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Brief History of the Development of Conflict Resolution Studies in Higher Education

(from The Conflict Resolution Syllabi Sampler: 1998
edited by Juliana Birkhoff, previously available from NIDR)

by Juliana E. Birkhoff

Different Goals, Curricula, and Program Locations
1. Undergraduate concentrations or classes in peace and conflict studies
2. Undergraduate degree programs in peace and conflict studies.
3. Certificate programs or adult learning programs in conflict resolution life skills
4. Graduate certificate programs in conflict resolution
5. MS\MA in peace studies with some conflict resolution
6. MS\MA in conflict resolution
7. Specializations within professional schools
8. Concentrations within existing MA\MS\Ph.D. programs
9. Ph.D. in conflict resolution
Summary

Currently, peace and conflict resolution study in higher education is characterized by diversity in approaches and goals. Thus, some undergraduate programs include peace and conflict studies as a requirement for a well rounded liberal arts education while others award undergraduate certificates or majors in conflict resolution or peace studies. Some programs, particularly in law, business and planning, focus on teaching future professionals to handle conflict productively as a part of their normal professional skills. Other programs are designed to produce professional conflict resolvers.

There are several reasons for the wide range of approaches and goals. First, an abundant and complex array of research, theory and practice from the social sciences enriches the study of conflict. In some cases these different perspectives produced interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary approaches and programs. In other situations, however, different disciplinary and professional lenses focused and shaped programs concentrations and how programs developed.

Different disciplinary ideologies and foci have also affected terminology. For example, some programs are called peace and conflict studies, others use the terms negotiation, dispute resolution, conflict management, or conflict regulation. These different terms reflect the ways that different disciplines view conflict and research traditions for studying conflict and conflict handling. The terms reflect different disciplinary stances toward theory and practice. The terms also clearly reveal preferred viewpoints or values for conflict handlingâ??â??management versus resolution, for example.

For this anthology I included courses that focused on studying the causes and dynamics of social conflict, and the various fora and approaches to handling conflict. In this admittedly loose and individualistic distinction, I have included some course which others might label as peace studies courses. However, I have not included courses which focus on the causes of war, global order, diplomacy, national security, human rights, futures study, international organizations, or arms races and negotiations.

Different intellectual sources for conflict studies also contributes to the diversity of approaches and goals. Several authors have noted that many intellectual histories and streams combine to produce conflict resolution studies (see Carey 1980, Baur 1981, Wehr 1986, Kriesberg 1991, Lewicki 1996). The first intellectual stream comes from international relations. Scholars have been studying war, peace and diplomacy for centuries. During the last hundred years these studies have sought to identify the patterns that contribute to conflictual or harmonious nation state relationships. As these learnings converged on general patterns some scholars applied these emerging lessons to other systems. Further, scholars from other disciplines began to borrow theories from the international realm to understanding relationships in other social systems.

The second source for conflict studies is labor relations. Following years of violent labor strife in the thirties, several universities and colleges established programs to study labor management relations (Baur 1981). These programs expanded after the federal government passed collective bargaining legislation (Wehr 1986). These schools studied industrial economics, laws and relationships and included an explicit intention to apply knowledge to improve labor/management relationships and conflict handling processes. Thus, these institutes and departments provided early models of how to integrate multi-disciplinary perspectives. They also contributed models of how to produce practitioners, in this case, professional labor mediators and arbitrators.

The third source for conflict studies began in responses to the two world wars and Indian resistance to British colonialism. Several peace studies programs began in the 1940's and 1950's in colleges and universities affiliated with the traditional peace churches (Quakers, Church of the Brethren, Mennonites) (Renna 1980). These programs legitimized the study of nonâ??violent ways of handling conflict, particularly the tactics and historical use of nonâ??violent resistance. Peace studies programs also raised a new generation of scholars who specifically included ethics and values into their teaching, research and writing. Similar to labor relations programs, peace studies programs encouraged students and faculty to use academic knowledge to improve social problems.

The fourth source for conflict studies connects both ideologically and temporally with the third source. In the late 1950's, the 1960's, and early 1970's scholars responded to racial tensions, feminist movements, and other social justice movements (Wehr 1986, Baur 1981). Environmental, community, racial conflicts and other social movements led behavioral scientists to focus on social conflict and how to handle it more productively. Faculty from sociology, social psychology and political science departments developed classes and programs. Interdisciplinary programs were also begun. In the public new procedures were developed to involve the public in participatory decision making around environmental conflicts or to provide conciliation in racial conflicts. These new developments led a second group of law and social science scholars in the early 1980's to evaluate the ideology and utility of these processes for advancing social justice.

The fifth source for conflict studies evolved within the professional schools. Law schools, school of business, government, planning and public administration responded to student's demands for education that realistically prepared them for their professions. Law schools developed skills courses in advocacy, negotiation, counseling, and listening skills. Law clinics were begun in many law schools. These programs often moved to less adversarial methods of pursuing justice. Similarly, managers, planners and public administrators were asking for more skills in negotiation and informal mediation. Many professional schools responded to these requests. Today, most law schools and many business schools have incorporated dispute resolution into their curricula. Several other professional schools include conflict resolution in their offerings.

These different streams have come together to produce many approaches and hundreds of programs in conflict studies. Over the last 25 years, more than 300 peace and conflict studies programs have been developed in North American universities and colleges (COPRED l995). However, the different sources and different disciplinary perspectives have produced great variety in program goals, curricula, and program locations.

Different Goals, Curricula, and Program Locations

Given the history of conflict studies and the variety of sources it is not surprising there is such diversity in program locations and curricula. It is important, however, to understand the different types of programs. It is not useful to measure your program, which aims to produce teachers who can incorporate collaboration into their classroom, against standards developed for programs which aim to produce professional third party interveners. Different goals require different curricula and pedagogy.

Faculty members participating in the Nova Southeastern meeting suggested the following typology of academic programs:

1. Undergraduate concentrations or classes in peace and conflict studies,

2. Undergraduate degree programs in peace and conflict studies,

3. Certificate programs or adult learning programs in conflict resolution life skills,

4. Graduate certificate programs in conflict resolution,

5. MS\MA in peace studies with some conflict resolution,

6. MS\MA in conflict resolution,

7. Specializations within professional schools,

8. Concentrations within existing Ph.D.\MS\MA programs,

9. Ph.D. in conflict resolution.

1. Undergraduate concentrations or classes in peace and conflict studies

The Global Directory of Peace Studies Programs (COPRED 1995/96) lists 71 undergraduate nonâ??degree programs in peace and conflict studies. These programs show great variety. Some of them are traditional peace studies programs (Wehr 1979). Some of them however, mix peace studies and conflict resolution. The nonâ??degree programs often reflect the interests of one or two faculty members in the college or university. Undergraduate concentrations, for example minors, generally require between 12 to 21 credit hours. These programs are not career oriented but instead prepare students with life skills and perspectives to participate effectively in a multi-cultural world.

2. Undergraduate degree programs in peace and conflict studies.

There are 141 undergraduate degree programs in peace and conflict studies. Many of these programs grew out of traditional peace studies programs. These programs are often located in private colleges or in colleges and universities with religious affiliations. Undergraduate majors generally require between 30 to 42 hours. Undergraduate majors usually involve coursework, internships or service learning and a capstone course. Some programs require students to write a major paper to complete the program. For example, in the Program on Nonâ??Violent Conflict and Change at Syracuse University, students take six core courses and choose five electives from related disciplines. Students can specialize in studying conflict at any level, interpersonal to international, and can study many methods of conflict intervention.

Graduates with an undergraduate degree in peace and conflict studies may advance to graduate schools of law, education, political science and increasingly, graduate studies in peace and conflict. Others find employment in international non-governmental organizations, nonprofit organizations, community work, education or the ministry. For more information on these programs consult the Global Directory of Peace Studies Programs (COPRED 1995\96).

3. Certificate programs or adult learning programs in conflict resolution life skills

Many universities offer conflict resolution programs to students, faculty, staff and the public. Certificate or adult learning programs are frequently workshops or short courses, commonly offered in the summer. These programs emphasize the skills needed to effectively manage your own conflicts. Some of these programs offer certificates to participants who complete a certain number of courses. However, the classes do not focus on fulfilling particular graduate degree requirements. The goal of these programs is to produce individuals who can identify values and interests, learn and work on prejudices, articulate their values and interests without disregarding others, clarify differences without antagonism, negotiate and problem-solve with others.

Often these programs are aimed at particular audiences. For example, the Program on Negotiation at Harvard University offers a successful set of courses to business people. Their offerings include courses on negotiation, organizational conflict, dealing with difficult situations, and increasing human relations effectiveness. The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University is renowned for offering a range of courses to managers and executives.

4. Graduate certificate programs in conflict resolution

Some university programs have organized their professional education programs into graduate certificate programs. These graduate certificate programs usually require one or two core courses followed by several specialization classes. These certificate programs are often organized around the specific needs of students who wish to use their conflict resolution knowledge and skills in their existing careers. Often these students find that a graduate certificate gives them more career flexibility or recognition. The University of Massachusetts in Boston has had a certificate program in conflict resolution for several years. Students who enter the program use their skills in the human relations field, in schools, in the criminal justice field and as managers. Columbia University, Teachers College has also offered a conflict resolution certificate program for years. They designed their program for teachers.

5. MS\MA in peace studies with some conflict resolution

There are several important distinctions between graduate certificate programs in conflict resolution and master's programs. To begin with, graduate certificate programs require fewer hours of study. Master's programs typically require between 30 to 45 credit hours, while certificate programs require between 12 to 24 credit hours. Certificate programs, like the graduate certificate at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, are often designed for working professionals who require specific conflict resolution skills in their work. Therefore, certificate programs often concentrate on skills.

Masters degrees, however, add study of peace and conflict theory and conflict assessment or research skills. Within Masters degrees there is often a division between programs primarily focused on theories of peace studies with some conflict resolution and programs that combine conflict resolution theory, practice and research. Many of the programs that concentrate on peace studies with some conflict resolution are housed in international relations departments. Other programs are located in sociology or public affairs departments. These students generally do not receive enough conflict resolution skills training or background in conflict resolution to enable them to become professional interveners. However, the integration of peace and conflict studies often prepares them for policy or programmatic work with a substantive or regional focus.

For example, the School of International Service at the American University offers a Masters degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. Students take several courses in conflict resolution and several more traditional peace studies courses. They then choose particular area of interest (international development, political economy, culture and cross cultural communication). Students also take one internship. These programs often integrate several multi-disciplinary perspectives and intellectual traditions into creative and flexible programs.

6. MS\MA in conflict resolution

There are eight programs that offer a Masters degree in conflict resolution. These programs are new and still evolving, however, all eight programs focus on training students t' be conflict resolution practitioners. These programs include courses in conflict resolution theory, courses that teach skills, conflict resolution assessment and research courses and opportunities for practice through internships and\or clinics. Students typically take between nine and 12 hours of skills classes, nine to 12 hours of theory and three to six hours of conflict assessment and research skills. Students also take several elective courses in which they develop area or substantive specialties. Faculty in these programs usually come from a range a disciplines and professions. (See Milner and Shook 1989 for a discussion of the difficulties in interdisciplinary program development.)

At the Nova Southeastern University meetings, faculty agreed that masters programs in conflict resolution should teach particular skills and certain core knowledges. Faculty agree on the importance of the following skills: communicationâ??â??listening and assertion, creative thinking, problem solving and decision making, conflict assessment, mediation skills an procedures, critical thinking, and ethical sensitivity. Faculty recognized that masters program should include the following knowledges: the continuum of methods for addressing conflict negotiation theory, problem solving methods, the range of mediation models, ethics, and cross cultural issues. Faculty at the Nova Southeastern University also agreed that programs needed to develop more creative and effective ways of teaching skills and more reliable ways of testing whether students had mastered conflict resolution skills.

7. Specializations within professional schools

Several professional schools have integrated or are integrating conflict resolution in' their coursework or requirements. In this type of program students elect conflict resolution a specialization. The courses are offered in the professional school and integrate knowledge and skill from conflict resolution with knowledges and skills from the profession. The concentrations or specializations are offered in schools of law, business, planning, and social work. For example, students in the legal studies programs in Pepperdine University and Montclair State University study conflict resolution within their legal studies programs. Students in business, management, and public policy can integrate courses from the Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at Georgia State University into their programs.

8. Concentrations within existing MA\MS\Ph.D. programs

Similar to concentrations within professional schools, many colleges and universities have integrated conflict resolution into disciplinary MS, MA or Ph.D. programs. These programs vary depending on the particular discipline and how conflict resolution got integrated into the curriculum. Some concentrations develop as a particular focus of a faculty member or of a particular department. For example, for years students have been studying peace and conflict resolution at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and in the Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado. The programs developed because of the interests of the faculties at these universities. Some programs are specifically designed as specializations. For example, faculty at the University of Minnesota developed a minor in conflict resolution for students enrolled in other Ph.D. programs. Student take 21 credit hours to complete the minor. Students at Duquesne University may enroll in the 36 credit hour MA in Social and Public Policy. Conflict resolution and Peace studies is an elective 12-hour specialization within this masters program. Similarly, The School of Education at George Mason University offers a conflict resolution concentration to teachers, school administrators and school psychologists seeking a Ph.D. in education. Graduates from this program go back to their schools, develop and manage conflict resolution programs, revise disciplinary procedures, and work with the community in new ways. Specialization programs are tailored to provide students in professional programs or disciplinary programs with the skills and theories that will enable them to effectively integrate conflict resolution into their programs and professions.

9. Ph.D. in conflict resolution

Currently there are only two programs that offer a Ph.D. in conflict resolution. A Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from George Mason University requires 89 credit hours and includes theory, practice and research. The Ph.D. program in Dispute Resolution at Nova Southeastern University requires 82 credit hours and similarly includes theory, practice and research. Although these two Ph.D. programs are relatively new, they both report growing interest in their programs with many competitive applications from the U.S. and around the world. Students from these programs are prepared to qualify as researchers, theoreticians, teachers in higher education and policy administrators and analysts in the public and private sector. Graduates from both programs work in think tanks, non-governmental organizations and universities and are also involved in conflict resolution processes.

Summary

This brief history emphasizes the interdisciplinary nature of conflict resolution and the variety of disciplines, professions and intellectual contributions to the growth of the study. The different approaches and goals of these programs produces a rich variety of programs. Although categories of programs overlap and it is difficult to place programs in one category versus another, it is helpful to compare programs across three basic divisions:

1. Degree programs or concentrations in the field,

2. Specialized conflict resolution courses within professional schools,

3. Integration of conflict resolution courses with other disciplines.

Hopefully, this brief history and discussion of types of programs will help faculty develop courses and programs and will help students distinguish between the goals of different program As the academic settings for conflict resolution expand and deepen the differences in program; goals becomes more apparent. These differences across university programs is illustrated by syllabi in this anthology. The anthology is organized into types of classes. Faculty classified their class for the different parts of anthology. If you have any questions about the courses, please contact the instructor.

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