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Podcast transcript: Master of conflict resolution

Transcript for Conflict Resolution, Part One: Overview of the degree and careers

AMY POTTHAST: Welcome to the Idealist Grad School podcast where together we explore grad school for the public good. I'm Amy Potthast, Director of Graduate Education Programs at Idealist.

This episode of our Grad Schools podcast is part I of a three part series looking at the conflict resolution graduate degrees.

On this episode I'm chatting with admissions officers of conflict resolution masters programs about admissions and financial aid.

AMY: I would love to start with each of you introducing yourselves and your school.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: My name is Erin Ogilvie. I'm from George Mason University in Arlington Virginia the school of Conflict Analysis and Resolution.  

AMY: And, Tim?

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah hi, my name is Tim Hicks and I direct the Master Degree Program in Conflict and Dispute Resolution at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon.

AMY: The first part of this conflict resolution series is going to focus on what is the conflict resolution degree and program exactly and how's it distinct exactly from other similar kinds of programs such as Peace Studies. Tim, would you like to begin?

TIM HICKS, UO: Sure, as I was thinking about this question it struck me that conflict resolution is the more general and umbrella subject category it deals with the management of, and prevention of, and resolution of conflict at the interpersonal level to the international level and all areas of social relations as soon as you have 2 or more people together.

So, it could be in the corporate setting, it could be restorative justice, it could be public disputes, etc., etc., and peace studies is, in a way, a subset of that larger category. Although that's only one way of looking at it because peace studies is something in itself.

And there will be overlap and commonalities between peace studies and the study of conflict resolution. In both cases, for instance, people would be involved in the study of the psychology of conflict.

But, peace studies is gonna be more focused on inter-group, and likely international, whereas a conflict resolution program, unless it specializes in some sector will allow students to look at conflict in a wide variety of practice areas.

AMY: You're housed within the School of Law at the University of Oregon, and do you want to talk at all about the relationship between dispute resolution as it's perceived from a  legal perspective and how it's treated  more specifically within your program?

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah because we're housed within the law school we have to make an extra effort to help people understand that we're 1st of all, not a law degree, and also that our program, our curriculum, and our approach are not legalistically based, primarily.

That said, we're housed in what's called the "Appropriate Dispute Resolution Center" in the law school. And the word "appropriate," I think is key because law, litigation is sometimes the appropriate resource and response, but it's not always and it is often not the appropriate avenue for resolving a dispute.

So, we consider the law an important option, not one that we would want to throw away, but, often an inappropriate option and so our program focuses on the non-adversarial approaches to resolving differences and bridging differences.

AMY: And I do want to give Erin Ogilvie at George Mason University S-CAR a chance to also chime in about what you see as sort of the crux of the conflict resolution degree and your program and how its distinct from others that a prospective student might also be looking at?

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: I definitely have to echo  what Tim has just said, I thought his description was fantastic about peace studies being part of this conflict resolution "umbrella."  Finding the difference between peace and conflict resolution I think this question has come up many times in the field itself. And I think when you're looking at a program specifically it really comes down to the individual strengths of the curriculum. What is the focus of the department or school? And what are the faculty backgrounds?

Because as a student you may be wanting to look more at the transformation side of conflict, which may be addressed more specifically in peace studies programs. Or are they interested in analyzing causes of conflict?

Peace studies can be part of more international studies or even a theology program within the U.S.

Specifically to S-CAR graduate programs, our program is driven a bit more by the analysis of what causes conflict, so really looking at the deep rooted causes, and that could be pretty broad, from anything from culture, gender, religion, identity. But some may argue that conflict is natural or necessary to bring about positive change, where other programs may focus on that it should be prevented at all cost, so there really is a definite spectrum.

So I think as a student researching different programs you should think about what job or career you'd like, what is the job asking me to do? and what am I looking for in a curriculum?

AMY: So, Erin, you're mentioning that prospective students should be looking ahead at the kinds of jobs that are out there, that are drawing them and then determine, which is the appropriate graduate degree to get which I think makes perfect sense, either by looking at job descriptions or doing informational interviews or both or lots of other ways. //

So I'm curious what kinds of jobs are students getting as they are graduating from your program and further on in their careers? And if you can share a specific example of a student and how their careers progressed after leaving your program that would be really helpful.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Sure. Students from conflict resolution programs, I think, specifically to the program I can speak to at S-CAR, students can work in academia, research, policy analysis for government agencies, nonprofit to non-governmental organizations, many students go abroad and are working in international development it can be domestic or international.

So, I mean, it's very broad, there's such a wide range of fields of work that graduates can go into. It really depends on the topic or region or specific piece of conflict resolution that the student would like to focus on.

AMY: I guess in this instance, in terms of maybe how the job market goes, it works in everyone's advantage that conflict is universal.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Yes, you could say that. There's definitely a market for it, I guess you could say...

And I advise student's about this, is that really the actual job title may not be "conflict resolution specialist," but if you read the description carefully of different positions maybe within an organization you're interested in, you may find that the job is all about conflict resolution. These employers they are looking for critical thinking skills, synthesizing information, analyzing complex problems.

The title of the job may not be as explicitly "peace specialist" or what have you but it could be something more program coordinator, research assistant, etc. And specifically an alumna that comes to mind, one of our PhD's...she received her Ph.D. in 2003.

Many PhD students usually do go onto working in academia, to working at different universities but she actually decided to go in more of a practitioner level and she currently works for the office of the coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization, that's a mouthful, at the US Department of State.

And her title, after I went into that shpiel about how it may not be conflict resolution specialist, her title is the senior conflict prevention officer. Her background is interesting in that she had her JD and worked as an attorney for years and decided to explore another way or a better way to address disputes based on her earlier career. And she earned her Ph.D. looked at more kind of broader alternative ways of analyzing conflict and other alternative transformations that result and so she's currently working within this bureau at the US Department of State.

AMY: She sounds like a very thoughtful person.

And, Tim, when students graduate from U of O's master's program in conflict and dispute resolution are you too finding that they go on to careers much broader than say community mediation centers across the country?

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah, definitely, I'd echo what Erin said, the field is so broad, in the largest framing that any endeavor when working with other people it will be more than a bit helpful to have conflict resolution expertise or conflict management expertise.

About 4 or 5 years ago there was a study done of international NGOs, a survey done, and one of the questions was what are you looking for in new hires? And within the top three responses consistently was, conflict management expertise, even though they weren't hiring conflict managers, conflict resolvers, they really wanted especially was those skills and those understandings that we develop in these programs and I think that that applies in other setting as well, in corporate settings, in nonprofit settings, in government agency settings, that the skills just make you better functionally as a human-being.

But that said, on a general level, the kinds of jobs really depend on your area of interest. We've got a couple students who are working in court family mediation programs where they are daily doing mediations for domestic issues and divorce.

A student who came out of journalism but was really interested in labor relations and he's now working for the Washington State Labor Relations Board.

We have a couple students who are working as junior facilitators with public dispute resolution firms, but we've got someone working as a family advocate for Headstart; it's not titled conflict resolution. We had a police officer who came in because he wanted to work more effictively in the local police union and now he's president of the local police union.

We've got a student whose what's called a "project expert" for the Turkish Government currently working on a women's rights and women's empowerment project. And then we got students who go into PhD programs, we're a Master's level program, so we've got students who want to go on academically.

And then just a wide range of jobs that really on the surface don't seem to have anything directly to do with conflict resolution, but as as Erin said, when you dig into the job description the conflict resolution skills are what they are pairing with their other abilities to satisfy job requirements.

AMY: When an employer looks at conflict resolution degree, do you think they seem to get it that skill set is really going to be useful in a lot of different settings?

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah, I think now more and more is the case when you look at the difference between now and 10 years ago, 15 years ago or 20 years ago, the market is really getting the words conflict resolution and what that means and  the value of conflict management and on the corporate level there's a lot of research done on the cost of corporate conflict.

And corporate managers know the cost of replacing employees so you know high turnover as a result of poorly managed conflict and the result and a poor organizational culture in relationship to conflict has measurable costs that effect the bottom line. So, more and more people in positions of responsibility are recognizing the value of those qualities in people they hire.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: I would definitely have to agree with Tim. I think that there is always, there has been in the past, a challenge for students to articulate, why I do qualify for this position, you need me, as opposed to more traditional degrees where conflict resolution pulls from; disciplines like, international affairs, sociology, or psychology. And I think students have found success by  just understanding how to articulate conflict resolution as it applies to them.

It's not just a degree but is more, what have they been doing while a student, what kind of experiences have they had, whether it be an internship, whether they're working full time while they are picking up their degree,  so there's a lot of factors involved. I doubt many times nowadays that someone will be turned away just by the sheer title of their degree.

TIM HICKS, UO: So....a lot of our students do concurrent degrees so they can get two Masters in three years rather than four.

And so they'll pair let's say international studies with conflict resolution with a master in each, or an MBA and conflict resolution, or planning and public policy degree and conflict resolution or environmental studies and conflict resolution and also indeed law (that happens in four years rather than three years), but they can get a law degree and Masters degree in four years.

So pairing the two degrees then adds another dimension to your credentials as students are going out in the job market.

AMY: I was wondering about that. That seems like a really important point. And, Erin, I'm assuming students at S-CAR are doing something similar?

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Yeah, similar, usually with the curriculum at the master's and Ph.D. level it is the same degree as far as a master of science in conflict analysis or a doctor of philosophy conflict analysis resolution but students will focus or tailor all their assignments and curriculum towards a certain topic of interest.

But as far as other programs, we do have a joint program with the school of social work and then we also have a dual degree with the University of Malta, which seems a bit random, and then we do have the graduate certificate programs as well, that students may add-on for an additional specialization, whether it be prevention, reconstruction, stabilization, advanced skills, environmental conflict resolution, world religions, diplomacy and conflict resolution and then there's a community planning and collaborative leadership, so there are many different ways a student can specialize and tailor their curriculum and their experience to what is best for them.

AMY: So a similar or related question is about certificate programs in conflict resolution do both of your schools offer certificate programs and do prospective students in the graduate program use the certificate to sort of dip their toe in the water of this field or are you getting people who are already established in other careers who just want a stronger foundation in conflict resolution?

Just wondering, if you have certificate programs, then how people are using them to further their careers? And Erin, would you like to begin this question?

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Sure, we have 5 certificates in conflict resolution and I just mentioned the 5 different specializations and as far as the student that comes through our graduate programs, it's a definite mix. We have students that come through who are unsure of the program; they're maybe deciding between this and another type of curriculum, say international studies, or maybe even social work, that they aren't quite sure they want to commit to a full master's program or a PhD, but they think that the curriculum itself, and the certificate program, which is a year-long part-time program, would still benefit their career.

We have those students, but we also have students that are well-established, that do have multiple graduate-level degrees and they don't want to commit to another full PhD or another masters but they feel that these skills are definitely essential to boost their career or to possibly explore a career change so we definitely have a variety of different types of students and it is attractive to some that it is one year part-time and all the classes are on the weekends. So sometimes different programs will have different schedules to meet the needs of the different student population.

AMY: And Tim at the University of Oregon's Degree in Conflict and Dispute Resolution, do you have certificate programs and how are student's using them to further their careers?

TIM HICKS, UO: We have an undergraduate certificate program with just one track, it's more of a basic introduction to conflict resolution and then at the graduate level we don't have certificates. We just do our masters.

Although we're working on an environmental collaborative government certificate, that would be a joint project of environmental studies and what we call planning public policy and management here as a department on campus and the law school and our masters program...so it would be a menu of courses from which students could select and there would be some basic courses that they would be required to take but our focus has not been on certificate offerings.

Certificates really do provide an option for students to both get their foot in the water of a particular subject matter or to develop not as deep a level as a full masters but at least get introduced to the subject matter.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: And just to add just a little bit, it is that we do have students that they may add on a certificate to their PhD or masters. Our graduate certificates are more practice focused, than perhaps theory and research, even though you're going to get all 3, and so we have encouraged students in the past to maybe look at a certificate program to add on an additional practice specialization.

AMY: Just to have one demonstrated interest in a certain field or something like that?

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Exactly. And some of those can be you know world religions, diplomacy conflict resolution, if people are really interested in being a practitioner and interface dialogues or if you have someone that's interested in environmental conflict resolution we have that program as well. Or if they wanted to do a more general, which is a conflict analysis resolution advanced skills.

Transcript for Conflict Resolution, Part Two: Coursework, fieldwork, and certificates

AMY POTTHAST: Welcome to the Idealist Grad School podcast where together we explore grad school for the public good. I'm Amy Potthast, Director of Graduate Education Programs at Idealist.

This episode of our Grad Schools podcast is part II of a three part series looking at the conflict resolution degree. On this episode I'm chatting with admissions officers of conflict resolution masters programs about coursework, fieldwork, and certificates.

AMY: I would love to start with each of you introducing yourselves and your school.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: My name is Erin Ogilvie. I'm from George Mason University in Arlington Virginia and I'm representing the school of Conflict Analysis and Resolution.
AMY: And, Tim?

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah hi, my name is Tim Hicks and I direct the Master Degree Program in Conflict and Dispute Resolution at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon.

AMY: Tim, what kind of course work can students expect to take at University of Oregon's master's  degree program in conflict dispute and resolution?

TIM HICKS, UO: Our core required courses are a mix of theory and practice so we'll have courses like the philosophy of conflict resolution, the psychology of conflict, cross-cultural dynamics in conflict resolution, which bring in a lot of theory, although the cross-cultural dynamics is quite experiential as well, but there is a lot of theory in it,  a lot of academic reference to the literature and that kind of thing.

And then we also have our skills based courses, we have required courses in negotiation, mediation, and in facilitation, which are very hands-on courses. Not that they don't include some theory as well, but their primary focus is on developing skills. And then, as I mentioned,for people who are interested in family, interpersonal work, in international work, in environmental conflict resolution work, they can take electives from other departments like international studies, or public planning, and so on.

And I think that the challenge of a two year program is that there's just a limited amount of time, and we're wanting to offer more and we're wanting our students to take more and we say to our students that a master's degree in this field is a beginning, is a foundation, and it's a life long educational experience that they begin here or that they may have begun at the undergraduate level.

AMY: I know it's amazing you think that a master's program is going to be this very weighty thing but when you think about it, it's two years of as much course work as makes sense, the foundational information, and then you're out of there and you have to take on more experiential education I guess, or go on to get a PhD. It's really surprising I think sometimes.

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah, I've been in this field now for almost twenty years. So for twenty years I've been thinking just pretty much every day in one way or another about the issues and subject matter. I've been practicing as a mediator for all of those years and I've been doing teaching. And still, after twenty years, I find that I am continuing to deepen my understanding and appreciation of the material.

AMY: Tim, as a professional in addition to being involved in your program, I'm wondering if you've seen a change...I'm just thinking about multicultural communication and how diverse the United States is becoming and I would think even Eugene has increasing diversity, especially being on a huge college campus. I'm just wondering if you've seen an emphasis in the conflict related to so many cultures living together...

TIM HICKS, UO: ….Diversity issues...

AMY: Yeah, if that's becoming more of an issue than it has in the past and if that's influencing the coursework?

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah, I think there's 2 answers to that. One is that element of the subject matter has always been what the conflict resolution world has been about; however, you define diversity, whether it's gender diversity or age diversity or class diversity so that's always been a thread, inherent to the subject matter. But that said, as you say both internationally, domestically, globalization and the migration of people, and the interdependence economically on the international level means that all of us are living in less homogeneous circumstances and that  that brings us up against cultural issues.

And I think also, at a more theoretical level, what we call the postmodern partly has to do with a recognition not only at the philosophical level but at the scientific level as we understand the neurophysiology of perception of others, and we understand things about mirror neurons, there is just a wide range of subject matter that leads to the fact of deeper consideration of culture and diversity issues, both practically, in the day to day, at our work place and in our communities, and at a more theoretical level.  

And certainly we're seeing that prospective students are increasingly interested in these cultural dimensions and in working internationally. And I think part of the pull to international work isn't so much that they are pulled to work internationally, but that they are called by the issues that we are facing internationally. That's a long-winded answer to your question, which really, the answer is yes.

AMY: Well, I think its really related, multiculturalism within the United States and then also understanding conflict internationally, they're very similar I think. Erin, at George Mason University School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution, what kind of course work do student's take? And is there a balance between skills practice and theory and research?

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Yes, the master's students, they'll have a core requirement that is going to be around research, theory, and then practice, a reflective practice course. Those are kind of the foundation courses of the master's program, then students do select from a wide range of elective courses. These vary from international conflict related topics, such as, global context of conflict or refugees, refugee camps, reflective practices in international conflict, culture and conflict, or it can be more skills based, more somatic skills for conflict resolvers, facilitation skills. We do have a number of courses around religion and conflict, conflict and gender and human rights, so, I mean, as you can see, there is definitely a wide range that students choose from. And again, just tailoring their degree to what their career goals are.  

And students also have an integration option to where they have to choose a thesis, or internship, or a applied practice and theory project and really the integration option is kind of their signature piece of the master's program.

But students, they typically will come in with a topic of interest or region of interest, or both. And kind of mixing both of them together, having students with an international level, more macro-level of conflict resolution or at a more interpersonal level, local level of conflict resolution, but really the students are gonna get both and the full spectrum.

AMY: So I want to talk briefly about the kind of field experience requirements, internship or other type of field experience that students might expect to take. Erin at George Mason's school of conflict analysis and resolution , I'm wondering what kind of field work or internships your school requires and also supports students in doing?

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Sure, students have a choice to do an internship, a traditional master's thesis, or if they would like to do what is called an applied practice and theory project, it's a team-based year-long project and that can be a domestic real life project or an international team working on something overseas. So we do have a field experience director that will help place students in what the best opportunity for them, depending on what they want to do.

Specifically on field experience, if you're choosing an internship, we've had students who've interned at more local NGOs such as, Northern Virginia Mediation Services, maybe some government agencies, just being right outside of Washington, D.C., or they travel to different parts of the country or different parts of the world to do short-term internships.

With the applied practice and theory teams, those projects are really driven by student interest but also a faculty member that will advise them on a real project that as I said it could be locally, but then it could also be something in another country, so we've had a team go to Turkey looking at issues of ethnicity and conflict. We just had a team go to South Africa. We've had students work on conflict resolution programs for the FAA employees. So, it varies.

But overall, field experience is very encouraged within the curriculum here. You really need experience across the board, any graduate student, they really need some kind of experience to show their future employers of what they've been doing and what they can do.

AMY: And Tim from University of Oregon's program in Conflict and Dispute Resolution do you require the field experience and ….(do you find) that its better for students to get that experience under their belt both to enrich their education and to help in the transition after graduation?

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah, we do require, we have a 320 hour, so that's the equivalent of full time 8 weeks of work that is a required internship and it's in addition to their final project or their thesis, so its really a key and critical part of our program. We have students going both internationally and domestically...Kenya, South Africa, Lebanon, Indonesia, and so on, but we've also got one established program in Northern Ireland where we send students every summer and we're developing a comparable program in Israel/Palestine and next year we will be developing a comparable program in Africa, it will either be Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda or South Africa.

And then ultimately we will have a similar program somewhere in Asia and then one in South America or Central America. But those more developed programs differ from ad hoc placements in one specific way and that is that before going, let's say, to Northern Ireland, students have to take a 4-credit course on the Northern Ireland conflict so they arrive with familiarity of the history of the conflict and the names of the people involved and all of that so they hit the ground running so to speak.

And we have the same for the Middle East internship program, and we'll do the same for those others that I mentioned. But then if we have somebody going to Kenya, let's say, to work with a youth sports organization, they won't have had a preparation course quite like they had for those other programs that I mentioned, but they will be required to take a 4-credit course on working in the overseas context.

So every student who does go overseas takes this course, and it deals with everything from culture shock to health, safety, security issues, to the colonial history, to kind of the nature of the relationship between the developed and the developing world, and that kind of thing.

And generically, I would say because our field is such a blend of idealism theory and practice I think, really critical for students going through these programs to have a substantial internship experience because its through that that you begin to apply what you're learning in the real world and if we can't apply what we're learning in the real world then we are not really doing what we set out to do because this is a real world kind of subject matter. So, yeah, internship is key.

AMY: Just to close part II, I guess, I'll just observe that if you're going into a conflict resolution program in order to really make a difference in the world and do something good it had to be so energizing or completely demoralizing if you fail, but energizing to actually get up and do something where you really feel like your putting your skills to work right away.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Absolutely.


AMY: It seems like it would be motivating.

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah, as an example I just talked this morning with a student who is doing an internship at a hospital in North Carolina, I think it is, so she's working in a hospital with 3,000 employees and she's working on a project in which they are trying to assess the conflict management and the types of conflict that are happening within the organization with the goal of creating a proposal for how to improve the system and the difference between that and taking our course here in managing conflict in organizations is, imagine, is just a very sharp difference and it allows her to take what she learned in the course and apply it directly and develop herself as a maturing young adult.

She suddenly finds herself working in a very real context. And we have another program that I didn't mention, but we've got an environmental conflict resolution track in which students get a 3-day training in public disputes and public dispute management and then their placed on cases around Oregon.

And it's just another example of being able to really, actually apply, because that's what makes the internship so important, not only that it goes on Somebody's resume but that it helps them in the transition from academic studies and in many cases, their youth, to actual work and their, you know, mature development so its such an important stepping stone.

AMY: And it's one thing to learn something in an ivory tower so to speak and another thing to actually practice it in a real world where you know things aren't set up for your education they're set up for far different reasons.


AMY: Well, I really appreciate your both taking the time to be on the call.

TIM HICKS, UO: Thanks for it. And nice to do it with you Erin.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Yeah you too. Thanks for the opportunity.

AMY: Want to hear more from this interview? Check out part I an overview of the conflict resolution degree and a discussion about careers and part III on admissions and financial aid. Find them all on idealist.org/podcasts.

Learn more about the conflict resolution degree on the idealist grad school resource center, idealist.org/gradschool.

I'm Amy Potthast. Thanks for listening. To find more good things to do go to idealist.org. Today's show was produced with the help of our intern Millicent Zimdars. If you have enjoyed our podcast please show your support by going to itunes and leaving a review and a rating of this podcast and others you've liked. You can also send us feedback to podcasts@idealist.org.

Transcript for Conflict Resolution, Part Three: Admissions and financial aid

AMY POTTHAST: Welcome to the Idealist Grad School podcast where together we explore grad school for the public good. I'm Amy Potthast, Director of Graduate Education Programs at Idealist.

This episode of our Grad Schools podcast is part III of a three part series looking at conflict resolution graduate programs. On this episode, I'm chatting with admissions officers of conflict resolution masters programs about admissions and financial aid.

AMY: I would love to start with each of you introducing yourselves and your school.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: My name is Erin Ogilvie. I'm from George Mason University in Arlington Virginia the school of Conflict Analysis and Resolution.  

AMY: And Tim?

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah hi, my name is Tim Hicks and I direct the Master Degree Program in Conflict and Dispute Resolution at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. //

AMY: So for part III of our podcast we are going to talk about admissions and financial aid and I want to start with a two part question,  what kind of experience are incoming students entering with and what distinguishes those students from those who do not get into the program? Erin Ogilvie from George Mason School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution would you mind beginning?

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Sure the type of experiences a lot of our incoming masters students have, it's definitely a range, we typically have students that have some kind of relevant experience to why their interested in conflict analysis and resolution, this could be an internship while they were an undergraduate student, this could be military service that they have done, post-undergrad, this could also be, just a class that they took, that really sparked their interest, while they don't have a major specifically in conflict resolution but they've realized for one reason or another that this is the route that they want to take.

We also have a number of students that have a personal story that's related to conflict analysis and resolution. We've had students in the past, who grew up in a refugee camp or they come directly from a conflict zone. So the experiences of our students are incredibly diverse.

We usually do not have students who come fresh out of undergraduate programs, even though we still have a number of students that will start right after they graduate, they will start the masters program. But that is usually because they do have some kind of clear, relevant experience, study abroad experience, some kind of major project that was relevant during their undergraduate studies.

AMY: Can you think of any type of students who tend to not get in? I mean, it could be mistakes people are making on their application process or just a trend in whose not a good fit that you see?

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Tips to think about when you are pulling together an admissions application for any graduate program is that one of the mistakes that I've seen is sometimes I will meet with prospective students and they're fantastic applicants, but they don't put together a strong application. They might not put together a strong personal essay, really bringing together all the parts both intellectually and professionally to really give the admissions commitee a good picture of who you are and why you would be successful in this graduate program.

Speaking specifically to our program, everything doesn't hinge on your GPA, whereas some programs, I know, that's all that matters, or the GRE score. And our program, actually does not require the GRE as an admissions requirement.

Years ago faculty just decided the GRE was not a true measure of what they find in a successful graduate student, but again, that's just specific to our program. And every program is very different in what they may see, or what they may find in someone that is applying to their program.

But I do really encourage students to look at all aspects of their application, you know, send their personal essay to the people that are writing their recommendation letters, don't have a very generic recommendation letter and just being aware and being able to try  to articulate best why specifically this program because as you can tell there are many programs in conflict resolution.

AMY: So Tim Hicks from University of Oregon's Master's Degree in Conflict and Dispute Resolution what kind of experience do you find incoming students are entering with and what's distinguishing them from the applicants who don't get in?

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah we do take some students who are direct from undergrad all the way up to people who are in their 40s or in their 50s and I'd say everything in between. I've never worked it out but I'd say probably our average is 28, 30, something like that.

Yeah wide range of backgrounds from lots of different disciplines and different experiences, and international as well as domestic students and I would agree with Erin that typically they have got something in their personal history, either work related or family related, that their experience has led them to this field in addition to kind of their temperament, there is, I think a kind of self-selection process. One could make generalizations about the type of person who would be attracted to the conflict resolution field.

AMY: Middle children.

TIM HICKS, UO: (Laughing.) Yeah, right, middle children! But sometimes younger children and older...but, yeah, that kind of thing. There's a temperament: qualities of empathy, there's concerns for social justice, and those kinds of things. In terms of who we accept and who we don't accept, it's an interesting decision process, and as Erin said, the application is important.

We interview every applicant who gets past a certain stage in the application process. So, I personally talk with, and it's an informal conversation, but it's an attempt to get to know the person and their interests with more dimension than just paper submission.

AMY: Are students required to take the GRE?

TIM HICKS, UO: Yep. We  do require the GRE and I tell all students that it's kind of the last thing we look at. It's the least important in a way and I would agree that it's not a great measure. And we've accepted students with low GRE scores who have been wonderful students and wonderful practitioners. There are some students who come to us who are much more academically and theoretically oriented and want to go on to do PhD programs. But, as a generalization I would say students who are attracted to this type of program are people people, who want to engage socially.

AMY: Okay, really briefly, about academic background, I'm assuming that I know the answer but I want to make it explicit on this show...I'm assuming that because conflict resolution is so interdisciplinary that you are looking for people with a wide variety of academic backgrounds, there's not like one particular major that's a shoe-in for this graduate degree, would you guys agree with that?


AMY: How do students pay for their degrees? Is it a combination of loans, scholarships, graduate assistantships, that kind of thing?

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Yes. And I feel like I'm repeating myself a lot so I apologize. But it goes back to the individual program and what kind of opportunities they may have. But I think, in general, students should look at more alternative ways, or creative ways of funding themselves.

There are the traditional routes of getting loans or some of our students have found success working alongside an individual faculty member, on a specific grant, or a specific grant-funded project and they've written in a position for them.

So it's not direct from the department, but they are assisting faculty while they are a student and getting funds. And then of course, if the institution is going to be public or private, you have to look at the different costs associated there if its gonna be in-state or out-of-state tuition or one set price.

TIM HICKS, UO: Yeah, I'd add one of our student went through the whole program, not only having not paid a penny and come out with not a penny of debt, she also came out with a little surplus in her account from the money she raised. And she did it just through very diligent and determined pursuit of scholarships and grants, here and there, hither and yon, and it takes that kind of attention--it's almost like a job in itself.

And it's hard for students to do that because they have got a lot of other stuff that their having to attend to. We have that student, actually because she was so successful, come into our orientation sessions that we have each year with the new cohort, so that she can talk about what she did and inspire other students to do the same.

So there are a lot of opportunities out there but it does take some research and some devotion to doing the applications and going through the hoops.

AMY: And I've heard that the timing for that should start to begin at the same point as you're starting to look to apply to programs, which brings me to my final question: is the conflict resolution degree area, is there an accreditation for it beyond just regular regional accreditation? And if not, if I were interested in this degree area, which I'm completely sold on it right now, is there a place to go to find a list of all the programs that are basic conflict resolution or even peace studies. Tim, would you like to begin?

TIM HICKS, UO: You can get lists from various places. And I'm on what's being called the Higher Education Task Force for the Association of Conflict Resolution, which is the International organization for the field, and that higher education task force is just now looking at what are the kind of best practices and minimum standards for graduate level programs in this field. George Mason I think was the first, right Erin? 1982?


TIM HICKS, UO: 1982 for the Masters. So, before 1982 there were no masters degrees in this field.

So we're just past our infancy and all of us are asking what can we do within the limitations of two years and what should we be doing and it touches on some of the stuff we've been talking about. You know, should there be internship requirement or not? what kind of support for internships should there be? what are the basic core courses that should be delivered? what kind of skills should we be intending our graduates to have, etc. etc.

And so that work is being done.

There is no formal accreditation for programs as far as I know and there's a wide range of, I wouldn't say quality so much but I would say a wide range of structures and offerings and strengths. So if somebody's a prospective student, they've got to talk to the programs.

We've got a link on our website where they can click on it and talk to me or they can click on another link to talk to students in the program and we'll connect them to students who have similar interest to theirs.

And I think if you can visit a program even better.

But certainly talk to students and faculty and administration in the program and see what kind of a feel you get from them. Study the website and try to understand what they offer and then use that information to then talk to the program directly. And in terms of actually getting a list? I've got a list of a lot of the programs and if somebody emailed me, I'd certainly be happy to share that with them.

And Erin, maybe, you have some other ideas of how people can get a list of programs around the country.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: I think Tim definitely answered that greatly about the accreditation issue and those kind of concerns.

As far as programs, I know there's actually one at Salsbury University in Maryland. So if  students are looking for different kinds of programs and then want to do the research of what are the differences as far as if they wanted to go to Europe, if they wanted to go to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Australia, they have kind of a short-list of where these conflict resolution programs broken down by geographic region, which I found to be a great resource.

AMY: Well, I really appreciate your both taking the time to be on the call.

TIM HICKS, UO: Thanks for it. And nice to do it with you Erin.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Alright. Thank you.

AMY: Thank you guys so much.

ERIN OGILVIE, GMU: Alright. Take care. Bye-bye.

AMY POTTHAST: Want to hear more from this interview? Check out part I an overview of the conflict resolution degree and a discussion about careers and part III on admissions and financial aid.

Find them all on idealist.org/podcasts. Learn more about the conflict resolution degree on the idealist grad school resource center, idealist.org/gradschool.

I'm Amy Potthast. Thanks for listening. To find more good things to do go to idealist.org.

Today's show was produced with the help of our intern Millicent Zimdars. If you have enjoyed our podcast please show your support by going to itunes and leaving a review and a rating of this podcast and others you've liked. You can also send us feedback to podcasts@idealist.org.