By: David J. Smith, October 21, 2014
I recently (10/14/14) visited Sinclair Community College in Dayton, OH. While there, I ran two programs: one for faculty on understanding the field, and the second for students on career and personal skill awareness.
I’ve come to realize that we need to make a strong case to undergraduates about the value of conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills in both their personal and professional lives. This is particularly important in community colleges where most students are focused on job preparedness. In community colleges today two overriding policy agendas are advanced: workplace preparation and academic completion. Both priorities can be promoted by having students recognize the connection between conflict resolution abilities and work/personal applications.
I have previously written about the need to focus on soft skills in careers (“The Importance of Conflict Resolution Skills in the Workplace”). These skills are equally important to succeed and navigate one’s personal life. Life presents daily conflicts and points of difference that need to be worked through. As a first step, I recommend that everyone (especially students) take the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Styles Assessment. U.S. Institute of Peace has a version on its Global Peacebuilding Center website that you can use for free. Once completed, you will know your “default” approach to conflict, and can consider how to leverage that approach, or develop different approaches.
At Sinclair Community College I had students work in groups of 5 to examine typical life and work situations where they might be called upon to use conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills. I have attached three of the case studies that I used with students: Problems at the Roller Rink, New Employees at the Diner, and Getting Along at Home.
I also recommend chapter 6 of my book, Peacebuilding in Community Colleges: A Teaching Resource. In their chapter titled “Developing a Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies Program,” Jen Batton and Susie Lohwater discuss how conflict resolution skills apply to everyday life and the world of work.
My visit was written about in the October 21, 2014 edition of The Clarion, the student newspaper of Sinclair Community College.