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Alumni Spotlight: Katie Manderson

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Conflict Resolution Institute

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Katie Manderson (MA '09) at the Taj Mahal in India

Since March 2007, Katie Manderson (MA '08) has worked in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to ensure compliance of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) regulations for the largest federal agencies in international relations. From 2007-2011 Manderson served as an ADR Specialist for the US Department of State (DOS), and most recently, she is working in the same capacity for the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Her duties include meeting with individuals on staff in these agencies to resolve various work place conflicts, as well as being a mediator with the US government's Shared Neutrals Program where she not only assists her own agency but other agencies in workplace conflict.

In her own words, Manderson says "Basically, I do a ton of conflict resolution work, from conducting mediations or facilitations to just meeting with an employee or manager who is in a dispute and coaching them through it." She stated that most of the disputes that she mediates center around respect, where both parties feel that there is a lack of respect for them in their workplace. Her career as ADR Specialist in the US Department of State and USAID has given Manderson the opportunity to travel all over the globe. She has traveled to Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Tanzania, South Africa, Ghana, Germany, Iraq, Vietnam, and looks forward to many more trips to many more exotic locations. In her line of work, Manderson gets a unique perspective of these federal agencies and their organizational culture because she meets with everyone from the gardeners to Ambassadors. She enjoys the relational aspect of her line of work because in every country people are friendly and eager to show her around the best their country has to offer.

One of her most memorable experiences while traveling was in Sri Lanka. With only one day to explore the country, Manderson headed to Kandy for the Festival of the Tooth which is called, Esala Perahera. This festival was crowded with people everywhere, in true South Asian style, making it hard to move through the crowds. Manderson and a co-worker had to hurry through the crowds to make a flight to Vietnam the next morning. In order to make the flight and push through the crowds, she had to convince people to help them get back to the car.

Currently, Manderson constantly refers back to the theoretical knowledge she gained in the classroom while pursuing her MA in Conflict Resolution at DU along with the experiences she collected in her internship at the Department of State, Office of Civil Rights. Manderson's internship led to her current position at the Office of Civil Rights and Diversity at USAID. In respect to current Conflict Resolution students, or those considering a course of study in this field, Manderson advises that they should, "think broadly" in that this field can be applied to many areas across various sectors.

Manderson remarks that everyone at the DOS has been extraordinary in helping her learn the nuances of the EEO process as well as develop her career at both DOS and USAID. Additionally, the Foreign Service staffers have been amazing in helping Manderson understand the culture of the DOS. Manderson goes on to say that to really understand a place and people, you must understand the conflict that they are going through, even within an organization.

Preparing for her next assignment trip Afghanistan, Manderson looks back at her journey in the field of Conflict Resolution which started at DU, she remarks, "I am blessed in the fact that I use my degree every day!"

--Charlotte Prewitt