Since July 2008, Isaac Nichols has been employed at Metropolitan State College as the Student Conflict Resolution Specialist. He began his career eight months earlier as an intern with Metro State's Judicial Affairs Office within the Office of Student Life. His current position, which is new to Metro State, is designed to "resolve conflicts involving students before they rise to a level requiring involvement from the student judicial officer and formal sanctions against the student (i.e. suspension, expulsion, etc.)."
Nichols confronts conflict daily, ranging from classroom disruption to disputes between teachers and students. According to Nichols, "In the course of my duties I mediate, facilitate, do conflict coaching, as well as present on conflict to various departments." He says that there are no "typical" days at work, as the types of conflicts he confronts are so diverse. He has also been a guest lecturer in several classes.
When asked what he enjoyed most about his job, Nichols replied that he enjoyed problem solving. He particularly likes finding options and alternatives that are beneficial to those involved in conflict. "I love seeing the light go off in someone's head when they realize that they do have options."
Nichols graduated from the University of Denver in November, 2009 with a Master of Arts degree in Conflict Resolution. Without the degree, says Nichols, "I would not be where I am today...Simple as that." With the skills, knowledge, and theoretical frameworks that the program provided, he was able to smoothly transition to the new position created by Metro State. Nichols says that his internship with the Judicial Affairs Office was also essential for his rise to the current position as Student Conflict Resolution Specialist. Nichols says "they were looking for someone to help them set up a restorative justice program and I was taking that course at DU [University of Denver] at the time so I applied." The internship allowed him to employ his skills in ways that "hadn't been considered before." After the internship, Metro State encouraged Nichols to apply to a new position they had been unable to fill. He did, and continued his professional career at Metro State.
Nichols provided the following advice to current conflict resolution students: "Anyone wishing to pursue the field of conflict resolution has to be able to market themselves." Because conflict resolution is still a growing field, and because there are rarely positions with "conflict resolution" in the title, there will be a need to explain to employers that conflict resolution specialists are not only important, they are essential to any organization.
The irony that Nichols himself found a position with "conflict resolution" in the title is not lost on him. "If you go out looking for that job you're likely to be disappointed. The challenge is going out and finding the job you want and show how your skills can add value to their company."
In a final word, Nichols maintains a firm optimism for the field of conflict resolution: "The great thing about conflict is that it's EVERYWHERE so the sky is the limit on how we use our degrees."