Community colleges continue to explore innovative ways of promoting global and community peacebuilding. Community mediation is an important contributor to enhancing community wellness. Fostering collaboration between 2-year colleges and conflict resolution practitioners can result in mutual benefits.
According to the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) there are approximately 400 volunteer supported centers around the U.S. offering low cost and free mediation and conflict resolution services to the general public. Community mediation is a “first responder” in dealing with neighborhood and social conflict. The benefits of using community mediation are wide-ranging, including transforming relationships between neighbors and eliminating the need to pursue legal action in court.
Howard Community College (HCC) in Maryland offers the only associate of arts degree in conflict resolution in the U.S. In addition, HCC is unique in that the college is home to the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center (MCRC), which is Howard County, Maryland’s community mediation program. As an institutional educator of “first responder” approaches in a range of fields (i.e., allied health, public safety, etc.), sponsoring the community mediation center is a natural partnership. Most community mediation centers in the U.S are stand-alone not for profits dependent on grants and private funding. HCC presents a new model for promoting peacebuilding in local communities.
In a webinar sponsored by NAFCM on May 9, 2013 Kathy Rockefeller, director of HCC’s associate of arts degree and MCRC talked about the opportunities and challenges of HCC being home to the county’s community mediation efforts. There are important benefits for the college in taking on this mission. An important one is offering itself as a major contributor to supporting wellness and bridging divides in the community. HCC’s mission not only focuses on traditional career and transfer education, but in providing important services that promote community resilience. Overall community mediation objectives are enhanced by being part of the college. Besides eliminating the need to seek outside funding, the college’s reputation, facilities, and array of other resources (including rooms, technical support, publicity, office space etc.) can be used to benefit important peacebuilding outcomes. In addition, by having the academic program and mediation center working together, students can benefit from learning about applied approaches to peacebuilding. To use common conflict resolution parlance: this is a win/win approach for both Howard Community College and the county’s community mediation efforts.