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Understand Others. Understand Yourself.

CAN WE CHANGE THE WORLD
THROUGH BETTER CONVERSATION?

 

WE BELIEVE WE CAN.

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We hear it all the time: the idea that people are struggling to talk and listen to each other. But what if we could shift from debates to conversations that help us connect? College is the perfect place to start, to bring the energy of students to a new kind of conversation about life’s Big Questions. No matter our background or views, we need opportunities to see and hear each other more deeply. When we share our stories and listen to others, we find connections and discover new perspectives about ourselves, each other and the world.

 

 

01.

We provide powerful tools to engage diverse participants

02.

Participants connect through reflective conversations

03.

These conversations build trust and understanding in communities

 
 

CAMPUS PARTNERS

 

We have worked with students, faculty and staff on a wide range of campuses nationwide. Our programs and resources can be customized to meet your particular settings and goals, and we welcome the chance to help you bring Ask Big Questions to your campus.

 
 
 
 
 

“ask big questions is helping restore the soul of higher education.”

parker palmer |  founder, center for courage and renewal

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OUR TEAM

 

Sheila Katz
Interim Executive Director and Co-founder

Sheila is a co-founder of Ask Big Questions, a national initiative of Hillel that brings diverse college students together for conversations that help people understand themselves and others. She is currently Hillel International’s Vice President for Student Engagement and Leadership, working to engage Jewish students around the globe. Sheila has a BA in Politics from Ithaca College and a MS in Teaching from Pace University. Sheila is a proud alumna of the Wexner Foundation Field Fellowship and Teach for America.

Whitney Waara
Senior Director of Operations

Whitney joined Ask Big Questions in 2017, following many years working in public media as a consultant to stations and a Vice President at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in Washington, D.C. Whitney also led the nonprofit Land Information Access Association, a community planning organization.

Whitney earned her MBA degree from Kent State University and BA in Economics from Kalamazoo College. She serves on two nonprofit boards and her local Parks and Recreation Commission.

Margie Cook
Director of Training

Margie joined Ask Big Questions with 22 years of experience in higher education, where she pursued her passion for creating greater understanding and justice through roles across Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, and Employee Development and Training. She has developed campus dialogue initiatives, a diversity peer education program, and an Ally Program looked to as a national model.  Margie's career has been rooted in lessons of inter-cultural exchange and community empowerment learned during her service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand.

Pablo Rangel
Director of Assessment

Pablo is a data research analyst with a background in the social sciences, and work in various fields including construction, museum, education, and digital humanities. Pablo’s interests center on charting transformations in the human condition. He holds a Master Degree in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago as well as a MA and BA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with emphases in History and Ethnic Studies and is based in Chicago.

 

Leah Moz
Director of Dialogue and Inclusion

Through integration of Ask Big Questions content and training, Leah equips Hillel staff and students with the skills to engage in meaningful dialogue and community building. She supports campuses in their efforts to become more inclusive of all students, focusing specifically on students with disabilities. She is an expert in group facilitation and scaling positive youth development initiatives. Leah earned a Certificate in Facilitation from Georgetown University, a MSW from the University of Pennsylvania, and a BA from Ithaca College. 

Bethany Sharp
Lead Designer

Bethany is a Graphic Designer who specializes in creating innovative branding solutions and experiential design. She has worked as a Graphic Designer for clients both large and small, but has spent the last two years with Ask Big Questions jumping into non-profit work with both feet. Bethany earned her BFA in Graphic Design from Boston University, and is currently working towards her MFA in Visual Communication Design from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She's busy trying to prove that good design can change the world.

Michael Hahn
Intern

Michael is an intern at Ask Big Questions whose life has taken an unusual path. After performing in a band for a few years, he began his higher education experience at a community college. As his hopes of stardom abated, he shifted his interests toward the humanities. Michael holds a master’s in history from Claremont Graduate University and bachelor’s from the University of California at Berkeley. At home, he enjoys building community in Chicago’s eclectic Ukrainian Village neighborhood.

 

our founders

 
Josh Feigelson Dean of Students, University of Chicago Divinity School

Josh Feigelson
Dean of Students, University of Chicago Divinity School

Lexie Komisar Global Program Leader, Growth and Strategic Partnerships, IBM Digital Innovation Lab

Lexie Komisar
Global Program Leader, Growth and Strategic Partnerships, IBM Digital Innovation Lab

Allie Gross Journalist, Detroit Free Press

Allie Gross
Journalist, Detroit Free Press

 
 

OUR STORY

Ask Big Questions began with a pretty simple idea: to ask a question instead of making a statement.

In 2005, Northwestern Hillel’s Rabbi Josh Feigelson and Campus Engagement Interns Lexie Komisar and Allie Gross put up a banner advertising Yom Kippur services. Rather than just announcing the date and time of services, this banner posed a question: “What will you do better this year?” And then something unexpected happened: The banner sparked interesting conversations among the students, and they, in turn, asked for more banners and more questions.

More banners were made and the students got more involved. Soon a website emerged, and professors began participating in coffee shop salons discussing the questions, and groups of students began to hold their own conversations, modeled after the Jewish tradition to ask questions and share stories during the Passover holiday. With this growing interest and support from the Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, Ask Big Questions formally launched as an initiative of Hillel International in 2011, bringing in Sheila Katz and Josh Feigelson as full-time staff to help develop the methodology and scale the program.

Through regional and on-campus training workshops, hundreds of students, faculty and staff have been introduced to our methodology, infusing it into programs for community-building, service-learning, interfaith dialogue, and college classrooms. To date, Ask Big Questions has sparked more than 300,000 people having reflective conversations.

 
 
 

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