"I had reached a point in my life where I was ready to change course, to do something completely new. I've had a lifelong interest in mediation and handling conflict, and it felt like a good direction for me. I wanted a solid credential that would give me credibility. The fact that the faculty were well known for their creativity and sensitivity in teaching was what sold me.
"I really enjoyed the intense personal introspection the program demanded. It forced me to examine my attitudes, assumptions and patterns related to conflict and human relations in general. As a result, I learned a lot about myself, which energized me and made me want to stretch myself even more. I also benefited from the close relationships that I developed with my classmates. When I graduated, I not only had new skills and a changed outlook; I had colleagues.
"I have not yet moved into mediating professionally, but I practice the skills the program taught me every day. It has improved every aspect of my life, professional and personal."
"The times in HR were changing. There was more conflict involved, and communication skills were needed more. I have enjoyed the fact that the Mediation program welcomes individuals from different employment backgrounds who have different reasons for choosing this program. I like the idea of taking the program and manipulating it into something that works for each individual in whatever employment sector they are in.
"Through my recent courses, my years of human resources experience and my phenomenal internship experience with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Atlanta, I am well-equipped to provide appropriate advice and guidance to managers and supervisors on all levels of an organization to address employee performance and behavioral problems.
"But the best surprise about the program for me was being forced to push personal limits and becoming comfortable with that. I have gained a great deal of knowledge about mediation and conflict, and I have learned a huge amount about myself."
A lawyer for 16 years, Robb has practiced mediation and law together for about a year.
"I'm trying to make mediation a recognized, stand-alone, valid way to resolve conflict. The approaches and techniques that I can deploy when working with clients have expanded and grow larger every day.
"I find that the richness of learning in a formal setting gives me the added benefit of being able to interact with peers from different places, with different backgrounds and experiences that help make the experience even richer and more rewarding. I am building a network of peers that I can interact with if I'm facing a client situation where I want to talk through my approach or strategy. The main benefits are an expanded toolbox, a strong theoretical foundation and a network of really smart and helpful peers.
"The challenge has been greater than I anticipated, but the reward has been greater than I anticipated, so I find the time and motivation every day. The program is encouraging me and prodding me, where necessary, to know where I am uncomfortable in a skill set and, instead of avoiding it, to tackle it head-on. The faculty at Champlain is incredibly supportive, engaged and genuinely interested in making sure that I tackle the tough stuff. Like many other professions, becoming an elegant mediator is a journey, not a destination."
Susanna didn't imagine she'd be in a harness 40 feet above the ground during her residency at Champlain, trying to navigate her way around another person on a pole, all to reinforce a mediation principle. But the same kind of negotiation skills used during the ropes course are used by mediators every day.
"Developing a common understanding is an important part of mediation. Setting expectations is important. Don't rush to solve the problem.
"Compared with other mediation programs, Champlain's is so much more practical and less theoretical. There's more field experience. And it's flexible because it's an online program, but I really value the residency. It's your whole day. It has afforded me time for reflection.
"The Mediation program focuses on me as an individual instead of the process or history. It's helping me discover who I am as a mediator so I can understand my strengths and weaknesses and compensate. I never thought of approaching mediation this way at all. You've got to know yourself. You don't realize how important that is until you do it."