By Kluane Buser-Rivet, 4th year CRS student
From September 18–21, 2019, I was one attendee amongst a congregation of mediators at the Association for Conflict Resolution's Annual Conference in Tucson, AZ. For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by hundreds of people who held the job title I have been pursuing for years: mediator. One of my favourite things about this field is how diversity blooms within it. I was surrounded by politicians, business owners, civil servants, and curious students like me from all walks of life.
A friend of mine described how she had started her undergrad in creative writing but did not quite "click" with her classmates. In her second year, she took a geography course, and found herself surrounded by classmates with similar hobbies, politics, and worldviews. She had found "her people", and she transferred to the geography department with haste.
I have discovered that mediators are "my people". Though I cannot generalize, a significant percentage of the mediators and conflict resolution practitioners I have met are passionate people who love complexity, have progressive politics and are strong communicators—all qualities I love in people! I felt so lucky to be in such good company in Tucson, rubbing shoulders with experienced practitioners, knowledgeable scholars, young professionals, and fellow students.
As a mediator in training, this experience was invaluable. Beyond the joy of spending time with people who also enjoy "geeking out" about conflict, I was able to gather skills for my mediation toolbox, learn from other mediator's professional trajectories, and chat about Masters programs. This conference helped me to see the forest from the trees in post-undergrad life, especially since I am in the last year of my undergraduate degree.
The trainings and sessions I attended generated a full notebook of jotted tips, to-dos, quotes, contacts and questions. They included intimate sessions with senior practitioners spilling their top success tips, a workshop on conflict resolution processes in Indigenous communities facilitated by a state judge and a Tlingit Elder, and a workshop on trauma-informed mediation.
Beyond building my skill set, I was able to plan for the future with a workshop on how to market a mediation practice and a discussion circle about grad schools and training programs. Ultimately, in the warmth of Arizona, I found a community of practice that will help me step into my role as a conflict resolution practitioner and mediator, and I am so grateful.