Ariana Harner (MA, 2006) serves as the Employee Relations Specialist for the City of Lakewood. She describes her job is one-third managing the recruitment process, one-third training, and one-third mediation, facilitation, and coaching. Obviously, her responsibilities include a broad range of responsibilities including recruitment, training and mediation. Doing many different things is an aspect of her job that she loves.
Ariana and her colleagues are certainly doing a great job. Denver Business Journal recently ranked the City of Lakewood as the best place to work in the mega-sized employer category. Since they are a government agency, this accomplishment is a significant one. Because there is not a fund for morale or team-building, the city puts a strong focus on employee relations and a dedication to internal and external customer service. Ariana works with supervisors to train them in communication skills, such as how to approach certain situations and what the different communication styles are. Ariana explains "the key is to recognize that when people have filed a claim, it is in large part due to the fact that they have not had the opportunity to express their problems. Knowing their options and alternatives is key." Because of her role in listening and highlighting options, Ariana sees her job as one that helps people become empowered.
In addition to her work in the City of Lakewood, Ariana also serves on the Board of Directors at the Conflict Center. The Conflict Center is an organization in Denver that promotes peacebuilding through outreach programs in schools and the community. This Board meets monthly to look at long term strategies and finances and to set goals for the organization. They also plan several events throughout the year. For the past two years, Harner served as President; this year, she serves as Vice President and on the Board's Development Committee. Harner loves the work she does at the Conflict Center because it is closely connected to the conflict resolution field, and she likes maintaining that connection. Ariana is the only individual with a conflict resolution background at her workplace, she finds her involvement with the Board a way to keep her grounded in the field. She is incredibly proud of the Board of Directors and the Conflict Center as a whole because of the work the Center does and its incredible reputation throughout the community.
Ariana had an open mind when entering the Conflict Resolution Program at DU. She had several ideas for possible careers, from being a mediator to working internationally. While in the program, she discovered that her interest lay in workplace conflict. It was with this realization and interest in mind that she finished her degree and planned her post-graduate decisions.
When Ariana graduated from the University of Denver in November 2006, she did not know exactly what she wanted to do within this workplace interest. She sent out applications to several places, but, like many people recently out of graduate school, was consistently told that she did not have enough experience. Ariana took this time to challenge herself, so she volunteered in Cambodia for three months where she taught mediation skills to members of a peace-building organization in hopes of starting a pilot program of mediation in the schools. Unfortunately, the organization suffered in the economic crisis and was unable to fulfill this ambition. Ariana believes that this work abroad set her apart when interviewing for jobs. Her current boss appreciated her perspective and well-roundedness. The City of Lakewood is known for being less structured, looking at fit for both the prospective employee and the organization.
As for DU's Conflict Resolution Program's effects on her current job, Ariana says that the mediation and facilitation skills she learned while in school have proved to be invaluable. Another important aspect from her graduate education is the philosophical understanding the program gives its students as to what leads people into conflict. Ariana says that having this academic background knowledge is incredibly important; the knowledge and theory learned while in school all comes together in practice. When these things came together for her, Ariana says she realized that this program helped her to look at things differently.
When addressing the current students in the Conflict Resolution Masters Degree Program, Ariana's advice is to remain open. She believes that this program helps individuals do any job more effectively because it educates them in understanding human dynamics, a great foundation for jobs in every field. Ariana advises students to "soak it up with the perspective of how this degree is going to help me as a human, more than as a conflict resolution professional because it may be awhile before you become a professional in the conflict resolution field." Ariana's final words of advice are incredibly encouraging: "No matter what job you get, this education is relevant to everything."
-- Brittany Cassell