Being passionate about solving the world’s problems is a common trait among MSC students, says Brigitte Sabourin.
The skills and knowledge she’s gaining in her four-year Conflict Resolution Studies (CRS) degree are equipping her and her classmates to make positive change even when the quantity and magnitude of world issues seem daunting and difficult to address, she says.
In the course Nonviolent Social Change, students learn about topics like social resistance and how to participate effectively in initiatives for nonviolent social action. The course encourages students to think about different ways they can make an impact in the world.
“A lot of the concepts I’ve learned in Nonviolent Social Change have helped me digest the problems that exist and really empowered me and my colleagues,” says Sabourin. “Rather than just watching the issue, it helps us come up with small changes that can make a big impact.”
Sabourin’s interest in conflict resolution stemmed from an AP Psychology course she took in grade 12. She was intrigued by the social psychology concepts she studied. While taking Introduction to CRS, she discovered CRS draws on elements of social psychology, social theories, and interactions.
“A lot of people think [CRS] is like human resources and it uses a lot of those elements, but it’s more about the discipline of macro and micro conflicts, restorative justice, and different elements of interpersonal communication,” says Sabourin.
Interpersonal mediation and addressing micro-level conflicts—those occurring at the relational or community level—are areas Sabourin is particularly interested in. She’s able to utilize her strengths in guiding conversations forward and finding resolution.
“Mediation is about conducting the conversation so that people can start asking the right question—moving the discussion forward rather than just talking about the problem and spinning wheels,” she says. “An effective mediator can let the person vent and let them air their grievances so that they can move on from the venting and the cycle of anger and start being more introspective.”
Sabourin practiced mediation in two workshops MSC offers: Mediation Skills and Coaching Skills. These hands-on workshops are designed to offer students the opportunity to learn and practice third-party mediation and participation in conflict resolution.
As part of her degree, Sabourin plans to complete the school practicum MSC offers in partnership with the Winnipeg One School Division. In this practicum placement, students work in inner-city schools in a variety of roles—from mediation to teaching conflict resolution skills and peer mediation in the classrooms to working with individual students.
The practicum will offer a connection to the double major with Urban and Inner City Studies (UICS) that Sabourin is planning. She sees the CRS and UICS majors as complementary.
“[CRS] is good life stuff—good lessons you can take with you no matter where you go, whether at your workplace or at home, you can definitely utilize these skills,” she says. “At the end of the day it boils down to communication, understanding people, and understanding where they’re coming from.”
Ellen Paulley is the Writer and Social Media Coordinator for Menno Simons College