Iowa Civil Rights Commission

Study Circles



Vol. 2, No. 3 Our Mission is to eliminate discrimination in Iowa. Summer 1998

Meeting Scheduled for Sponsoring Coalitions


Sally Campbell from the Study Circles Resource Center will be here for a special meeting of the Sponsoring Coalitions on Thursday, September 24, 1998, from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m., to provide information and discuss issues regarding community-wide organization, funding, and recruitment of participants. The meeting will be over the ICN. Here are the sites:


Des Moines - ICRC Office

Burlington - Area Education Agency

Cedar Rapids - Community College #3

Denison - Community College

Dubuque - Area Education Agency

Fort Dodge - Area Education Agency

Hampton - High School

Iowa City - University of Iowa #1

Mt. Pleasant - Mental Health Institute

Muscatine - Community College

Ottumwa - Area Education Agency

Sioux City - Community College #1

Storm Lake - Buena Vista #1

Toledo - Juvenile Home

Waterloo - East High School

For more information, call Don Grove at 1-800-457-4416, ext. 1-8084, or e-mail at <>

From a Facilitator's Perspective

by Tim Cook


After having served as a facilitator in several pilot study circles, I have found that there are a few things a facilitator can do to ensure a more productive study circle. The following suggestions are by no means an all-inclusive list, but merely my observations of things that can enhance the experience.

Define the Facilitator's Role - When beginning a study circle, a facilitator should ask what the participants think a study circle is and what their expectations are. This allows the facilitator to see what kind of preconceived ideas the participants have regarding study circles, and gives the facilitator a chance to help participants really understand the study circle process.

This is also an excellent place to explain the facilitator's role in the process. Some participants may view the facilitator as a teacher, there to teach the participants a lesson on race relations. Others may view the facilitator as a problem-solver, someone they can look to for answers to their questions. A facilitator should stress that they are not the end-all, know-all expert on race relations, that the facilitator is there to simply help guide the circle through a discussion of the tough issues before it.

Where the discussion leads the group and what the group accomplishes is completely up to the members of the study circle. The facilitator is there to help the participants discuss their views on race and how race is affecting their lives and community. In some circles, the facilitator is not a member of the community and therefore does not understand the issues and dynamics of that community. In those cases, it is especially important that the facilitator convey to the circle that the circle is responsible for what is discussed, how it is discussed, and where the discussion ends. The facilitator is there to help guide them in their journey.

Be Prepared - Before beginning a study circle, a facilitator should sit down and outline what the group might discuss during the upcoming session. The book that has been used in study circles, The Busy Citizen's Discussion Guide:Facing the Challenge of Racism and Race Relations, is an excellent resource to use as a guide for the discussion. The key for the facilitator's preparation is to have different angles on the topic. Sometimes the circle will discuss all aspects of a question the facilitator poses and the facilitator will need to be prepared to move the group forward. Other times the circle might have gaps in their discussion and the facilitator will need to ask questions of the circle to cover those aspects. In order to handle each of these different situations, the facilitator needs to be prepared for each session.

Be Flexible - Flexibility goes hand-in-hand with the first two observations. The role of the facilitator will vary from group to group, with some circles being in charge of the discussion themselves and other circles needing a little more guidance. During the first session, the facilitator will have to assess what kind of circle they have and adjust the preparation accordingly. A key thing to remember is that each community and each circle will have totally different dynamics from the previous circle.

One circle may discuss racial issues within the context of public service employment, while another may discuss racial issues within an educational framework, and another may discuss racial issues within an immigration framework. These are all examples of what some of the major discussion points were in the first three different study circles that I facilitated, and they show that there is not just one path to be followed. This is why a facilitator must be flexible. The circle members will address racial issues in terms of what is important in their community.

Each facilitator will, with experience, develop their own style and do what they feel comfortable with in providing the best possible experience for study circle participants.

Tim Cook is a staff member at the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and has facilitated pilot study circle groups in Burlington, Ottumwa, and Humboldt. Tim's telephone number is 1-800-457-4416,, ext. 2-6138 and e-mail is <>.

Resources for Study Circles

The video Skin Deep was recommended in a recent issue of Focus on Study Circles as a great discussion-starter for youth groups. Originally shown on public television, the hour-long film chronicles the attitudes about race of a group of college students.

The video Free Indeed sparks a discussion about "white privilege," and how that affects our attitudes and actions involving race differences. Another excellent video, True Colors, presents the experiences of a white male and a Black male as they apply for jobs, rent an apartment, and shop in retail businesses. Their experiences are very different and visible, as captured by the hidden cameras of ABC News.

These videos are all available from the ICRC video lending library. Call Carol Leach at 1-800-457-4416, ext. 1-8354, or <>

Facilitators know the value of their using a creative ice-breaker in getting started with a study circle. If you are in the market for more activities to serve this purpose, you might consider "Cultural Bingo," an activity I recently discovered by way of the REACH program. REACH is an acronym for Respecting Ethnic And Cultural Heritage. In my experience, not only has Cultural Bingo been a great activity for establishing the comfort level necessary for maximizing group participation, but it also sets the tone for introducing participants to multicultural perspectives. For more information, contact Frank Tribble at 1-800-457-4416, ext.1-7508 or <>

Sponsoring Coalitions

Burlington "Study Circles"

Mim Van Winkle, 319-753-0420


Cedar Valley "Study Circles"

Walter Reed, 319-291-4441


Denison "Study Circles"

Coletta Weeda, 712-263-4697


Des Moines "Honest Conversations"

Adin Davis, 515-274-5571

Thea Nietfield, 515-244-8603


Dubuque "Talk Circles"

Thom Detterman, 319-588-5151


Hampton "Study Circles"

Pat Sackville, 515-456-5668


Humboldt "Study Circles"

Joe Hadar, 515-332-5312


Mason City "Study Circles"

Lois Fingalsen, 515-421-4600


Mt. Pleasant "Study Circles"

Sal Alaniz, 1-800-555-4885


Muscatine "Study Circles"

Pat French, 319-263-4169


Ottumwa "Study Circles"

Gail Quinn, 515-684-8094


Sioux City "Study Circles"

Matt Boley, 712-258-5173


Storm Lake "Study Circles"

Dale Carver, 712-732-6767


Tama County "Study Circles"

Mary Sillman, 515-484-2560


Webster County "Study Circles"

Ed O'Leary, 515-576-2201