Basic mediation course trains participants to resolve conflicts
"Mediator" Anthony DiNardo listens carefully to the plea of "disputant" Aideen Murphy (left), along with mediation participant Gwen Philyaw (right).
Role-playing as a disputant, Rosamaria Tassone (left) listens while Ellen Marie Cooper (right) plays the role of a mediator, practicing skills she's learned during training.
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10:11 a.m., Nov. 13, 2008----On Oct. 14--the day Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner declared “Conflict Resolution Day” in the state--the University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration began its annual basic mediation course on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and community mediation methods.

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Kathy Wian, policy scientist, and Fran Fletcher, assistant policy scientist, who designed and helped lead the course as part of IPA's Conflict Resolution Program (CRP), emphasized ADR's “win-win” focus, which has been recognized by diverse communities and fields of practice as a useful tool in the fostering of healthy social relationships.

The four-day course, conducted at the Buena Vista Conference Center in New Castle, Del., was open to the public and brought together a diverse cohort of professionals, including attorneys, educators, tax auditors and advocates. Trainers and experienced mediators led the group through a six-step facilitative mediation process, discussed the role and responsibilities of a mediator, described conflict-resolution techniques and taught skills for dealing with difficult dynamics and emotions.

After some initial feelings of self-doubt and anxiety, participants were encouraged by trainers to open up and become more comfortable with the course's role-play methodology. By day four, the effectiveness of the approach was apparent in the trainees' increased confidence. At the course's conclusion, participants expressed high levels of satisfaction with the practical nature of the skills they acquired, as well as the professionalism of the program organizers and trainers.

Over the past 14 years, UD's Conflict Resolution Program has garnered a reputation for providing Delawareans with critical services such as mediation, facilitation, strategic planning and institutional consensus building. Both Wian and Fletcher have worked extensively throughout the state in the mediation of public- and private-sector disputes, especially within the public school environment. Click here for more information about services, training and resources.

Article by Aideen Murphy
Photos by Kathy Atkinson

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