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Dispute Resolution & Mediation Graduate Degrees

The Question

I also have found that most programs (at least in the Northeast, where I want to study only offer certificates of completion. What would be the benefit of getting a Master's Degree (which is offered at U. Mass.-Boston) over getting a certificate? If you could lend any expertise about these matters, or point me in the right direction, I would be most grateful.

Sincerely, -------------

My Consultant's Answer

Hmmm this is a good question. and one for the decade, eh?

Someone told me once that my degree did give me an "edge." I didn't know exactly what she meant, but I can compare how I thought when I graduated with how I think today. The epistempology of resolving conflict is definitely different from before I entered a masters degree program. But, it is also different, now, from when I graduated.

My philosophy of graduate programs is that they help one think and learn how to research a particular subject. ICAR put me into the discipline of thinking about conflict and its resolution in a global way. But, I also believe that the "way" in which I was thinking did not change. It was only enhanced. If anything, graduate school, or the process of going through it, afforded me the confidence of research, thinking and discussing the particulars.

A graduate degree demonstrates a commitment to the subject matter. That does not denote that is the only way, nor the most important, but it is a way.

I identify with the question the person sent to you. If the person is truly committed to the subject matter, and wants to devour it, I doubt a certificate program will meet the need. But ironically, I doubt a graduate degree will be worth the effort either, as that is only another version of academic process, and not necessarily an act of authentic pursuit.

My Thoughts (written before the consult)

Employment in dispute resolution is a limited field.  Other than academic appointments and as a function of other jobs, the area is a limited field, unless you are very entrepenural. To get a better idea of what I mean, you should join the George Mason listserve and follow the postings for the various employment opportunities (they post them in the list serve discussions). Just click on the George Mason/ICAR link at to get to the George Mason site and you can join the listserve there. They will also be happy to submerge you with advice and comments.

Employment aside, there are very few programs that are "dispute resolution" as the actual program, and many, many programs that offer a degree in one thing with a "focus" in dispute resolution on the side. Thus in most programs you would generally get a Masters degree in one area (e.g. psychology, sociology, business) and a certificate in dispute resolution.  Other than the George Mason, Eastern Mennonite, Nova Southeastern, or the Cornell programs there really are not any programs that provide an academically accredited degree in dispute resolution.

Further, most programs offer "less than" a degree --- a certificate (not accreditation) showing that you took their class -- from less than forty hour class room experiences to their summer workshop programs.

Hope that helps explain it better.

I think you would really enjoy the responses you would get from joining the George Mason listserve -- just listening in, so to speak, on the various postings, would give you a far better answer to your questions than anything I could fit into an e-mail or an essay.

Wish you luck.


Well, send me some more comments on this topic!

I'm looking for other perspectives and ideas.

Post Scripts.

One, I questioned the head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service on July 9-10, 1998 about his agency's approach.  The FMCS is currently expanding into international consultations regarding peacemaking.  They do a great deal of "co-partnering" with various individuals and programs, so I asked him what he thought of ICAR, EM, etc. and if he found they and their graduates valuable to work with.  The response reflected good will towards the programs, but ...

Also interesting was the fact that FMCS has a mandate to expand its skill base, etc. (from labor conflicts to other issues) and is written into most new statutes, but ... it has a reduced number of employees.  So, doctrinally, they are committed, in reality they have gone from over 500 employees to about 300 -- so they haven't done much in the way of affirmative action, diversity, etc.  Their goal is to partner as much as possible (find others to shift the load to) in order to meet their mandates until and unless the Congress increases their funding levels.

Two, from a Nova Southeastern Student.

Three, I've been very impressed with the Syracuse program (b Syracuse University -- PARC ++ -- from the links index).  I'm curious to see how well it endures, but it has been impressive so far.

For the cost, etc. details, as I've been able to obtain them, visit Mediation On-Line. A Mediation Newsletter. 20a -- Supplement.  If you have information about a program, please send it to me and I'll add your program to the list.

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