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PASSING ON A LEGACY OF SOCIAL CHANGE AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION

October 26, 2005- Oberlin College graduates Bernie Mayer '68 and Leah Wing '84 are widely considered to be two of the country's leading experts on conflict resolution. Since leaving Oberlin, they have worked extensively with many international and non-governmental organizations, corporations, and federal and local government entities in Europe, North America, and Asia. Cases they've taken on have involved the resolution of labor management, public policy, ethnic, business, family, community, and intergovernmental conflicts.

A student at Oberlin at the height of the Civil Rights, student, and anti-war movements, Mayer was president of Oberlin's student government and a founder of the College chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. These positions often put him in the middle of student demonstrations. "I carried my Oberlin activism into my life afterward," he says. "Eventually I became as interested in resolving conflicts as I had been in raising them; both are important elements of social change."

Wing has a similar perspective. A few days before graduation, she had to climb a ladder to the Office of the President, climb through a window, and negotiate with students who were staging a sit-in. "Little did I know that it would be only one of many adventures I would have mediating student takeovers," she says. "By 1997, I considered making a business card that said 'Takeovers R Us.'"

Wing's passion for conflict resolution--and her career--began during a winter-term symposium in January 1983. "Dean of Students George Langeler invited experts in the nascent movement to come to campus to expose students to the field and to discuss its application to a wide range of professions," she recalls. "During the symposium I received my first training in conflict resolution, met the person who would later become my mentor in graduate school, and got to know people who are some of my closest friends to this day."

Next month, history will repeat itself, but with a twist. Instead of bringing outside experts to lead a symposium, Oberlin has invited its own. From Thursday, Nov. 3 through Sunday, Nov. 6, Mayer, Wing, and nine other alumni prominent in the field of conflict resolution will share their cumulative experience and introduce a new generation of Oberlin students to the profession.

Titled "Local Realities, Global Responsibilities: Conflict Resolution at Oberlin and in the World," the symposium will detail the crucial role of conflict resolution today, address various opportunities for careers in conflict resolution, and connect Oberlin and other students to the large network of alumni professionals working in the field.

The presenters will give public lectures and take part in panel discussions and classroom visits addressing such topics as spiritually grounded peacemaking, the war in Iraq, effective activism, international health and human rights, and American public opinion.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for Oberlin to share its resources with the greater community," says Yeworkwha Belachew, coordinator of the Oberlin College Dialogue Center (OCDC), which is hosting the symposium.

In addition to Mayer and Wing, speakers include Dr. Mark Belsey '56, Kathy Bickmore '79, Roger Conner '69, Michele Goldfarb '72, Daniel Gomez-Ibanez '64, David A. Hart '86, Edward Hartfield '72, Charles "Chip" Hauss '69, and Diane E. Kenty '77.

The symposium is free and open to the public. Seating is limited; please indicate interest by sending e-mail to Ombuds@oberlin.edu . The complete schedule, lecture summaries, and speaker biographies are available online.

The 2005 symposium is supported by the Office of the President, the Dean of the College, sociology and politics faculty members, and numerous campus offices.

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Media Contact: Betty Gabrielli

   

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