The 2019 International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education is an important gathering of educators and students engaged in advancing peacebuilding in the classroom. This year’s conference was held at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, OH and hosted by the Mershon Center. The theme of the conference – “Preparing Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders: Paths to Peace and Conflict Studies” – examined career strategies for those looking to work in conflict situations. This year was the 13th conference. I’ve been an enthusiastic supporter of it and the work of the conference’s organizer Jennifer Batton.
The first day of the conference, April 5, 2019, started with a panel of peace and conflict professionals sharing about their own careers and offering insights on how to find work. The panel was moderated by Julie Shedd of the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. Each panelist offered unique perspectives on getting work in the field.
Yadira Soto shared about her work at the Organization of American States (OAS). Founded in 1948, OAS is an international governmental organization with 34 member countries. OAS works to promote peace and stability in the Americas. Soto recommended that those looking for work at OAS and in other contexts develop facilitation skills. Presenting on issues is a major focus of her own work. Negotiating skills in the work setting is also important. A particular focus of her own work right now is the intersection of culture and conflict. Soto also talked about the importance of working with locals in the community, which is a central feature of OAS approaches.
D.G. Mawn is the president of the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM). Mawn shared about NAFCM’s work and important role that community mediation plays in helping communities deal with conflict. As a community mediator, it is important to know your values. Don’t take a job just because it’s a job. As a mediator, it’s important to talk with the community, not at the community.
Kristina Miletic is with GPPAC, the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict. GPPAC is a member led network working in 15 regions and has over 200 members. It works to prevent conflict, and focuses extensively on educational strategies. She recommended learning skills such as project management and social media, and gaining knowledge about monitoring and evaluation. Knowing languages needed to work with local populations is also important. Overall, having a drive and passion for the work is essential. And don’t be afraid to share your own ideas!
Shelley Inglis is at the University of Dayton’s Human Rights Center, but previously worked for the United Nations. She strongly recommended taking course work in understanding global organizations. Mentoring is important in our field. In addition, she offered the following advice: (1) be committed in the space you are working in (and recognize you might not make a lot of money) (2) understand that you might need to take risks in your work (including spending time in conflict zones), and (3) develop core skills such as writing, language, data analytics, event and project planning, and budgeting. Getting into the UN is primarily through taking the civil service exam (where preference are given to underrepresented countries, including the U.S.). Besides taking the exam, you can also get into the UN through internship opportunities and national delegations.
Retired police officer and consultant Chet Epperson talked about the challenges of police work today. Law enforcement professionals need to use more of their “eyes and ears” to do their work. Police officers have to be able to “paint of picture” of what is taking place. Focusing more in this way will reduce altercations between citizens and police. Nonviolent approaches are also something that law enforcement is integrating more.
Julie Shedd added that a range of careers can apply conflict resolution skills. She recommended career seekers to schedule informational interviews. She also noted the recent edition of ACResolution which focuses on careers, and that she and I co-edited.
The panel was followed by the giving of two awards. The Student Peace and Conflict Resolution Education Scholarship was given to Jailene Valenzuela of DePauw University for her work in restorative justice and non-violent communication. The Conflict Resolution Educator Award was given to Rachel Ellison who works at the Cincinnati Art Museum and is co-curating an exhibit on poverty at the Dayton International Peace Museum.
After lunch, specialized sessions were held on careers. Along with my colleagues Jane Walker, Charisse Cardenas, and Julie Shedd from George Mason University, we spent time with students reviewing their resumes and offered individualized career advice. I met with several students including Polina, a student at Ohio State, who is looking to work in the international field. Next semester she is doing study abroad in Canada with a member of the Canadian Parliament. Her background in international affairs, as well as having Ukrainian and Russian language skills are important assets. She is also the president of “The Conflict Project” – a student run program at OSU. I also met with Kaitlin, also an OSU student. She is a senior with an expected degree in international studies. She took her study abroad semester at a program in Italy run by Arcadia University. During the time, she looked at refugee issues. Finally, I meet with Fei who is a law student at the Moritz College of Law at OSU. He is a Chinese national, and may return to China upon graduation. His interest is in conflict resolution in a legal context often referred to as ADR: alternative dispute resolution. I recommended that he connect with lawyers in the region that engage in ADR, and associations such as the Dispute Resolution Section of the American Bar Association.
The afternoon I attended a session hosted by Yehuda Silverman, a PhD graduate of Nova Southeastern University on fellowship opportunities. Getting a fellowship can be an important career step for those in the peacebuilding field. He share with us his process of securing a fellowship. He thought that a fellowship can lead to a job and other opportunities, creating a solid a network, helping to provide a strong knowledge base, and opening doors to other opportunities.
He provided specific application tips (below slide). Getting strong recommendations from professors is important to securing a fellowship.
He provide a list of “long-term” fellowships (below slide). These are programs for both graduate and undergraduate students.
“Short-term” fellowships include month and weeklong opportunities (below slide).
He recommended ProFellow as a good data base for searching for fellowships.
If you are following my other “Event Reports” go here. Recently I have visited CSIS, World Bank, Johns Hopkins University/SAIS and the SIDW career fair at George Washington University.
David J. Smith is a career coach, speaker and consultant based in Rockville, Maryland, USA. He is the author of Peace Jobs: A Student’s Guide to Starting a Career Working for Peace(IAP 2016). He is an official member of Forbes Coaches Council and member of the PCDN Career Advisory Board. David is also the president of the Forage Center for Peacebuilding and Humanitarian Education, Inc. and teaches at School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and the School of Education at Drexel University. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.