SMU Dispute Resolution students and guests share insights from Rwanda experience

SMU Dispute Resolution faculty, students and guests, in collaboration with ALARM (African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries), recently traveled to Rwanda to deliver peacebuilding and peer mediation training. After returning to Texas, the group shares their individual experiences with the Rwandan people and insights on what we could all learn about peace.

SMU Group, in collaboration with ALARM, (Left to Right): Elizabeth Blake, Ben Voth, Chris Snyder, Betty Gilmore, Husain Abdullah, Sarah Davenport, Samreen Hooda, Ashley Aguilar, Lori Anne Shaw

Dr. Betty Gilmore, SMU Dispute Resolution Program Director
“I believe that we learned more from the Rwandan people than they learned from us. Despite unthinkable adversity, there are many areas in which the country is thriving. The entire nation has committed to sustainable peace.

What touched me most was the resilience of the human spirit and the ability of people who have caused such harm to each other to come together to rebuild a nation. I hope that we can all learn from the gift they have given us with their example. If a country learning to forgive under such extreme conditions can heal, why can’t we? We must put aside our differences, look for the things that unite us, and realize that we are better together.”

To read more about Dr. Gilmore’s experience, visit: http://www.smu.edu/News/2017/betty-gilmore-rwanda-18april2017 

Ashley Aguilar, MA Dispute Resolution, Class of 2017
“I have never witnessed selflessness like I did in Rwanda. This quality was exhibited by everyone I encountered. Every person was more concerned about the well being of those surrounding them, than that of themselves. I’ve seen people with this quality before, but never have a seen this in everyone surrounding me on such a large scale. The Rwandan people have shown me what it truly means to live selflessly. We could use selflessness to build peace here. If we could teach more people the benefits of perspective taking and vulnerability and shift the paradigm, then I think selfless acts and decisions could follow. Imagine living each day for something more than just yourself. I felt blessed to be a part of it.”

Elizabeth Blake, MA Dispute Resolution, Class of 2017
“The Forgiveness Villages in Rwanda in which victims and perpetrators of the 1994 genocide live and work together were by far the most bold and courageous systems of peace and reconciliation implemented in country. Our group was able to visit one of the Forgiveness Villages in Nyamata, Rwanda to hear testimony from victims and perpetrators. They use civil discourse processes as a means speak their truth, share their personal narratives, hear testimony of victims AND perpetrators, and work toward peaceful resolution, and ultimately forgiveness and repentance.

Americans generally do not participate in civil discourse as a means to understand other perspectives, and American media tends to promote political and social polarization. Hatred and division have become the norm in American culture. Civil discourse involves great courage, compassion, and desire to understand the other person. Rwandans have mandated conflict resolution curriculum in schools as a means to teach children from a young age how to listen for understanding, show compassion for the other, and resolve conflict in their families and communities. Imagine the compassion, tolerance, and cohesion the next generation of Americans would have if we started teaching them conflict resolution when they first start school. Imagine the possibilities!” Continue reading SMU Dispute Resolution students and guests share insights from Rwanda experience

SMU Dispute Resolution Students and Faculty Ask, “What Are You Bringing to the Thanksgiving Table?”

You have selected your dishes and decorated your home, but have you prepared yourself for the conflicts that come with large family gatherings. 

SMU Dispute Resolution graduate students, led by Prof. Angela Mitakidis, share their tips for keeping family conflicts to a minimum at the Thanksgiving table and throughout the holiday season.

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Take off Your Coat at the Door: Look past how your guests may present themselves – some may be wearing a “coat” of financial stress, work issues, relationship problems and so forth. Relieve them of their coat of burdens right up front by greeting them with an attitude of gratitude for their presence in your home, joy in your eyes to see them and a lift in your voice as you welcome them in. No one can resist a warm welcome and it will set the tone for the spirit of Thanksgiving right at the door.

Decorate Your Home with a Grateful Heart: A grateful spirit must start with you. You cannot control the behavior of others, nor can you compel another person to feel or demonstrate gratitude. You can only control your own behavior. So make a choice before your guests arrive to focus only on what you are grateful for and watch it spread throughout your home.

A Table Runner of Peace: As guests begin to sense the attitude of gratitude in your home, it will become a theme that will run through your conversations, jokes, comments and behaviors . If conflict arises, you will already have set the “table runner of peace” and that will give you the courage to verbalize a gentle request for a focus on all that we are grateful for.

Continue reading SMU Dispute Resolution Students and Faculty Ask, “What Are You Bringing to the Thanksgiving Table?”

SMU Dispute Resolution students win national mediation competition

News and Events

Originally Posted: April 4, 2016

mediationcompetitionwebSMU Dispute Resolution students won every award category during the 5th Annual Graduate Program Mediation Competition hosted by SMU’s Center for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management, April 1-2, in Plano.

Eight student teams from four schools participated in four rounds of mediations over two days, acting as mediators, clients and advocates. After the final round, student scores were combined to determine individual and team awards.

They are as follows:

First Place Team: Dana Garnett, Nate Owens, and Yanina Vashchenko
Second Place Team: Samreen Hooda, Kimberly Wise, and Anjana Vellingiri
First Place Mediator: Dana Garnett
Second Place Mediator: Anjana Vellingiri
First Place Client Advocate: David Russell
Second Place Client Advocate: Elizabeth Blake

This year, the competing schools included Champlain College, Kennesaw State University, Brandeis University and SMU.

SMU’s teams were coached by Dr. Betty Gilmore, Tom Hartsell and Angela Mitakidis.