associate Professor of the Practice of       Biomedical Engineering




Sept 27 — Dr. Tiffany Patterson, Assoc Prof of African American & Diaspora Studies; Assoc Prof of History; Director of Undergraduate Studies in AADS




    Oct 4 — Dr. Vanessa Beasley, Associate Provost and Dean of Residential Faculty



Oct 25 — Dr. Chris Purcell, Director of the KC Potter Center






Nov 15 — Dr. Cynthia Paschal, Associate Dean, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering




Nov 29 — Dr. Adam Meyer, Assoc Director, Program in Jewish Studies, Assoc Prof of Jewish Studies     


Spring 2019:  


Jan 17 — Dr. Rena Robinson, Associate Professor of Chemistry





Jan 24 — Dr. Richard Blackett, Professor of History





Feb 28 — Dr. Kenny Tao, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering





March 28– Dr. Sharon Shields, Professor in the Practice of Human and Organizational Development




Project Dialogue 2017-2018

Looking for Luke Documentary
Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018
6:30 PM in Benton Chapel

Luke Tang was a well-liked, passionate, and brilliant Harvard sophomore who took his family and friends by surprise when he decided to take his own life. “Looking for Luke” is a short documentary following Luke’s parents, Wendell and Christina, as they attempt to understand why he did this by reading through his journals and talking to his closest friends. As they piece together what happened, they begin to uncover the truth about their son’s death. Luke’s parents have made it their mission to help other parents, particularly Asian parents, identify and understand the signs and signals of depression and other behavioral health disorders that can lead to suicide. The film hopes to extend that mission by raising awareness of depression as an illness, and destigmatizing seeking help for mental health issues. “Looking for Luke” was produced by The Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds at MGH, directed by Eric I. Lu (Harvard College ’09, HMS ’16), and supported in part by a grant from the American Psychiatric Association’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Minority Fellowship Grant. According to the American Psychological Association, Asian American college students have higher rates of suicidal thoughts than their counterparts. What’s more, cultural stigma often prevents students who are struggling from seeking help. This problem is compounded by a lack of awareness and open conversations about mental health within the Asian American community. 


the Shop

“The Shop” is a unique opportunity for students of color to engage in dialogical exchange of wisdom with pastors, activists, professors, and elders from the greater Nashville community concerning the trending cultural topics that impact the lives of people of color. These conversations will focus on the intersections of Black spirituality, faith, and activism and will give students of color the opportunity to explore faith from different perspectives. In addition, “the Shop” will offer cultural meals from local restaurants owned by persons of color.

Each gathering at “the Shop” features a guest who is able to engage from a pre-selected topic in conjunction with a relevant, trending article from the news and/or social media. Topics will include (but are not limited to): intersections of gender, race, sexuality, spirituality, mental health, faith, activism, the role of the Black Church, and interfaith dialogue. These conversations will help guests and students engage in the constructive work of developing self-awareness and create meaningful dialogue as to how we live moral, ethical, and spiritual lives in the midst of various lived experiences as people of color.

September 13, 12:00pm, OUCRL Fireside Lounge
Rev. Shantell Hinton
Intersections of Faith & Culture

October 18, 12:00pm, OUCRL Fireside Lounge
Pastor John Faison, Sr.
The Relevance of the Black Church

November 15, 12:00pm, OUCRL Fireside Lounge
Dr. Emilie Townes
Gender, Sexuality, & Race

January 17, 12:00pm, OUCRL Fireside Lounge
Rhianna Anthony
Activism as Spiritual Praxis

February 21, 12:00pm, OUCRL Fireside Lounge
Self-Love, Spirituality, & Mental Health

March 21, 12:00pm, OUCRL Fireside Lounge
Dr. Herbert Marbury
Black Masculinity & Spirituality

April 18, 12:00pm, OUCRL Fireside Lounge
Judge Rachel Bell
Politics & Theology

Bridge Building

Speakers engage with students at the dinner table over the question “How can we effectively build relationships that will influence the affairs of the world in ways that are just, inclusive, and compassionate?”

September 26, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Dr. Nahed Artoul Zehr, Faith & Culture Center of Nashville

October 24, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Ms. Candice Lee, Vanderbilt Senior Associate Athletic Director

November 28, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Dr, Imam Ossama Bahloul, Resident Scholar at the Islamic Center of Nashville

February 27, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Trudy Hawkins Stringer, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Ministry, Vanderbilt Divinity School

March 27, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Dr. A.J. Levine, University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies, Vanderbilt Divinity School

Food For Thought

Speakers engage with students at the dinner table over the question “How did you decide to do what you do?”

September 5, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Dr. Donna Ford, Professor of Special Education, Peabody, Vanderbilt


November 7, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Dr. Jaco Hamman, Associate Professor of Religion, Psychology, and Culture

December 5, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Dean Emilie Townes, Dean of the Divinity School, Vanderbilt

January 9, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Dr. Daniel Sharfstein, Professor of Law, Vanderbilt Law School

February 6, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Roberta Robison, Program Coordinator, K.C. Potter Center, Vanderbilt

March 13, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Rabbi Shlomo Rothstein, Campus Chabad Chaplain, Vanderbilt

April 3, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Dr. Issam Eido, Senior Lecturer, Vanderbilt Department of Religious Studies

Science & Religion

This series seeks to explore possible intersections – or lack thereof – between science and religion. Rebekah Austin, a doctoral student in electrical engineering at Vanderbilt, will kick off this series on September 18. Subsequent dates are listed below:

September 18, 5:30pm, OUCRL
Rebekah Austin

February 19, 5:30 pm at OUCRL and 7 pm at Sarratt Cinema
Dr. Michelle Thaller, NASA