Exit Stage Left – from the U.S. to Japan

by Charles Chang, APADRC Executive Director

After ten months as APADRC’s Program Director, Claire Doran will be journeying to Japan to enter the Rotary Peace Fellowship and attend a graduate program.  Claire brought her worldly experience and conflict studies knowledge from Berkeley to transform APADRC’s programs and trainings.  Claire will be missed by all but she will always remain a part of the APADRC family.


So Claire, what led you to APADRC and wanting to work here?

I wanted to work in multicultural conflict resolution and community mediation and, lo and behold, there was an organization in Los Angeles that did community mediation! I had just moved to Los Angeles after traveling in Australia and wanted to re-engage with type of community mediation work I had been doing in the Bay Area. I certainly didn’t know everything I was getting myself into, but I had a feeling that it was where I needed to be for now. I think I was right!


What kind of challenges have you encountered as Program Director at the APADRC?

The hardest part was reviving the history and story-telling of the APADRC’s work. Many of these really inspiring stories, our legacy, have kind of disappeared or been filed away. Because of the difficulty of the work and managing cases, it’s hard to keep that spark of inspiration in the day-to-day grind. So a lot of my work this year has been to bring back that history and spark and integrate it into our day to day conversations, and trainings and talks with the interns.

Seeing the dedication, inspiration and burnout of past staff, I really came to appreciate the balance that you have to achieve in this work, inserting yourself into conflicts to help other people. I can see how dedicated the incoming staff is and I hope they keep afire the inspiration to sustain them for the long haul, so our communities can benefit from their knowledge and experience.


What are some of your proudest accomplishments from your time as Program Director?

Without a doubt, it’s updating the trainings, which are now more colorful, fun and interactive, with more aspects of multicultural conflict resolution strengthened in them. Particularly for the Peer Mediation trainings, I get to see kids going through a grueling two day training and come out saying how much they realized about themselves and each other; nothing makes me happier than seeing people get excited about learning to communicate better through mediation and conflict resolution techniques. That’s what got me hooked on mediation and what drives my work. When I know that I’m contributing something new to the field and bringing together different ideas to make conflict resolution more accessible and meaningful for people in a way that hasn’t been done before, that’s pretty amazing.

And little accomplishments like completely clearing out the office space and getting rid of stuff like old filing cabinets so that we have space people enjoy being in, putting art up on the walls, I feel like it’s made a huge difference in the office!


What are some of the fun things you got to do?

I got to host “Music and Story Night”! When I was in the co-ops in college, we used to host these events which brought us together in a really beautiful way, so I wanted to bring that to the APADRC. It’s amazing what you don’t know about people until they perform a song or share a story. I got to know and see things that were important to our staff and interns. It feels a lot more like a community after we have these evenings.

I also hosted some externs from UC-Berkeley’s peace and conflict studies program, and gave them an idea of what it looked like to work in the field. They were so excited about being here and it was contagious and helped me remember not to take this experience for granted. Of all the people who graduated from my program, I’m lucky enough to have found a way to continue to do what I love.

Not a day goes by that isn’t fun. Just being in the office makes me joyful and light-hearted. Subjecting people to my sense of humor is one of the benefits of being in the office.


What will you take away from your time here?

I think one of the most important things I will take away is the stronger connection I built with the API community. Even though I know that it’s in my heritage, it never shaped my identity very strongly. But when you work with these distinct populations and meet our interns that speak an enormous variety of languages, it becomes more real and takes on a different meaning. Through this, I began to realize the role that cultural assimilation has played in my life and it whet my curiosity to learn about the cultures and struggles of other minority populations, particularly in the U.S. After working here, it was the first time I considered incorporating ethnic studies into my career. This discovery has been extraordinary and humbling.


What three things do you think you will miss from APADRC after you leave for your Rotary Fellowship in Japan?

I know what I won’t miss – the alarm system. 1. The people; 2. Working here really taught me how strength in numbers works in actuality. Academia is a very isolated field since you’re working on your individual research. I’ll miss the solidarity and creativity that comes from collaboration. 3. Dominik’s 3 in 1 instant coffee.


Do you have any long-term plans after you finish your Rotary Fellowship?

I’m gauging whether or not a Ph.D. is in the cards for me. But most decisions will be made through reflecting on my experiences during my time in the Rotary Fellowship. I can see myself doing many things and I will have to see where I’m needed the most.
What do you plan on doing during your Rotary Fellowship?

I definitely want to try to make the softball team. I’m also hoping to write more, and am setting a goal for myself to write and compile a series of essays.

I want to get to know the other Peace Fellows and better understand my role as a peace/conflict resolution practitioner on a global level. I’ve primarily worked on the community and grassroots level, so this will be a new experience for me.


Any last thoughts?

This new set of staff is amazing and they have just incredible dedication to the work. I am slightly envious but definitely excited to see what they do this next year. And I am so grateful to see a great team moving APADRC forward. I’ll miss the work, the people, and the organization greatly.

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