Starting this fall, UCF’s new conflict resolution and analysis certificate will provide students with the opportunity to dig deeper into the theories behind conflict and uncover what causes disputes. They’ll also learn the tools needed to resolve conflict at all levels: personal, professional, local, regional, national and global.
“Conflict is rampant in society,” says Alisa Smith, associate professor and chair of the legal studies department. “Students and professionals who earn a conflict resolution and analysis certificate will have a deeper understanding of the origins and root causes of conflicts, and they will learn strategies for resolving interpersonal and community conflicts.”
The 15-credit-hour program is based at UCF Downtown in the legal studies department, with one for undergraduates and another for graduate students. “As lawyers, we’re used to seeing conflicts move through the process and get resolved one way or the other,” says circuit civil mediator and visiting lecturer, Elizabeth Gillham. “That’s why I think the legal studies department is the perfect home for this certificate.”
Kristin Grossman, a legal studies adjunct professor and Florida Supreme Court certified family mediator, echoes this sentiment: “A lot of times lawyers lack the skills to self-regulate and move through conflict in adaptive ways.” This certificate will prepare future lawyers and students interested in legal careers the chance to learn how to navigate conflict personally and professionally, in an inherently adversarial system, says Grossman.
Conflict exists outside of the legal system as well, and students from any program can participate in the certificate.
Whether there’s a dispute between neighbors about where a fence should go or a family squabble, conflict is everywhere.
“It’s because people are people,” says Grossman.
Students from any program, pursing any career field, can benefit from the lessons learned in this certificate. Future social workers, human resource managers, insurance claim representatives, business majors and psychology students are all examples of people who could profit from the skills of recognizing conflict, analyzing it and then resolving it as peacefully as possible.
“Wherever you find yourself, whatever sector you find yourself in, you’re going to have an expanded capacity to be able to navigate conflict skillfully,” says Grossman.
The coursework differs for undergraduate and graduate students, but the core classes are fundamentally the same. Students will learn the theoretical basis behind conflict and engage in role-play scenarios to practice their newly acquired skills. Once the core classes are complete, students are required to choose two electives, many of which are housed in other departments at UCF, such as communications, management and public administration.
In addition to more advanced coursework, graduate students’ certificate experience includes a required practicum, where they will be working in Orange County community schools, flexing their conflict-resolution skills. Grossman explains the practicum as an opportunity for graduate students to assist high school students, their parents, administrators and teachers move through conflict.
Undergraduate students will have the option to choose between working in elementary-level community schools or joining UCF’s mediation team, which simulates a mediation conference between two parties involved in a dispute, says head coach Gillham.
Both certificates will be available online.
“Conflict is woven into the fabric of a society,” says Gillham. “Having these basic skills of recognizing conflict, getting to the heart of it, and then working towards resolving it are going to be important no matter what field you go into.”