Conflict Resolution Students

Our current graduate students join us from all over the nation and from across the globe. Their projects and research are unique and we wish to showcase their projects and research in this space.

Students completed July 2012-June 2013

Erica Bestpitch with Abdulrahim Audi [Amanda Byron, Chair] 

Conflict Resolution in a Social Work Setting: A Training for Harry's Mother Staff

This project evolved into a case study of a conflict resolution training designed to suit the particular needs of a Portland-based youth services agency. Our community partnership began when one of the authors and the Program Director began discussing the potential benefit of conflict resolution training to the staff at the agency. A needs assessment involving informal conversations with staff, Supervisors, and the Program Director guided the authors in workshop design and implementation. We administered the training using accepted standards of practice in adult learning methods as well as mediation training. Our content focuses were interpersonal communication, intercultural understanding, and basic mediation process skills. We used breakout groups, role-plays, large group discussions, and physical activities as much as possible throughout the training to suit a variety of learning styles. Our evaluation sources included participants’ interpersonal behavior during the training, verbal comments after training sessions, and written evaluation instruments. From the feedback, we concluded that it is not possible to please all people when administering a training. Additionally, we gleaned that a training of this nature and length could have been better received had it been voluntary for staff to attend, and we understood just how much the physical environment can impact the participants’ ability and desire to learn. Perhaps most importantly, we learned how vital it is to stay true to the findings of a needs assessment in administering services to a group. Our hope is that this paper will serve as a resource to others who seek to implement trainings within small groups and organizations.

Moira Keller [Amanda Byron, Chair] 

Beyond the Bridge Resources

Without specifically skilled project coordinators the complexities of project development and grant application processes can be overwhelming for newer organizations.  For peace building organizations to access the funding necessary to continue social conflict transformation efforts they may require guidance in delineating project direction and purpose.  The author of this paper worked with a local non-profit organization on a Collaborative Evaluation to increase organizational capacity.  The components of this project include:  1) a Needs Assessment, 2) a program design matrix and 3) a common grant application.  The Needs Assessment was used to cultivate deeper understanding of Bridge Town Inc.’s vision for an expansion project called Beyond the Bridge Resources.  The information gleaned in the assessment allowed the author to construct a summative, visual representation of the programs goals, objectives, methods, and evaluative measures.  The common grant application was developed using themes of conflict resolution literature and information provided by the organization.  This application can be adapted for future proposal submissions.  Furthermore, the grant narrative provides a clear articulation of the organizational structure, project resources, stated need, and its financial and systematic sustainability strategy.

Ashley Schmuecker [Amanda Byron, Chair] 

Peace Education through Chiron Studies: Imagining and Performing Nonviolence through the Superhero Genre

My professional project was to design and instruct an IST 199 University course through the Chiron Studies Program. Superhero Justice: Comic Books and Conflict Resolution was taught as a 2-credit weekend seminar in the Spring 2013 term. I used teaching methodologies grounded in peace education to examine how superheroes use violence and nonviolence through the medium of comic books. In my class, our learning community used mixed-media art and improvisation to imagine and perform nonviolent responses to conflict in the superhero genre. This paper highlights the methodology used to design the course as well as develop literature that addresses the relationship between the medium of comic books and conflict resolution. Through their art and storytelling, students created a powerful alternative narrative that can be used to reconstruct social values of violence and heroism in our society. 

Alaa Abudawood [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair] 

Daniel Amine [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

A Guidebook on domestic violence for newly arrived immigrant and refugee population of African origin in their adopted home, Portland, Oregon.

The Guidebook will provide newly-arrived African immigrant and refugee community members a basic understanding of what domestic violence is and how to seek help here in Portland, Oregon.  In most of tribal and rural Africa males do have the ultimate power in the family and females obey the rules set by men. There is no word for domestic violence in most African countries and domestic violence is considered an affair of the family rather than of state or government agencies. My work with African immigrant and refugee community members, especially of Ethiopian and Eritrean origin extends over the past 10 years when I was working as an interpreter for state and county court houses, hospitals, schools and various agencies that required interpretation services. Also, I worked at Immigrant and refugee community organization (IRCO) Africa House from November 2005 to March 2011 as a mediator and community service coordinator, which allowed me to better understand the dynamics between service providers and newly-arrived immigrant and refugee community members of African origin.  I strongly believe in making sure newly arrived immigrants and refugees are familiar with basic American law. Also, an understanding of the cultural background of each person helps service providers to make unbiased and fair decisions for the family.

Melanie Blesio [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

Narrative and Film: Catalysts of Social Change for Immigrants and Refugees

Refugees and immigrants have continued to experience prejudice and racism because of ethnicity, race, creed and culture differences throughout our country’s history.  For many immigrants and refugees the thought of a life without war, political or religious persecution, in the land of the free, is an enticing dream.  However, upon arrival in this foreign land newcomers are not met with welcoming arms.  Instead there is frequently difficulty, fear and undesirable circumstances.  The ignorance of many US citizens contributes to exacerbating discrimination against immigrants and refugees.  Through the use of oral history narrative, immigrants and refugees are able to give society insight into the challenges they face moving to the United States.  Narratives provide an outlet for people to share their stories and humanize their predicament.  The goal of this narrative film project is to contribute to changing perceptions and to challenge myths and stereotypes.  By hearing the stories of the strength and endurance of these people, and learning of their struggles, empathy may be cultivated in the hearts of the general public.  Over time, this empathy may encourage action towards equality and respect of all. 

Roland Tuwea Clarke [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

Postwar Reconstruction in Liberia:  The Participation and Recognition of Women in Grassroots Politics in Liberia

Despite the remarkable contributions made by women to secure peace in Liberia, women’s representation in politics is still low. The first female President has been elected, as well as a few women to strategic government positions, but the vast majority of women remain invisible. The reliance on these few women in government is inadequate to produce the significant changes that will be required to bring equality for all women.  This study examines the recognition of women’s relative participation and recognition in postwar reconstruction in Liberia. However, relevant study and knowledge of how women in Liberia can obtain equality in grassroots politics in Liberia are missing in literature. The study employed qualitative method which includes interviews and document review to explore how women- traditional and nontraditional may or may not participate in Liberian politics.  At the end of this study, interventions are offered to create avenues for social change which will enhance equality for all women in Liberia.

Daniel Fahrbach [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

Making Friends, Building Peace:  A multi-generational evaluation of The Cyprus Friendship Program.

The Cyprus Friendship Program (CFP) brings together teens from the Turkish-speaking and Greek-speaking communities in an island divided by conflict for 40 years. CFP pairs teens for a month-long residency in the U.S., and then supports their newfound friendships when they return to their divided island. Using a Collaborative Evaluation approach, we developed a mixed method study that investigated why teens and their parents choose to apply to CFP, and secondly, how the positive outcomes teens experience "ripple" to their families, friends and communities. One finding suggests that some Cypriots families are counterculturally encouraging their children to participate in understanding, friendship and bicommunalism as an alternative response to "never forgetting" past traumas.

Elizabeth Hooker [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

Here, We Are Walking on a Clothesline: Statelessness and Human (In)Security Among Burmese Women Political Exiles Living in Thailand

An estimated 12 million people worldwide are stateless, or living without the legal bond of citizenship or nationality with any state, and consequently face barriers to employment, property ownership, education, health care, customary legal rights, and national and international protection. More than one-quarter of the world’s stateless people live in Thailand. This feminist ethnography explores the impact of statelessness on the everyday lives of Burmese women political exiles living in Thailand through the paradigm of human security and its six indicators: food, economic, personal, political, health, and community security. The research reveals that exclusion from national and international legal protections creates pervasive and profound political and personal insecurity due to violence and harassment from state and non-state actors. Strong networks, however, between exiled activists and their organizations provide community security, through which stateless women may access various levels of food, economic, and health security. Using the human security paradigm as a metric, this research identifies acute barriers to Burmese stateless women exiles’ experiences and expectations of well-being, therefore illustrating the potential of human security as a measurement by which conflict resolution scholars and practitioners may describe and evaluate their work in the context of positive peace.

Saloumeh Khoshbin [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

Restorative Justice: Beginning with Youth

Students in the United States are faced with a multitude of issues affecting the safety and structure of their school communities. Disproportionate rates of school exclusionary practices throughout the country have contributed to a phenomenon called the School-To-Prison-Pipeline.  Rates of referrals into the the juvenile justice system for students of color mirror the rates of exclusionary practices of schools.  With little resources to support students, schools rely heavily on exclusionary practices only exacerbating the School-To-Prison-Pipeline problem.  In addition, the lack of support students experience in school increases violence within schools.  Overwhelmed schools do not have the capacity to support students as individuals.  As a result, schools are failing students academically and culturally.  This professional project examines the use of conflict resolution and restorative justice in an elementary school to address the issue of bullying in school.  The goal of this class was to increase students ability to empathize with others, as well as find meaningful ways of working through conflict.  The hope was for students to become advocates for non-violence within their school communities.  The overarching goal is to create a cultural shift in schools, so that schools may begin to use restorative justice practices to address violence within schools, as well as impact their response to disruptive students.

Megan Kochiss [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

A Collaborative Program Assessment of Online Training Initiatives at the National Policy Consensus Center

The world of online learning is expanding and developing both in the way it is constructed and in who is accessing it. This is even more so for corporate or organizational training; something that the National Policy Consensus Center (NPCC) here at PSU is excited to make use of for their Collaborative Governance training. However, the newness and scope of online learning demands that programs have clear expectations and a unified vision so as to be able to identify those online learning elements that will meet the needs of their clients. Through the use of a needs assessment, this project set out to develop clarity of vision and build understanding of market interests. Internal interviews and preliminary market surveys revealed a great interest and enthusiasm for developing an online training, as well as several reservations about the nature of interactive training in an online setting. Final findings support the recommendation to invest in further developing vision and intention for the training and to consider the long-term goals as well as the level of investment needed or available to make the program successful.

Francisca Medina [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

Discovering the knowledge, skills and abilities students learned in the Conflict Resolution program at Portland State University

Increasing employability of conflict resolution graduates requires matching knowledge, skills, and abilities in the workforce with the curriculum the students are exposed to during their course of study. Because Conflict Resolution is a new academic field, there is a lack of consensus among practitioners and academic programs alike regarding what knowledge, skills, and abilities are pertinent for practice. In order to provide a study that investigates this relationship, it is important to learn what knowledge, skills, and abilities Conflict Resolution students felt they learned during their course of study and what knowledge, skills, and abilities they wish to possess to be a more marketable job applicant. This study, specifically, focuses on what knowledge, skills, and abilities students finishing the Conflict Resolution Masters program at Portland State University felt they developed and what knowledge, skills, and abilities they felt they lacked. It is the researcher's intention for this study to provide a starting point for a descriptive study, which investigates the relationship between knowledge, skills, and abilities needed in the workforce and what is being learned in Conflict Resolution programs, particularly in the Portland Metropolitan area.

Gina Ronning [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

Peacemaking Criminology: Justice Through Nonviolence

10-week, four credit undergraduate Inside Out course, taught inside the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility.  The project was made possible through a coalition partnership between myself, Amy Spring, Inside Out instructor and the Assistant Director Community-University Partnerships at Portland State University, Kirk Bennett, Director of Work Force Development, Portland Community College, Coffee Creek Correctional Facility, and the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department at Portland State University. The course introduced the theory, philosophy, and practice of Peacemaking Criminology, as a means for widening educational discourse on peace based perspectives as opposed to the traditional ‘war on crime’ approach. Much of mainstream criminal justice education currently lacks critical perspectives examining the complex dynamics of power, privilege, poverty, race, class, identity, gender, and conflict. The course curriculum was the first of its kind to be offered through Portland State University and the Oregon chapter of the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program. 

Angela Sasek [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

Structural Violence: Reasons to Promote Job Seeker Services

This paper introduces an opportunity to facilitate the reduction of structural violence and unequal access to resources by increasing the Job Seeker Services referrals available in 211info's database. Presented are structural violence theory, human needs theory, the inherency-contingency debate, misperceptions, and moral judgments that lead individuals to make decision on whom is with-in or outside of their moral community and therefore entitled to resources. 211info's purpose and structure is outlined and suggestions on increasing access to Job Seeker Services are presented.

Adam Tyus [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

Creating a Stable Environment in a Youth Residential Facility through Effective Communication and Accountability

My goal throughout this project was focused on lowering aggressive tendencies and acts of aggression in a residential facility housing nine teenage boys. After careful observations it became clear that I would focus primarily on the staff working in the facility. This paper focuses on the implementation of communication trainings and tools, developing stronger staff morale, and restructuring the system in place to better assist in effective communication. My hope was that through these changes, the aggression rates and tendencies of the youth would consequently lower.  

Jennifer Vasquez [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

A Curriculum to Improve Racial Equity:  Creating a Professional Development Training Series for Teachers

As classrooms within the United States become more diverse, issues concerning inequity and racism are becoming an increasingly urgent problem.  Conflict resolution skills and knowledge around race can be most effective in changing students’ lives if teachers are able to master and harness that knowledge within the classroom environment. This project focuses on the creation and evaluation of a professional development training series to improve teachers’ skills in working with a progressively more diverse student body, by grounding themselves in the foundational knowledge of conflict resolution, identity, and racism.  A group of 10 high school teachers have volunteered to participate in the pilot course of this curriculum in early August! 

Danielle Woodling [Rachel Cunliffe, Chair]

Program Evaluation for the Hillsboro Mediation Program: Intake Activity & Outreach Initiatives

My project consists of an evaluation of the Hillsboro Mediation Program, focusing on intake activity trends and outreach strategies. This was achieved through the amalgamation of two parts: 1) data collection and 2) systems design. Data collection was conducted through two methodologies, quantitative and qualitative. The former was accrued through review of mediation data spanning the last few years while the latter was collected using input from program stakeholders and colleagues. In review of this data, the second portion of the evaluation took shape in the form of a grant matrix. This matrix was devised for the Program as a guide to aid in future development planning and processes. My evaluation is meant to serve as a foundation for the Hillsboro Mediation Program to expand upon and use as an initial framework for conducting future evaluations on its activity and outreach strategies. 

Parfait Bassale [Robert Gould, Chair]

Music and Conflict Resolution: Can a music and story centered workshop enhance empathy?

The Story and Song Centered Pedagogy (SSCP) is a workshop that uses songs, stories and reflective questioning to increase empathy. This preliminary study tested the prediction that being exposed to the SSCP would increase empathy using, the Emotional Concern (EC) and Perspective Taking (PT) subscales of the renowned Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) (Davis, 1990). Subjects self-reported their answers to the IRI before and after undergoing the SSCP intervention. Comparing their pre and post intervention results, no statistically significant changes were noticed for the EC and PT scales (p-value = 0.7093 for EC; p-value = 0.6328  for PT). However, there was a statistically significant decrease of the Personal Distress (PD) subscale after the SSCP intervention (p-value = 0.0330). These results indicated that the SSCP increased empathy by decreasing an audience’s score on the Personal Distress scale (emotional response focused on self) through cognitive activity / perspective taking. The study also confirmed our prediction that an increase in Perspective Taking is correlated to an increase in Emotional Concern.

Jason Coyle [Robert Gould, Chair]

Advancement of Human Rights in the Palestinian Authority National Security Forces

This paper describes the expansionary enhancement of current training in human rights related knowledge, with associated field application, for the PA NSF. The research discussed draws on existing training methodology used at JIPTC, open-source news reports, unit performance statistics, and student testing and evaluation records. The aspects explored are the current training methodologies employed at JIPTC in the training of the NSF, improvements identified to enhance this training, enhancement implementation, and comparative testing and evaluation of the adapted processes. Areas discussed include the re-write process of all existing JIPTC training plans to enhance the importance of human rights issues and to integrate pro-human rights performance objectives within all aspects of NSF training. This paper and its associated research will provide valuable information regarding training methodologies and lesson plan design for current and future security force training missions.

Danielle Filecia [Robert Gould, Chair]

Why Occupy?: Principle Reasons for Participant Involvement in Occupy Portland

In 2008 a worldwide financial crisis sent the U.S. economy into a tailspin causing stocks to lose value, banks to fail, and numerous foreclosures. The government bailed out banks whose failure would mean further economic disaster, after which executive bonuses at such banks were at a record high, as were accusations of predatory lending. In response Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Portland were established. This grounded theory inquiry uncovers the principle reasons that individuals participated in Occupy Portland. Research into the transcripted and coded narratives from seven in-depth interviews reveals that participants were (1) upset about the bank bailouts and corporate irresponsibility; (2) swept up by the size and organization of Occupy; and (3) looking to get needs met. The findings do not fit in any existing theory paving the way for further scholarship.

Thais LaRosa [Robert Gould, Chair]

Cultural Behavior in Post-Urbanized Brazil: The Cordial Man and Intrafamilial Conflict

Cultures, subcultures, and individuals occupy different positions in the low-context/individualistic and the high-context/collectivistic spectrum, and they shift due to factors such as urbanization, economic development and cultural globalization.  In this study, I examine Sérgio Buarque de Holanda’s theory of the cordial man and how it illustrates qualities of the high-context Brazilian culture.  Within the framework of grounded theory, these qualities are evaluated from the perspective of intergenerational dyads—fathers and sons—that have been exposed to an urbanized and globalized environment in order to determine whether and how a shift from high-context to low-context is occurring.  The participants were interviewed to explore perception of self, upbringing, decision-making process within the family, father and son relationships, intrafamilial communication, ways to influence and be influenced, history of conflict, and urbanization and globalization.  Their responses revealed the extent to which their values were individualistic or group-oriented and if the cordial man behavior was also present in the intimacy of their homes.  In sum, I reach three conclusions: technological and cultural globalization propagates low-context values and behaviors; sons are in a transitional state, in which individual goals are relevant enough to challenge parental expectations, but still cause guilt when pursued; and, the cordial man still exists in the urban and globalized world.  Implications for families, family therapists, counselors and mediators are discussed.

Abby Mulvihill [Robert Gould, Chair]

Evaluating Conflict Management Skills With Students at Springdale Job Corps Center

It is crucial for marginalized youth to possess effective conflict resolution skills. The conflict resolution workshop implemented at Springdale Job Corps Center primarily aimed to increase and hone the conflict management skills of the students. The curriculum designed for this workshop also intended to foster critical thinking amongst the students about their conflicts, as well as creative and effective ways to resolve them. The engaged style of pedagogy the facilitator utilized in the workshop was intended to empower students and foster a sense of intrapersonal control when they are in conflict. This study, specifically, investigates whether the students found the skills learned in the workshop to be applicable to their lives.

Fonda Gonzalez [Tom H. Hastings, Chair]

Early Childhood Development Program Outcomes in Rural India

The purpose of this professional project was to find the gain in knowledge of caregivers, through a quantitative survey, who participated in an early childhood development training program. A knowledge survey was utilized to evaluate course outcomes and knowledge gain from instruction. The questions in the knowledge survey consist of material that had been covered over the content of the course. This project is aimed to draw conclusions and recommendations based on the findings of the knowledge survey results. This project uses 221 Early Childhood Development trainings that were led in Tamil Nadu and Odisha, India.  These trainings were conducted in shared community spaces, mostly in rural villages, with host country trainers employed by a US-based nonprofit organization, Hands to Hearts International (HHI). The early childhood development training curriculum was taught in two, eight- hour sessions. HHI held 32 trainings for primary caregivers in Tamil Nadu, and 116 trainings for primary caregivers in Odisha. In addition, HHI also held 73 trainings for secondary caregivers in Odisha. The results of this evaluation led to specific recommendations that would support the organization in their efforts to train staff and teach rural, low-income families how to increase the overall development of their children. These recommendations focused on the method that the pre- and post-test evaluations are conducted and how to ensure the accuracy of answers given by caregivers. Concluding remarks indicate that further documentation, research, and interviews on the part of the organization is needed to further gain insight into the program.

Michael Lee [Tom H. Hastings, Chair]

Hawaii Baptist Academy Mock Trial Team: Introduction to Conflict Resolution

Increased levels of violence in schools have been correlated with increased levels of violence in mainstream U.S. society.  The U.S Department of Justice and Education identified Conflict Resolution education programming as an effective measure to decrease violence in schools.  This article reviews a Conflict Resolution Education Workshop introduced to a mock trial team at a private high school on the island of Oahu.  Basic Conflict Resolution theory and skills were introduced to students over a two week period.  Evaluations and assessments were made towards the projects efficacy. 

Virginia M. Mason [Tom H. Hastings, Chair]

Competencies & Employment Outcomes of Conflict Resolution Graduate Students

The purpose of this selected case study is to develop knowledge regarding how graduates view the employment applicability of the competencies taught in the Portland State University Conflict Resolution Program. The results of this study will be used by the Conflict Resolution (CR) Department to begin to create a better understanding of how currently taught professional competencies match the skills needed by employers. Additionally, this study has identified some of the local or regional employment sectors that employ past graduates, thus giving the CR Department insight into possible internship and employment opportunities for future graduates. Two goals serve this purpose: First, it begins an exploration of the level of difficulty for graduates seeking employment post-graduation in the conflict resolution field. Second, it examines the graduates' perception of the professional competencies taught within the CR Program juxtaposed against the needs of their employers to gather fundamental insight into how past graduates are putting their degree to use in their career. Participants were drawn from former students who responded to interview requests sent out via the Conflict Resolution list serve, Facebook, and word-of-mouth. The collected data suggests potentially advisable modifications to the core curriculum for the CR Master's Degree that will enhance the marketability of the conflict resolution skill-set to potential employers. Moreover, the results may inform the professional academic discussion on moving closer to the implementation of core competencies across the field of peace and conflict studies.