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Alum Spotlight: Emily Zmak

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Conflict Resolution Institute

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stopping a conflict

By Danyah Al Jadaani

Emily Zmak Is a Korbel alumnus who graduated from the Conflict Resolution Program at University of Denver. After graduating in the summer of 2018, Emily has been working in conflict resolution ever since. Prior to her start at Korbel, Emily spent time working internationally in conflict zones and found that her experience in the field really helped her to recognize conflict and hone and transition her skills so that they can be used in more practical and theoretical settings.

Emily has always wanted to work in conflict settings and was given the opportunity to work at a refugee camp on the Greek Island of Lesbos. This is where she decided to apply to the Conflict Resolution Program here at Korbel. Emily hoped to use her knowledge and understanding of conflict resolution gained from a graduate degree to further enhance her own ability and skills to contribute meaningfully in the field. As someone once told her, anyone can have knowledge but the skills are what gets you a job.

From her time at Korbel, the classes that stood out the most were the ones that combined practical knowledge with theoretical resources. Her favorite class, UN Peacebuilding Responses, left her feeling prepared for her professional career. Emily believes that the assignments of the course were all up-to-date and highly relevant, as compared to other classes heavily reliant on academic writing styles with less application to the real-world. Emily felt that this style of teaching and learning helped her develop critical skills necessary for performing work in conflict resolution.

Since graduating from Korbel, Emily did her internship at Newmont Mining Corporation, where she was responsible for tracking community grievances and the response time in which they were responded to. She currently works for Collaborative Decision Resources Associates (CDR), where she facilitates mediation and communication within the sectors of land management and organizational development. Emily has been using the skills that she learned from the conflict resolution program to track conflict escalation and facilitate mediation between parties when necessary. Listening, identifying interests and conflict, finding solutions, and performing project management duties are all a part of Emily's day-to-day work at CDR.

When it comes to transitioning from academia to becoming a practitioner, Emily believes that the key to your future career is in the real world experience you gain along the way. Emily has always interned or worked while maintaining her coursework. Her biggest advice is to intern and work as proactively as possible to enhance and hone individual skill sets.

For graduating students, it is important to highlight the skills that have developed during time spent at Korbel and to take every opportunity during the academic career to gain experience. Her last piece of advice for those graduating is to network. Emily's advice centers around the following: network as much as you can while you are a student, set up informational interviews with people who work in positions you are interested in, and let them know that you are interested in a similar path. As scary as it is to put yourself out there it can really help you navigate your potential future career!