An Undergraduate Student’s Point of View
by Amin K. Littlejohn
I became interested in mediation when I turned 19-years-old. Although it was unclear to me at the time, I had a penchant for maintaining peace amongst people. Whether it was a friend, family member, or stranger—if they had a conflict with another or self, I found myself almost instantly actively listening to gain insights to help them solve their own problems. In a world where conflict is the norm and celebrated in the media, I cannot think of too many skills that are more useful than mediating disputes between people.
A former Journalism major at Kent State University (“KSU”), I knew that as I approached my sophomore year that I needed a change. Journalism was not challenging me in the ways that I wanted to be challenged. Though I loved writing, what I desired most was an opportunity to use my words and communication, in general, to affect positive change. I talked to my sister, who is now an attorney and mediator or counselor in her own right, about my concerns and we both did some research after discussing my natural skills and talents. We discovered that KSU had one of the oldest and largest conflict studies programs in the nation housed in the Center for Applied Conflict Management (“CACM”). Taken from KSU’s website, the CACM was established in 1971 as a “living memorial” to students killed by the Ohio National Guard during a student protest against the Vietnam War on May 4, 1970. The purpose of the CACM is to provide an environment where the study and promotion of peaceful mechanisms of change can flourish. I changed my major to Applied Conflict Management and know that I am now on the right path as my career aspirations evolve. I’ve taken classes in mediation training and theory, communication, nonviolence theory and practice, negotiation, cultural conflict management, creativity and conflict activism, and conflict in the workplace. Through extensive reading and classroom simulations, I know that I have grown immensely as a student, future applied conflict management professional, and most importantly, a human being.
As I approach my final year of study in the program, I realized that all of the coursework I had taken had not been tested in a real-world setting and I needed to exercise my skills to help real people solve real problems. I created a database of counseling businesses, mediation-related organizations, courts, and school districts in an attempt to reach out to regarding an internship to help me learn more about mediation as applied to human resources and labor/union-related issues. Many individuals responded with well-wishes and insights on how to gain experience, but most were unable to accommodate an unpaid, summer internship for an undergraduate student. One of the organizations was willing to work with me though and that was the Mediation Association of Northeast Ohio (“MANO”). I am forever grateful to Ms. Brenda Spicer for going above and beyond and affording me an opportunity to impact MANO in a powerful way this summer. Ms. Spicer is allowing me to craft mediation-related articles that will be published on MANO’s website, attend meetings, and assist with implementation of a social media marketing plan to gain greater exposure for MANO. I look forward to providing insights and opinions and welcome topical suggestions so that I can be an asset to MANO membership and readers.
Amin K. Littlejohn is a senior Applied Conflict Management major at Kent State University. He is a member of The National Society of Leadership and Success.