K-State offering undergraduate, graduate certificate in conflict resolution
Friday, August 4, 2006
MANHATTAN -- The need to resolve conflicts peacefully is a hot topic in the world right now. Responding to this need, Kansas State University, through the Division of ontinuing Education, is offering both undergraduate and graduate certificate programs in conflict resolution, giving adult learners the chance to gain valuable workplace and life skills.
Along with business people and community leaders, some of the most enthusiastic participants in the conflict resolution program have been military personnel and their families stationed at Fort Riley, according to K-State's Terrie McCants.
"We met with representatives of Fort Riley in 2004 and this topic was one the group identified as something they'd like to see K-State offer," said McCants, an instructor in K-State's School of Family Studies and Human Services and coordinator of the conflict resolution program. "They see value in the program because of the peacekeeping role our troops in Iraq have. They also believe it will help military families deal with the stress of deployment and re-entry."
McCants said conflict resolution courses are now offered at Fort Riley, as well as through Evening College on the K-State campus. Starting this fall, both the undergraduate and graduate certificate programs also will be offered through distance education.
"Through the Division of Continuing Education, we will offer a distance education program. This is so exciting because it means we can educate people all over the world in these skills," McCants said. "Now, no matter where people live, they can become certified in conflict resolution by taking courses over the Internet or by using other technologies like CDs or DVDs."
McCants, who has a master's degree in conflict analysis and resolution, is a state-approved mediator and mediation trainer. She is emphatic about the practical value of her discipline.
"People who learn how to manage and resolve conflict can better handle different demands, personalities and behaviors. They're also a positive role model for others, like their kids," she said.
Students come to the program with different agendas and professional backgrounds, but all hope they will be better able to manage disputes and help others manage them better as well, McCants said.
Capt. Jen Kirk, Delta Company commander, 1st Engineer Battalion at Fort Riley, will deploy with her unit to Iraq in the fall. She has nothing but accolades for the program and the value it provides her in leading her company.
"There's a lot of conflict and stress among the soldiers and their families, and I help them with all aspects of their life," Kirk said. "I needed something offered at night and I knew the program would be great for personal and professional development. I had nothing to lose, so I signed up."
Kirk's belief in the value of the program is reinforced when she sees that McCants not only teaches the principles of conflict resolution but practices what she preaches.
"She is really passionate about the program and you can see her use the same skills she teaches whether she's leading the classes or facilitating discussions," Kirk said. "I attended a roundtable discussion that she facilitated where the topic was about the war. Obviously, there were lots of varying opinions, but McCants facilitated very well and everyone left feeling like they had been heard and that they were validated. It was
One of the techniques Kirk has found to be most effective at dispelling conflict is to visualize the conflict in terms of a bar graph. As emotions start to rise in intensity, the participants should acknowledge their mutual tension while also describing their feelings to each other. The purpose of the bar graph is to mentally picture a leveling effect while appreciating the other person's point of view.
"This technique sounds so silly, but it works if you're in conflict. To the other person, you would say, 'OK, I see what you're saying that bothers you, but I also don't like this.'"
It's not only military personnel who benefit from the program. Roy Crenshaw, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Manhattan, is another enthusiastic participant.
Crenshaw began taking the courses while he was still working in the corporate world. In his current position, he works with about 300 youth and matches them with mentors. He sees that many families need techniques to solve disputes constructively before the disputes spiral into bigger problems such as divorce, domestic violence or even violence outside the home. Crenshaw believes almost everyone would benefit from learning more
about conflict resolution.
"I think it ought to be a requirement," he said. "We need to retool our thinking on problem solving. People get unhappy with each other about little things and they can't resolve them and they don't go away. You need a model to resolve that conflict. But people want shortcuts. They want to solve it without first understanding it."
More information on K-State's conflict resolution program is available through the Division of Continuing Education at 1-800-622-2578 and online at http://www.dce.k-state.edu/conflictresolution/