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2019 MLK Day Launches Simpson College Dialogue Program


On Monday, January 21, Simpson College, along with the rest of the nation, will be honoring the birthday of civil rights activist and leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

While this day of recognition and service happens every year at Simpson, this year, the date will be used to mark the beginning of a new dialogue program designed to help participants learn the skills necessary to engage in discussions about challenging issues.

“We are excited to introduce this dialogue model to the Simpson community,” said Heidi Levine, vice president for student development and planning. “Having a way to engage with each other around challenging, and sometimes divisive, topics is something important we need to teach and model.”

The dialogue program will be led by a group of students, trained in the format of this specific program. Participants will be divided into groups where they will learn specific steps to effectively examining a common question.

“The goal is to use the inspiration of Martin Luther King Day to reshape how our community interacts with one another and find ways to hear and appreciate different viewpoints,” Levine said.

To kick off the program, Joshua Barr, Des Moines Civil & Human Rights Director, will deliver an address that reflects on the importance of open and respectful discourse to Dr. King’s vision and legacy. 

Barr, is a native of Sumter, SC. He earned his Bachelors of Business Administration in the area of Management from Francis Marion University in Florence, SC in 2003. He went on to complete a Juris Doctorate at the University of South Carolina School of Law 2007, and his MBA at Smeal College of Business at Pennsylvania State University in 2010. 

He is a member of the South Carolina Bar Association, and he became a general practice attorney at the Barr Law Firm.

Barr was a professor at Javeriana University for two years teaching International Business and Law courses in Columbia, South America. He also served as the International Legal Consultant for Corn Products International Andina (now known as Ingredion) and the Director of Education for the foundation GSC Ingles Para Todos (GSC English for Everyone). 

From 2013 to 2015, Barr worked as a civil rights attorney and the State Fair Housing Director at the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission. 

In his current role at the Civil & Human Rights Department in Des Moines, he works to eliminate and prevent discrimination in the areas of employment, housing, local practices, and public accommodations. 

Members of the Simpson community are also encouraged to spend part of the day participating in service opportunities in their communities. A list of organizations needing assistance can be found at MLKday.gov.