I began studying the Master of Conflict Management and Resolution in July 2015. I am studying part-time and anticipate graduating at the end of 2018 … but this depends how many subjects I can handle! This semester I am taking it slowly, and just doing one. When I first enrolled I was based in Townsville, which made it easy to attend workshops and make connections with other students. I have recently relocated to Brisbane, so the majority of my engagement will now be online and via email.
Before I started studying the MCMR, I had worked for more than 20 years in human resources in a large Queensland Government department. During my career I have seen many examples of conflict and disputes in the workplace, and while I tried to help people deal effectively with conflict I eventually realised that I lacked a solid understanding of it myself. I decided that if I really wanted to make a difference I needed to understand how conflict arose, what factors might influence people’s reactions to conflict, and how best to support them through what is often a difficult experience.
When I reflect on what I originally studied — a Bachelor of Science at a Brisbane university — I can see that I didn’t really know as a teenager what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. When I graduated high school, the prevailing view was that people had one career for life, we had to make a decision now and we’d be in that job forever. I am glad that view has changed; now it is common, even expected, for people to switch careers several times in their lives. This has made it a lot easier to do a career change in my forties.
Before I started the MCMR, I completed a Graduate Certificate in Public Sector Management through a university in South Australia. This helped me re-connect with the thinking and critical analysis required for postgraduate study.
When I finally realised I wanted to learn more about conflict management and resolution, I researched what study options were available to me. As I was living in Townsville at the time, JCU was the logical choice. Having completed nine subjects so far, I am overjoyed to find that not only was JCU convenient for me but it also offers a very highly regarded program, delivered by experts who live and breathe their subject matter. The lecturers have real-world experience, as well as being thought leaders and innovators in their respective areas of expertise. There are some subjects that I was very apprehensive about, or that I thought I would not like — but every single time, I have been swept up by the lecturer and taken on a learning journey that was as enjoyable as it was challenging.
This course has offered many great opportunities and learning moments, but for me the most gratifying things have been the ‘ah-ha’ moments. Every subject I have studied has given me an epiphany of some sort, and many of my fellow students have made the same observation! I have learned an enormous amount about myself; this course helped me more clearly define and articulate my values, which helped me identify why I feel strongly about certain things. In turn, this assisted me to articulate my ‘non-negotiables’, and allowed me to better understand why people sometimes seem inflexible when it comes to conflict. I have also learned a lot about how my past attempts at dealing with conflict could be improved, and what strategies I can use for the future.
Although the MCMR is rich in theory, it has an equally strong focus on practice and equips students with practical skills they can use in their daily lives. Most subjects include a workshop (running from three to five days in length, depending on the subject), where students come together for intensive learning and putting theory into practice. Although these workshops are challenging, I find them incredibly useful in terms of learning and for making connections with other students. The students in MCMR come from diverse cultural, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds, and it was a joy to hear their experiences of conflict and how they hope to apply contemporary principles when they return to their home countries. By far the best thing about the workshops, though, was getting to spend time with the lecturers. Every one of them are experts in their field, and I felt privileged to be able to learn from them.
Before I enrolled, I had wanted to study the MCMR for about five years. I wish I had leapt into it sooner. My advice to others is — if you are contemplating it, if you have even the slightest interest in understanding more about conflict and how to manage it — just do it. It’s a challenging course, but it is immensely valuable.
Although I have not yet graduated, I have added to my list of qualifications by gaining national accreditation as a mediator, and I hope to gain some practical experience while I am still studying. After I graduate, I hope to work in the dispute resolution field somewhere … in the spirit of keeping an open mind, I have not locked myself into a particular career pathway. The beautiful thing about the MCMR is that no matter what job I do in the future, I will be able to apply the principles and skills I have learned to successfully engage with and manage conflict in all areas of my life.