The Power of Listening: Community Engages in Candid Conversation on TCU Campus

Groups of people are engaged in discussion, while sitting at round tables in a large conference room.

Community members at the TCU Listening Session on Jan. 13, 2023, at the Dee J. Kelly Center.

A cold wind blew throughout the quiet campus days before students returned from winter break, but that didn’t stop the almost 150 community members from making their way to the Dee J. Kelly Center to experience the power of listening. Fueled by coffee and facilitated by Jacqueline Lambiase, Ph.D., professor of Strategic Communication, community members engaged in conversation around race, education, community and much more.

In partnership with the Fort Worth Report, Schieffer College held a free agenda-less listening session for the members of the Fort Worth Community. At this event, community members were invited to engage in candid conversations with trained community listeners who acted as facilitators between the public and representatives from community organizations. “We need each other, and we need to find ways to foster dialogue and listening after some divisiveness and a pandemic that has separated us from one another,” Dr. Lambiase explained to the crowd.

A group photo of Kristie Bunton, Jacque Lambiase, Catherine Coleman, Julie O’Neil and Amiso George.

From left to right, Dean Kristie Bunton and Drs. Jacque Lambiase, Catherine Coleman, Julie O’Neil and Amiso George at the listening session.

For 40 minutes, tables of people discussed their own experiences, concerns, hopes and fears. As Dr. Lambiase explained, “today we are not looking for consensus, but instead we want to take stock of many different ideas that could catalyze community-based solutions and build a foundation for future listening and discussions in loving and civil forums like this one.” The goal was for people to be heard and know that their voices matter.

Learn more about this event from the Fort Worth Report, How Might we Make Fort Worth Better? 

Listening Starts with Understanding

The idea for these “Candid Conversations” came from years of research by Strategic Communication faculty Julie O’Neil, Ph.D., Jacqueline Lambiase, Ph.D. and Ashley English, Ph.D. After the shooting of Atatiana Jefferson in 2019, Dr. O’Neil, Dr. Lambiase, and Dr. English realized a lack of connection between city officials and the Black community. “Good public relations is about building relationships, listening, dialoguing, engaging,” Dr. O’Neil said. “We thought it would be a unique contribution to look at listening and city government and Black communities.”

A group portrait of Julie O'Neil, Jacque Lambiase and Ashley English.

Strategic Communication faculty members Julie O’Neil, Jacque Lambiase and Ashley English.

Over the summer of 2020, Drs. O’Neil, Lambiase and English spoke over Zoom with 25 Fort Worth residents, where they examined the Black resident experience in the city in the wake of Jefferson’s death. One of the main themes they found was listening. Lambiase wanted to help civic leaders “focus not only on content creation and pushing information out but also on how they can get good input and how they allow the community to become co-solvers of problems. Because community residents can help you only if you take the time to listen to them.”

Learn more about the research that sparked these listening sessions in Learning to Listen, in the Spring 2023 edition of TCU Magazine.