Five women attending a conference

On the Oberlin College Dialogue Center

Amanda Medress ’09
“We handle conflict through a social justice lens, which means acknowledging that differences in power and privilege inherently affect human interaction.”

The Oberlin College Dialogue Center (OCDC), a mediation and facilitation program on campus, has given me the communication skills necessary to manage both personal and professional conflict. I first became aware of OCDC in the spring of my freshman year, when the Oberlin Review assigned me to cover a campus conference on conflict resolution. Although I had been a mediator in high school, I wasn’t aware that a mediation body existed at Oberlin. Thus it was exciting to attend the conference and meet Yeworkwha Belachew, Ombudswoman and head of OCDC. I applied to be part of the organization, and shortly after participated in a five-day conflict resolution training.

The OCDC approach to mediation is unique and refreshing. We handle conflict through a social justice lens, which means acknowledging that differences in power and privilege inherently affect human interaction. Additionally, we practice multi-partiality: instead taking sides on an issue, we seek to understand and support all bodies involved in a conflict. Lastly, OCDC respects confidentiality: students and faculty seeking facilitation and mediation know that the privacy of their situations will be handled with the utmost respect.

As a senior, I appreciate reflecting on the diverse experiences OCDC has given me: leading the Social Justice Institute during freshmen orientations, facilitating discussions on village housing, women’s identity issues, and team sports, and mediating inter-student conflicts. The relationships I’ve formed have been just as enriching: Yeworkwha, who cooks Ethiopian food for us and lets us play with her dog, has continually made this Angelino feel more at home in snowy Ohio. As an environmental studies major, I know that mediation skills will be applicable to my career, as implementing sustainable solutions requires addressing conflicting interest. I use the communication skills I learned with OCDC in everyday life, from facilitating group projects for class to working through conflicts with friends and family.

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