A Note from Our Assistant Director, Christianna Gozzi
At the recent Worl
d Leaders Forum co-sponsored by AC4, 2011 Nobel Laureate Leymah Gbowee took the stage, the sharp greens and golds of her dress emanated a powerful light; illuminating the vaulted ceilings of Low Rotunda and pouring over Columbia students who sat wrapped in her poignant cadence.
“What can American women do to help other women around the world?”
A young female student asked.
“Keep fighting for women’s rights here.”
Ms. Gbowee responded.
This spotlighted a question that had been gnawing inside of me. Stepping along the intrepid path of female activists that cracked open male hegemony, women have a directive on how to fight for gender equality. But where do men fit into the struggle toward justice?
Men and women continue to work together in unprecedented ways in an ever changing society. If we are to both achieve and maintain a system of gender equality, then men and women must co-create a transformative vision of society. Men can join women as catalysts for social change in myriad ways. Here’s just a few to get the conversation started. 1) Refuse to engage in violence against women; 2) critically assess what it means to be a man in the United States; 3) enact business policies and legislation that are supportive of working families and marginalized groups; and 4) incorporate feminine ways of knowing (e.g. listening fully, working collaboratively, advocating for others) into patterns of communication.
The more men participate in the gender equality movement, the more they stand to gain as both men and as Americans.
The promise of social change keeps our belief in the mission of the field of conflict resolution enlivened. AC4 honors the tenacious pioneers of the women’s rights movement whose memory roars in our hearts this Women’s History Month. If we engage our work in peace and conflict with even an ounce of their bravery, then we’re on the right path.
Interview with Dr. Eric Marcus, Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychology and Education
Could you tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you into the field of conflict resolution?
As a graduate student in what was then the Applied Social Psychology Program at Teachers College, I had been interested in understanding ways to apply the ideas and concepts from social psychology into policy and practice outside of academia. Studying with Morton Deutsch introduced me to the study of conflict (though then it was not a “field”) and its resolution. At the same time, I was also working with Warner Burke and learning and understanding the field of organization development and its application of social psychological knowledge to organizations. My initial career moves were in large organizations where I had opportunities to work with individuals and groups to enhance organizational life. At first, I did not see the connections between the two areas: conflict resolution and organization development. Over time, I began to recognize that the underlying challenge of any individual, group or organization change effort is the productive resolution of the multitude of small and large conflicts that embody such work. In other words, applying an understanding of conflict and its productive use is central to the work in organization development.
Who are some of your biggest influences, intellectually and professionally?
For me, Mort Deutsch has been my intellectual father. Working with him over the years provided me with a model of a scholar who works on big issues with wide applications in a theoretically rigorous way. Though my practice and teaching is primarily in the area of skill development; understanding the connections between the practice of conflict resolution and the research and theorizing that give rise to the practice is essential for me. In the practice realm, I have been fortunate to work with very talented colleagues over the years. My work with Kenneth Sole, a consulting social psychologist based in New Hampshire has been instrumental to my work. He was an earlier graduate of the Teachers College Program, and has gone on to engage in the application of social psychological knowledge, particularly as it applies to groups, in unique and creative ways. Lastly, it has been very gratifying to see the growth of this field and particularly how Columbia is becoming a center of excellence for research, theory and practice in this area. I enjoy being part of that growth.
What projects or research are you working on now?
While I don’t conduct research, through my practice and teaching, I have formed many research ideas, but have underexplored opportunities to further their development. Nonetheless, I am involved in several projects around the university. I am on a team of people from ICCCR and the Fortune Society where we are working on a participatory action research project to understand and enhance the ways that Fortune supports residents of their transitional housing program. I am working with Morton Deutsch, Jim Westaby and several colleagues from AC4 and area organizations to create the Global Communities Forum, whose focus is on bringing the intellectual resources from around the university together to better understand and work on creating a cooperative, effective global community. We are still in our early developmental stages. I am also working with Peter Coleman and Mort Deutsch as we put together an expanded 3rd edition of the Handbook of Conflict Resolution.
I understand that you have a consulting practice, in addition to your teaching; how do you find working in academia and practice? Is it challenging to do both?
They both feed off of each other. My work with students and colleagues in academia, keeps me up to date on the areas of inquiry that are of interest here in the academy. My work with clients and workshop participants keeps me up on areas of concern in the workplace, and how ideas from academia may respond to those concerns. I find the balance very rewarding. My consulting work and engagement with outside organizations informs my teaching and my teaching, and work in the academy informs my consulting work. The challenge is to find a good balance, which is always changing.
Student Scholarships to IACM
Each year, the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4
) offers funding to students from historically underrepresented groups and students from developing countries to present their research at the IACM Annual Conference. Scholarship recipients are expected to attend an AC4
-Sponsored reception at the conference. Applicants must have had an abstract accepted to the annual IACM annual conference and submit a copy as part of their application process. More details about the scholarship program are available here.
The application deadline is April 15, 2013.
Questions may be directed to Alessandra Radicati at firstname.lastname@example.org
Some Thoughts from Barea Sinno, NECR Student
Before coming to Columbia, I worked for twelve years in the banking sector. It was an easy life, both stable and glamorous. Then, my son turned twenty and left my nest. I grew restless. I liked my work, but felt moved to do more for others. At forty, I decided to reinvent my life, and I came at that project with one component in mind. Throughout my existence, conflict – whether familial, community based, societal, regional, or even religious – governed my life. I frequently was at odds with my environment. I was (and am) intimate with conflict. I transformed this personal experience into a part of my larger life mission. I applied to many conflict resolution programs and I intuitively decided to accept NECR’s admission offer despite the fact that I was unable to compare it to its peers. The program seemed strategically positioned in Columbia University and benefited from the unlimited access to opportunities New York City offers.
Today after being immersed in the field for eighteen months, I feel well positioned to provide an insider’s perspective to prospective conflict resolution students can make informed decisions about their program choice. Here are two things that would have greatly contributed to my choice if I had known them ahead of time.
The field of conflict resolution is young. Many academic institutions offer knowledge, but few give students the access to resources. That is not the case at Columbia. Here, conflict resolution does not stop at NECR. It also exists in other programs including the Law School, SIPA, and ICCCR (multidisciplinary). In addition, AC4 is Columbia’s umbrella body and connects all these efforts. Through AC4, I learned about and applied to a number of exciting opportunities in the field. This has resulted in tremendous experiences. Today, I am an intern at Tanenbaum, a facilitator at Soliya. I am also a court mediator at Cluster in Westchester County, a community mediator at CMS in Queens, and a participant to the Global Community Initiative on campus.
Another consideration prospective conflict resolution students need to keep in mind is the approach to conflict resolution the institution takes. The NECR approach is largely based on social psychology. Unlike the legal or international affairs approaches, this approach to the field starts with understanding the human being in conflict and moves from there to groups and dynamical systems. I learned that change begins when one learns to appreciate human complexity. Today, I no longer accept linear explanations to conflict. I learned that conflict resolution is not about taking the side of the party with the most legitimate claim. It is also not about persuading parties to solve their problems. Rather it is about being comfortable in the middle. There, you are often alone, needing to listen with humility to how people express their tacit human needs and then seeking common ground. It is not an easy place, but it can be beautiful.
My thesis comes out of this work. My research explores the experience of people who manage to change their perception about their ingroup and outgroup in conflict. Once I gather the data, I want to explore ways to create the right environment for such a change to occur more frequently. I believe my research and my volunteer activities on campus and in the City complement each other and are moving me further down the path of reinvention I started at forty.