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Alumni Spotlight: Lieschen Gargano

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Conflict Resolution Institute

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Program Assistant, CDR Associates

Lieschen Gargano

Alumnus of the Conflict Resolution Institute, Lieschen Gargano (MA’13) joined Collaborative Decision Resources (CDR) Associates in late 2012, located in Boulder, Colorado. After reading Bernard Mayer and Christopher Moore’s books in her CRI graduate courses, Gargano learned about CDR Associates and became very interested in the organization.  She has had the pleasure of working with both professionals in the field.  Gargano completed her internship at CDR Associates as an office manager and after graduation was hired on full time as a Program Manager. CDR helps leaders and managers in the private sector, government, various organizations and public interest groups engage in dialogue to find common ground and come to agreements on difficult issues. 

Currently Gargano assists program managers and partners on projects that focus on Environmental and Transportation public policy projects. These projects are often stalled in conflict or while in the stakeholder engagement and task force facilitation portion of the development phase. She facilitates group discussions or information sessions, sets up agendas for meetings based on interviews with clients and goals of the process, as well as creates and follows up on project schedules and action items with team members. Gargano also writes role-plays and runs logistics for training programs for public or private firms in mediation and facilitation across the country. She acts as a conflict coach, as well as writes website and social media content.  Another accomplishment for her is editing case studies or other publications; she is currently on the first page of the 4th Edition of the Mediation Process.

Originally after completing her undergraduate degree Gargano thought she would have a career in Law and started working for a criminal defense attorney.  While working with the criminal defense attorney she saw a lot of frustration on the part of the clients who were not allowed to talk to one another, but only through their attorneys. The situation created additional animosity and emotional damage. After cases were completed the relationship between the parties was still broken, it came with high costs and all parties would feel emotionally scarred.  From her experience working with the criminal defense attorney, Gargano was contacted by the director of the Restorative Justice Program for Boulder County and asked to volunteer as a circle facilitator.  Before starting at the University of Denver her volunteer work with Restorative Justice opened her up to new possibilities.  She abandoned her idea of becoming an attorney and found Peace and Conflict Studies.

By pursuing an MA in Conflict Resolution, Gargano has been able to use work from classes and guidance from her professors, implementing these to her life on a daily basis.  She applies conflict resolution skills to projects every day.  Mediation and facilitation theory is vital for her to have in mind when she works with project teams, public meetings and in coaching others.  She believes her interview skills make a big difference in finding the right stakeholders and building rapport. Having the ability to shadow professional facilitator Mike Hughes from her practicum experience gave her a lot of insight into how to coach and manage contentious public meetings.  With the help of Professor Bob Melvin and his course on negotiation, she learned negotiation skills and the ability to read people as well as become a better team member and stakeholder liaison.  Thanks to Dr. Tamra Pearson d’Estree, Gargano was able to learn research skills that have been the backbone of how she researches stakeholders for new projects as well as conducts interviews to help her team develop a holistic view of an issue or project which is then used to build a process or making recommendations for next steps. 

During her DU MA program, Gargano interned with Mediators Beyond Borders. She had the opportunity to travel to Athens, Greece and trained facilitators to lead conversations and dialogues on immigration issues in Athens.  Gargano worked closely with a local counterpart to organize the outreach and coordination on the ground.

Her current position with CDR Associates has given Gargano chances to travel within the US.  For example, she facilitated public meetings for the Bureau of Land Management in Sacramento to update BLM guidelines, and she facilitated process training on NEPA for the EPA Urban Waters Partnership in Albuquerque, where she helped facilitate the public’s understanding of the NEPA process and how public involvement takes place in that process. She has assisted with dialogues between public participants and urban waters representatives to foster relationships through answering questions and address the concerns of the people in that area that will be affected.

To current conflict resolution students and those entering the program at the University of Denver, Lieschen Gargano's advice is to “ Specialize in the field-  You cannot just be  a process expert, you have to be experienced in planning or water management, divorce, real estate or transportation etc.”  She would also recommend that when networking try to make good first impressions.  Always be prepared, be on time, and make your deadlines. 

Lieschen can be contacted at:

--Jolena Martinez