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Alumni Spotlight

Kit Chalberg: Conciliation Specialist for the Community Relations Service (CRS); US Department of Justice

Since December 2006 Kit Chalberg has been employed as a Conciliation Specialist for the Community Relations Service (CRS) of the US Department of Justice. He works out of the Rocky Mountain Regional office in Denver, CO—serving Colorado, Utah, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wyoming. CRS is the Department's "peacemaker" for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, and national origin. It also assists communities in developing local mechanisms, conducting training, and other proactive measures to prevent or reduce racial/ethnic tension.

Kit noted, "For the most part, everything that I do is conflict resolution related. As a Conciliation Specialist I provide the four agency services to communities experiencing conflict or perceptions of conflict around issues of race, color and national origin." These four services include: mediation, conciliation, training, and technical assistance. Generally, CRS mediation and conciliation are both collaborative problem solving processes where the parties identify and resolve issues. Specific to training, the agency provides law enforcement mediation training; hate crimes training; racial profiling training, and human relations commission training. The agency also provides technical assistance in the form of best practices for community and school conflict resolution and police-community relations.

Kit graduated from the Conflict Resolution program in November 2007 and completed his thesis, "Responding to Hate and Bias on Campus: A Campus Response Team Framework," in October 2007.

Kit said the MA program gave him a sound understanding of conflict analysis. Classes requiring the completion of conflict analysis provided him with skills necessary for his current position where he has found that conflict analysis not only requires a complex understanding of the parties, issues, and interests, but it also requires the capacity to truly "hear" personal stories and develop relationships.

He completed his internship at CRS-USDOJ in December 2006, and following the internship he was transitioned into federal service through the Federal Career Intern program.

The MA degree greatly assisted Kit in skill development necessary for conflict resolution work. Public speaking, graduate level writing, and conflict analysis were the most important skills Kit gained from the program, and he believes that it is important for students to be self reflective by identifying their weakest skill area, whether it is writing or public speaking, and challenge themselves through coursework and assignments to become better. In all, the MA program has the potential to assist students in becoming more skillful in the most important areas of the conflict resolution practice.

Kit offered the following advice for current students:

A) Use the program's flexibility to your benefit. Students need to take classes and complete projects that are in-line with your interests and career goals.

B) Take classes that require conflict analysis and assessment. These classes provide students with the skills to analyze complex conflicts and recommend potential resolution processes. These real life conflicts, and subsequent conflict analysis, require students to apply theory and practice towards collaborative outcomes and resolution.

C) It is never too early to begin thinking about your thesis. Students should look through old theses, seek advice from former students, and develop relationships with faculty as ways to brainstorm thesis topics and research methods. Also, once a thesis advisor has been chosen, it is important that the student and advisor have clear and agreed upon expectations for the thesis project.

D) Secure an internship that will separate you from your peers. Internships that afford students opportunities for conflict resolution skill development can be difficult to find, but are invaluable for professional and personal development.

E) Network, network, network. Students should be encouraged to attend all conflict resolution trainings, internship fairs, and professional organization conferences.

F) Take every opportunity to practice. Students should volunteer to facilitate dialogue on campus, mediate community disputes at Jefferson County Mediation Services, and intern with practitioners to gain experience.

G) Mediation is not the "end-all-be-all" of conflict resolution. Though mediation is a staple in the field, there are other processes that are important to the future of the field and the expansion of the discipline. Students need to consider exploring other processes, such as consensus building and training as capacity-building efforts towards conflict resolution and conflict prevention.

For students considering study in the field, he offered this advice:

A) Do your homework. Students need to take the time to research available conflict resolution programs for those programs that meet the student's future career goals and aspirations.

B) Be realistic. Conflict resolution is an ever expanding field where the possibilities are almost endless. However, students will quickly learn that jobs are scarce and often competitive. It is important that students consider a joint-degree program, in conjuncture with a MA in conflict resolution, to secure flexibility for future job opportunities.

C) The field is challenging, but rewarding. The delivery of conflict resolution services can be professionally and personally challenging—requiring constant self reflection. However, conflict resolution has amazing transformative potential in our communities and country. It has the ability to provide voice to the voiceless, and empower communities that have historically not been included in the power structure.