Thursday, September 04, 2008
When I tell people I have a Bachelor’s degree in Conflict Resolution the answer is always the same, “You have a degree in what?”
I have a degree in Conflict Resolution.
The second question always follows, “Where on Earth do you get a degree in that? I didn’t even know that was a real major.”
Conflict Resolution bachelor degree programs are now offered for undergrads in 16 states, and master degree programs are offered across the United States and in several other countries worldwide. Class titles can include Mediation, Ideas of War, Nonviolence, and Gender and Conflict.
Despite popular belief, I did not just sit around Indian style with my hair in braids reading about Gandhi and singing Kumbaya. During my four years of undergraduate studies at Juniata College, I took numerous classes in Peace and Conflict Studies, Politics, and Communication Studies. I had the opportunity to travel to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for a two week intensive study program on the troubles of Northern Ireland, I interned at the Northern Ireland Bureau in Washington, D.C. for a semester, and I studied abroad for a year in Derry, Northern Ireland. I worked with youth, teaching conflict resolution skills in local elementary schools, and served as an on-campus mediator. I took exams, wrote papers and spent many hours reading, studying, and experiencing reconciliation in post-conflict societies, nonviolence and mediation services. Conflict Resolution is a real major.
And the third question: “Now what exactly will you do with a degree in Conflict Resolution?”
This question is a bit more difficult to answer because there are many paths to take with a degree in Conflict Resolution. Some people go into social work, others into politics. Some choose international organizations like the United Nations, others choose small non-profits like Community Mediation Center. I have friends with Conflict Resolution degrees serving in the Peace Corps, working for Congressmen in Washington, and serving as mediators and case managers for different organizations throughout the United States, South America and the Middle East. Conflict is everywhere in life, from within the home to the international arena, and the options for working within the field of Conflict Resolution are just as broad.
My name is Megan and I’m the new Americorps VISTA volunteer here at CMC, working with youth programs. I’m going to use my degree to help children and teenagers learn to communicate effectively with their peers, parents, friends and siblings, and I am ready to take on the next series of dubious inquiries. “You work where? You do what?”