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A Home for Dispute Resolution.


Finding a home for classes or setting up a dispute resolution program varies depending on the setting and the environment in which you are working.  The rules differ depending on the conflict management, mediation, ADR or dispute resolution orientation of your discipline and setting.  While there is an organization that is devoted to materials on the topic ( you may find this summary more applied and accessible in some areas.

This web page discusses approaches for several environments in which dispute currently seems to have a substantial home, some with proposals, suggestions and thoughts, some with links, some with just a note.  The thought is to give people ideas of where to start and where to consider going, not a complete blueprint.  In the proposals that are made, I acknowledge that because of discipline lines most suggestions will not be “complete” from a theoretical view and will be limited to the discipline.  In addition, some areas are extremely mature and I only note them with links to established resources (e.g. education and

I would appreciate comments and suggestions.  The areas discussed below are (in alphabetical order):



Law Schools are by far the easiest program to set up.  Out of the “top ten” law school programs, more than half have implemented the “Missouri Plan” and the complete plan, program details, class room materials and aids are all available to any law school that wants to use them.  The only modification I would make to that approach is to add a more substantive negotiation option and for that I would advise individual law schools interested in fully teaching mediation to consult with Fred Moss (of which, interestingly, there are two Fred Mosses in Dallas who teach or have taught in law schools and/or dispute resolution.  If you find the wrong one, I’ll be glad to point you to the right one).

The Missouri Plan approach involves integrating ADR concepts into existing classes in addition to direct instruction. The entire process and some excellent reflections have all been published in related journals (law reviews).   After reading them, I really don’t find myself disagreeing with what they are doing.  If this is your area of interest, start with their documents and read through the September 1998 issue of the Florida Law Review (Volume 50, Number 4, pages 583 to 760).

Continuing Education oriented programs I have discussed at

Dispute Resolution (as an undergraduate minor) is a growing area, and a natural one for many college campuses, often as a subdivision of a sociology or a law and justice program or as a part of the general studies program.  A proposed curriculum is at Before attempting to start such a program (rather than a sub-set) I would be certain of institutional support.

Sociology is an interesting field and a natural for conflict analysis and dispute resolution applications, especially in the wider context.  A dispute resolution program in that context is one that provides students with tools and foundational understanding and is intended to prepare students to have an impact in the area of public policy.  The Cornell Graduate Minor is headed by a sociology professor (see as is the Humboldt program (see The classes I recommend that you consider in deciding how to work into starting a program are:

INTRODUCTION TO CONFLICT ANALYSIS AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION: This class is an introduction to the field of conflict analysis and resolution. It examines definitions of conflict and dispute resolution. It surveys, briefly, thinking about human behavior and social systems as they relate to the origins of conflict and the role of conflict in social change it considers appropriate responses to conflict at interpersonal, intergroup, community, and national levels.  However, the class focuses on foundational elements, including mediation and conflict management so that students can understand these terms and processes when exposed to broader concepts and applications.

INTRODUCTION TO NEGOTIATION: This class introduces negotiation concepts.  While it covers the basics of understanding needs and attempting to build stable resolutions, it addresses the broader theory of negotiation and the techniques and approaches used by professional negotiators as well as normal human patterns of reaction as they apply to casual negotiators.

PUBLIC POLICY NEGOTIATION: This class introduces the methods by which public policy disputes are mismanaged and managed, including how third party neutrals are used and how managers can apply conflict resolution techniques and principles to developing conflicts.  While the focus is on the processes by which environmental, developmental and other public disputes are successfully resolved by the use of third parties, the class also addresses how conflicts are magnified by poor responses and how individuals involved in such disputes can channel or affect the process.

PATTERNS, PATHOLOGIES AND PARADIGMS:  This class surveys human behavior and social systems as they relate to the origins of conflict and the role of conflict in violent and peaceful social change in the context of human social patterns and paradigms.  Where the introductory class is foundational and focuses on mediation and direct (small group/employment settings) conflict resolution, this class takes the broader theoretical approach.

PEACE AND CONFLICT STUDIES:   Understanding war and peace, includes simulations.

SEMINAR ON FACILITATION INITIATIVES:  This seminar surveys facilitation initiatives and how one participates in or initiates one.

Business (conflict management) is a growing field.  Most of the early action was in labor related and in Industrial and Labor relations (e.g. see PERC at Cornell but the current significant focus is on the Academy of Management’s Conflict Management Division (at  For a professor’s web site see For an academic division that approaches conflict resolution from the perspective of law faculty in business schools, see

There is also an excellent position paper ALSB ADR Positon Paper on Need for ADR in Business (posted with permission).

INTRODUCTION TO CONFLICT RESOLUTION: This class is an introduction to the field of conflict analysis and resolution. It class focuses on foundational elements, including mediation and conflict management from a manager’s perspective so that a student has useful skills, understandings and applications.

INTRODUCTION TO NEGOTIATION: This class introduces negotiation concepts.  While it covers the basics of the broader theory of negotiation, it focuses on direct applications the techniques and approaches used by professional negotiators in labor and business.

SEMINAR ON [SPECIFIC FIELD]:  This seminar applies the foundational information and knowledge to the conflict resolution needs of a particular field to provide the perspective and tools that a consultant or manager needs to be able to understand and apply. Examples include health care, EEOC, Power and Influence in Organizations, Team Leading,

For perspective, Negotiation and Conflict Management, Public Affaris Dispute Resolution, and Managing Organizational Conflict are classes taught by CMD members.  Often conflict management is seen as a sub-division of Organizational Behavior and a willingness to teach the intro OB class is a large plus for anyone interested in teaching in such a program.

Legal Studies (law and justice) is often seen as the natural home of conflict resolution.  The leading discussed program of this type is at Brenau University (the web page being:  Often, interdisciplinary groups take their shelter in law and legal studies (e.g. the Marquette University Center for Dispute Resolution Education which was created in 1993 as an interdisciplinary academic center that combined the fields of law, business, psychology, sociology, political science, health sciences, education, and communication in order to develop a program, web page at  The University of Arizona is also a leader in hosting conflict resolution under the school of justice studies (on the web at or  For other perspectives see

CAMPUS MEDIATION CENTERS:  this is a participatory class that includes orientation, training and participation in a campus mediation center.

RESTORATIVE JUSTICE:  this class introduces and discusses restorative justice in the dispute resolution context.

INTRODUCTION TO DISPUTE RESOLUTION:  this class surveys ADR and the dispute resolution field.

Government/Political Science is exemplified by the Bryn Mawr program at The best known professor in this type of program is William Warters in the Wayne State College of Urban, Labor, and Metropolitan Affairs (see  An example of a mature program is PARC at Syracuse in The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs or the University of New Mexico School of Public Administration (at  For a professor’s page, see

Education:  See the UMass program (at for a good start. This is a huge area as teachers are trained to reduce conflict.  The entire area of Peer Mediation is encompassed in the education realm and the topic is beyond the scope of this simple paper but is well addressed at CRENET was focused on this area ( 

Religion (peacemaking).  Visit the Mennonite centers for that (or some of the other groups).  This is beyond the scope of this article, but you should be aware that there is an entire field centered in religious peacemaking which is why I mention it here. is an excellent website in this regards.

Other areas include Psychology (a professor’s web page is at and Economics (visit



There are two different ways that dispute resolution may be addressed in a program.  The first (as in a law school) is dispute resolution as a useful sub-set of the program rather than a definite focus.  Just as business schools include business law without being law schools, many programs benefit from including some elements of dispute resolution in the education that they provide their students.

The second way to address a dispute resolution program is as a core program (either as a minor as at Cornell or as a major, as at Brenau).  These can be under the roof of an existing discipline, as a reinterpretation of the discipline (e.g. ICAR and sociology) or as a cross-disciplinary approach.

The advantage to the first approach is that the classes and instruction provide immediate, direct benefit to the students.  Negotiation and conflict management skills can make life calmer, more friendly and peaceful – immediately, and the same skills are often very useful in employment, in academia and in the real world.  Your major is intended to get you hired, dispute resolution skills will often get you promoted.

The second approach has its benefits, but its limits as well.  I admire the programs that are striving to succeed in this area, especially those that provide academic minors to undergraduates and graduates.

In either case, the


After word.

In designing classes or in building a program, keep in mind the students who benefit from your classes or who might be attracted to them, on every level.

  1. Consultants. Many of them have existing clients who want DR services and as a result, those consultants are looking for training so that they can do a better job for their clients. Most consultants are also looking for people to partner with on DR projects -- something the students, faculty and staff at a DR program are very suited to do.
  2. Management (at all levels, including paralegals and other staff members) at local corporate offices -- anyone with CE (continuing education) funds. In the program where I teach, we have had a number of students from EDS, JCP, Oxy and other sources who have been very, very pleased to participate in the program. These students are not as price sensitive as students who are paying their own way and they are not looking for a new career, but rather they are seeking to improve their existing careers. This group also includes insurance adjusters and similar professionals, and the occasional seminar that would appeal to attorneys, judges, EEOC, etc., all as people who benefit from DR or CM training to help them do their jobs better.
  3. Undergraduate students who could use a DR minor to support plans to go to work in federal bureaucracies, labor unions, HR departments.
  4. Undergraduate students who could use a DR minor to prepare for professional school e.g. pre-law or pre-MBA (this sort of minor, like most other majors or minors, is barely useful as a way to prepare for graduate professional school, but dispute resolution is a growing trend nationwide as a pre-professional area of focus and the skills are useful when one actually enters the profession), and those who other directions not on the list.
  5. Graduate students looking for a master's program before entering a Ph.D. in Business with a change management or conflict resolution focus, a Public Administration program with a conflict management focus or similar sub-sets of the various academic disciplines. These students are ones who are often interested in legitimate academic work. All of these groups are naturals for a DR (Dispute Resolution) or CM (Conflict Management) program. None of them leave a DR program expecting employment as a DR professional, none of them leave a program dissatisfied, all of them leave better prepared for what they do and are doing. They are a huge base in most metropolitan areas, and most of them are also people who will come back to consume consulting services offered by faculty at the program. In many ways, a normal graduate DR program is a huge advertising campaign for the services of the director and faculty and for the life improving value of education.
  6. Individuals intent on a graduate dispute resolution education, such as those trained at ICAR, PERC or PARC and the Mennonite schools. These individuals and their needs are beyond the scope of most programs, though preparing them for such a program is not. Receiving preliminary training to prepare for application to Cornell or Syracuse or George Mason, etc., is an appropriate pathway for students with such a goal. [home]

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