Heidi Gailor: Talk About Dialogue

August 2, 2021

Heidi Gailor, Ph.D., has been at Peace on and off for about 11 years. Dr. Gailor completed an undergraduate degree in public relations at North Carolina State University and then pursued a master’s degree in communications at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. During her time at UNCG she came across a pamphlet for the Center for Creative Leadership, and she knew immediately that she would one day work there. After graduation, she did just that: became a copywriter for the Center of Creative Leadership. 

Dr. Gailor loved every moment of her eight-year tenure at the Center for Creative Leadership. She pursued her passion for marketing and entrepreneurship but acquired a new love for leadership. “I fell in love with leadership, and after working for the Center for Creative Leadership nearly nine years, I decided it was time for me to move away from marketing and pursue leadership,” she said. 

During her doctoral studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute, she studied liberation psychology. In 2001, after her postgraduate studies, Dr. Gailor took a position at Peace College. “I came into a culture where my preference of collaborative leadership matched the culture at the institution; Peace is a wonderful collaborative space that the students help lead on their own,” said Gailor.

For the next five years at Peace, Dr. Gailor grew to understand the intricacies of the leadership studies program and its students. After five years, she moved to Washington, D.C. However, Peace was still on her mind and in 2005, Dr. Gailor returned as an associate professor of business administration and later became the Honors Program director at Peace. Dr. Gailor teaches two Honors Program courses, one introductory and one advanced, both with a strong foundation in liberation psychology. “HON-100 and HON-300 is all my doctoral work put into two courses, and it’s my sweet spot. It’s my unusual passion,” she laughed.

This past year, Dr. Gailor began teaching the HON-100 course for all incoming honors students. HON-100, Exploring Critical Issues, is taught in both fall and spring to students new to WPU’s Honors Program. The course focuses on critical thinking as it relates to social issues that impact the campus, the local community, and the world. In this course, students learn methods for addressing social problems, including moderation, dialogue, and restorative justice. With 2020’s global pandemic and the continuing social injustice Black and Brown people, Dr. Gailor felt an appropriate theme for the course would be peace and social injustice. 

During the summer of 2020, Dr. Gailor was awarded a mini-grant through the North Carolina Campus Compact funded by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. The grant is a component of N.C. Collegiate Citizenship Project (NC-CCP) of N.C. Campus Compact. As part of the grant agreement, the HON-100 students participated in Ask Big Questions. The Ask Big Questions model was perfect for the vision Dr. Gailor had for the course because it provided precise methods to engage students in dialogue about challenging topics. 

Jeni Myers ’21 communications major, was a project lead for the HON-100 course as a part of her direct study for her honors capstone project. She found that after students complete the course, their perspective changes for the better. “In today’s society, we are so wired to be right all the time. We want to be right so much, to the point where we forget to learn from one another. We forget what it’s like to see things through someone else’s eyes, but doing these dialogues and collaborating with Ask Big Questions, it has, for sure, changed the classroom culture. I’ve seen fellow students create a cultural shift on campus and it’s for the better,” said Myers.

“Working with people in authentic ways is so important right now; dialogue and peacebuilding are needed more than ever,” said Dr. Gailor. For Dr. Gailor, the best part about incorporating Ask Big Questions is seeing the students naturally come into their own and lead this massive change. 

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