UC Berkeley Winter Externship Reflection: A New Perspective On Diversity

by Melissa Hu, 2013 UC Berkeley Winter Extern.

As an extern for the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center, I learned to see conflict in an entirely new perspective. Prior to my involvement with the organization, I had imagined conflict as something to avoid at all costs. After attending conflict resolution training, doing independent research on diversity, and attending on-site meetings with community organizations, I have discovered the ways that conflict provides opportunities for self-reflection. The APADRC has given me valuable skills to understand the dynamic of conflict. The interesting thing about conflict is that it applies to human relationships and diplomacy in the same ways. As a Political Economy major interested in global affairs, I believe that my experiences at the APADRC will help me understand why countries and its peoples behave unpredictably.

Since the start of the externship, I have been on a learning curve. I worked on a project in which I studied old case files of inter-ethnic and inter-racial youth mediations. Afterwards, I stumbled upon an article titled “Thinking about Diversity-Related Conflict: Respect, Recognition and Learning” by Susan Woods. According to Woods, diversity is a paradox because it destroys old problems while creating new ones. For example, a diverse workplace might lead to a conflict over cultural sensitivity. The article put into words a phenomenon I had barely noticed, and I was absolutely blown away. I had always thought that conflict exists only when there is a lack of diversity, not when there is diversity.

Later that day, we visited a local organization. The organization’s Conflict Resolution Team sought to improve their dispute resolution skills through training with the APADRC. After they walked us through their different concerns regarding conflicts in their organization, I was able to visualize how conflicts manifest themselves in diverse settings and understand that conflicts can still arise even when people are united under the same cause. Shockingly, I realized that the organization faced the same diversity paradox I had just read about. Then and there, I began to understand the importance and urgency of conflict mediation education to the public. That way, when conflicts do arise, especially in communities as diverse as Los Angeles, people will have the skill set to prevent escalation of those conflicts.

Before I externed here, I had absolutely no idea that alternative dispute resolution existed. I had always thought that litigation was the only way to resolve a conflict. However, from my experiences at the APADRC, I have realized that mediation can be a constructive approach to conflict resolution because it helps people learn about themselves through personal growth and self-reflection. Additionally, the positivity and enthusiasm so central to mediation drives the opposing parties to a mutual understanding. Everyone who takes part in conflict resolution comes out as a different person. Coming out of this externship, I feel that I have come out as different person.

I would like to thank Claire for giving me this externship at such an amazing organization. She was so sweet and helpful, always clarifying difficult concepts and providing us with a professional perspective. Additionally, it was refreshing to see local organizations actively seek out mediation training out of a genuine concern for its members. My experiences during the externship have opened my eyes to the world of conflict resolution and local organizations, and I am so grateful that I had such a wonderful opportunity to explore such important aspects of the community!.

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