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About Lara

Lara Schwartz specializes in dialogue across difference, freedom of speech and dissent, collaborative learning, inclusive pedagogy, dispute resolution, and civil rights.  She offers talks, workshops, and individual advice to people and institutions.

Drawing on her experience as a legislative lawyer, lobbyist, and communications strategist in leading civil rights organizations, Lara Schwartz understands how to lay the groundwork for important, tough conversations across difference. At American University, she founded and directs the Project on Civil Discourse, which supports students in developing their skills as listeners, communicators, and learners. Lara regularly speaks at national conferences on issues related to free speech on campus; productive dialogue; inclusive learning communities; collaborative learning; student activism;

and college readiness. She 

creates workshops tailored to your organization’s needs, including for professional development, curriculum design, and student support. Lara has appeared on national and local radio and television programs and written op-eds published in national papers and local papers of record.

She is co-author, with Andrea Brenner, of “How to College: What to Know Before You Go (And When You’re There),” a practical guide for students, and was a 2019-2020 fellow at the University of California National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement. She has also served as a Faculty Fellow at AU’s Center for Teaching, Research, and Learning. 

Lara teaches at American University’s School of Public Affairs, where she serves as Honors Program Director. Prior to joining the School of Public Affairs faculty, Lara served as Director of Strategic Engagement at the American Constitution Society for Law & Policy. Previously she served as Courts Matter director at Media Matters, Legal Director at the Human Rights Campaign, and Vice President of External Affairs at the American Association of People with Disabilities. Lara worked in litigation at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom and Gilbert, Heintz, and Randolph. She also served as a law clerk to Judge Ronald Lee Gilman on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. 

Lara earned her Juris Doctor Cum Laude from Harvard Law School and her AB in English and American Literature Magna Cum Laude from Brown University. She lives in Washington, DC.

Lara’s thoughts on why

civility is not just politeness

Lara on whether college is

about being uncomfortable

We need to see productive discourse as an opportunity for growth—not a limitation on liberty.

Lara riding a horse
Lara and a brown horse. She is kissing the side of the horse's face.
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