Winter Term: Conflict Resolution Mediation Training (+ mini trip to Mumbai)
April 2, 2022
Aishwarya Krishnaswamy ’23
It has been a hot minute since winter term a few months ago. So far, since the semester has started, I’ve only now gotten a chance to breathe because it’s spring break time; woohoo! I finally got a chance to fly back home to Mumbai, India. It was a sweet and short trip. I wish I had a little more time back home, but grateful for the little time I had. I will probably do deeper dive into my trip back home in a different post, but in this one, I will be sharing my fun and informative winter term experience.
What, When, Where, Why, and So what?
So over the winter term this year, Jan 25th - Feb 19th, 2022, I enrolled in the ‘Social Justice Conflict Resolution Mediation’ training offered through the YBCD at Oberlin. After a short application form and interview process, I was selected to participate in this training program. The idea was that I would participate first, get trained, and then serve as a volunteer mediator in the Oberlin community. This winter term covered the training part. The program was remote online, and I took it from 7 pm to 4:00 am India time!! It was a pretty intensive 42-hour training experience for two weeks with some days off. I had never participated in a training program like this before and didn’t know what to expect going in.
I was interested in this program, to begin with, because Kimberly Jackson Davidson, who was the former Ombuds at Oberlin, really inspired me. During times of conflict, I had visited her, and she helped me look at my situation from a different lens while also providing me with an emotional space where I felt comfortable and heard. I am grateful to her for her warmth and generosity and for helping me look at my situation more objectively. My experience with her sparked a greater interest in understanding conflict and resolution. As someone who wants to be in a heavily people-focused profession in my future (physician, fingers crossed!) I think it is invaluable to have conflict resolution skills. I love people and everything they have to offer. I bask in the love of humanity and don’t want to run away when things become uncomfortable, or ideas and opinions don’t align. In the little experience that I have, I have come to realize that wherever there are people, there is the beautiful blossoming of connection and at the same time a potential for conflict and asynchrony irrespective of the setting. Some of these realizations and my personal experiences made me curious to understand conflict and learn mediation skills.
In this online training, I saw a lot of familiar faces from Oberlin and got to know a lot of new people from the Oberlin community. We initially started with social justice mediation training fundamentals and learned about our own biases and how to overcome them. After which, we engaged in mini-group role-playing, which was super fun and gave us a chance to put our theoretical knowledge to practice. This also allowed me to get to know other members in my training well and build a connection with them. All of them empathized with my flip-flopped sleep-deprived zombie self. Our instructors, Deepika and Leah from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, taught us well and gave us clear feedback and guidance to improve our skills.
Through the training, I learned that so much of our conflict on a greater human level simply stems from misunderstandings with one another or a lack of perspective-taking. But upon taking a closer look, I also learned that power and social structures influence conflict dynamics on a much deeper level. While I have all sorts of problems with societal structures, I know that it is crucial for me as a mediator to be as aware of these power dynamics and socio-cultural pressures as possible to provide the equitable mediation. Overall I am super happy I got a chance to get this training and spend some time with Kim before she left Oberlin (weep, weep!).
P.S. I am also super grateful to be back to writing after a hot minute. I really enjoy this (if you couldn't tell already!).