Real Talk creates conversations, supports students

by Gabriella Leonel / Beacon Correspondent • September 28, 2017

It’s time to put the phone away—and talk for real. REAL Talk is a new support group on campus intended to teach students how to communicate with each other in a personal environment through active listening.

The “REAL” in REAL Talk stands for everything the that the group wishes to teach students: resilience, engagement, awareness, and leadership.

Elise Harrison, the director of Emerson Counseling and Psychological Services, Sharon Duffy, the assistant vice president of student affairs, Jessica Chance, the assistant director of career services, and Harrison Blum, the director of religious and spiritual life and campus chaplain, collaborated to create a program that serves as a new space for busy, suffocated Emerson students to breathe, Chance said.

“People are using technology so much more and they’re not having as many face to face conversations,” she said.

The deadline to participate this semester has passed, but the program will be reopened next semester. It is recommended for sophomores and upperclassmen, but anyone is welcome to join.

According to the program’s brochure, students will be set up in small circles where they can engage in face to face conversation about anything. Before these circles start meeting, all the students participating will be required to attend a mandatory training session on Oct. 1.  

At the training session, students will be taught skills on how to listen and speak to one another empathetically. Students will then be able to lead their own meetings without the need for an authoritative person in the room. The circles will meet once a week, for eight weeks, starting on Oct. 2, and ending on Dec. 1.

Duffy said the program was inspired by one that exists at Macalester College. Staff members evaluated all the programs that exist campus-wide to see if there was anything similar.

“We looked at the landscape at Emerson, and really made this program … distinctly to meet the needs of Emerson students,” Duffy said.

Blum said REAL Talk is open to all students regardless of what they have going on in their life.  

“This program is not necessarily for students who have an ongoing sense that they need support,” Blum said. “It’s a place to find a greater diversity in friendship, a place where you can be heard.”

John Franco, a freshman comedic arts major, said that while he doesn’t necessarily feel the need for that type of support, he’s content knowing there’s a program in place specifically to provide it.

“I never had issues with school, but I like knowing there’s a program in place to help you,” Franco said.

Duffy said she hopes all students feel welcome to partake in this program.  

“We really encourage anyone to participate in this, and regardless of how connected they feel to the institution, regardless of their major, whether they live on- or off-campus, if they’re an international student, or if they’re a transfer, we welcome everyone,” Duffy said.