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Conflict Resolution Institute

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Dr. Ruth Parsons

Research Professor for the Conflict Resolution Institute and Professor Emerita of the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work, Dr. Ruth Parsons developed interest in Conflict Resolution early in her career as a social worker. Having earned her MSW and PhD from the University of Denver, Dr. Parson's relationship with DU extends across decades. She also served DU's Graduate School of Social Work (GSSW) in various roles from administration to the classroom. Dr. Parsons' work and research with GSSW could be classified into two tracks: Empowerment Practice and Building an Understanding of Conflict Resolution in the Field.

Dr. Ruth Parsons, Research ProfessorThroughout her 20-year career with GSSW, Dr. Parsons' interests and research became more focused as she went on to write and conceptualize how Conflict Resolution would fit into the field of Social Work. While theories of Conflict Resolution were taught at GSSW, Dr. Parsons discerned that practical Conflict Resolution strategies were lacking in the curriculum. To address this gap, Dr. Parsons was one of the early authors in developing mediation models for the field of Social Work and in integrating practical Conflict Resolution strategies into the coursework. She has conducted Conflict Resolution training in various organizations and agencies in the Denver area.

In the early 1990s, Dr. Parsons played an integral role in establishing a consortium on Conflict Resolution across the DU campus. By 1996, Dr. Parsons was on the committee to develop DU's first Masters of Arts in Conflict Resolution, spurring the foundation of the Conflict Resolution Institute.

Then in 1998, Dr. Parsons established an enduring relationship with the University of the West Indies after a visit to Trinidad and Tobago with her husband on a sailing trip. The University of the West Indies expressed a desire to have Conflict Resolution training available to community members in Trinidad. In 2003, Dr. Parsons was granted the Fulbright Scholar Senior Specialist Award, through which she was able to be involved in developing the University of the West Indies' post-graduate diploma in Mediation Studies and served as the first instructor in the program.

By 2004, CRI's Center for Research and Practice was awarded a three-year development grant from the US State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, made possible by Dr. Parsons' involvement with the University of the West Indies. The partnership between DU and the University of the West Indies provided the means to transform the University of West Indies' diploma program into a complete Master of Arts in Mediation Studies [CRI Newsletters; Summer 2005, Summer 2006].

With its first graduating class in 2006, the University of the West Indies has become the only university-based Conflict Resolution program in the Caribbean. Consequently, Trinidad has become the center for training and developing capacity in Conflict Resolution for the West Indies. As a result of the research and work that emerged from this partnership, Dr. Parsons and other CRI and University of the West Indies colleagues published one article in the Howard Journal of Communication and two in the Caribbean Journal of Social Work1 . Click here to read the abstract from Dr. Parsons' publication, Carnival Fete or Conflict? in the Caribbean Journal of Social Work.

Carnival is Trinidad and Tobago's most significant celebration, taking place in mid-February. Read the abstract from Dr. Parson's publication in The Caribbean Journal of Social Work, Carnival Fete or Conflict?

Carnival is Trinidad and Tobago's most significant celebration, taking place in mid-February.Following the initiation of the project in Trinidad, Dr. Parsons played a major role in CRI's partnership with Tbilisi State University in the Republic of Georgia from 2006-2009 [CRI Newsletters; Winter 2006, Winter 2008, Fall 2008]. She was one of the Principle Trainers helping to establish the Georgia Mediation Clinic. With her indispensable involvement and work with CRI, Dr. Parsons was appointed Research Professor in 2007.

Most recently Dr. Parsons has been co-teaching and developing the curriculum for the Practicum in the Conflict Resolution degree program at DU. During the Practicum, students mediate disputes with experienced mediators at the Jefferson County Courts [CRI Newsletter; Summer 2010]. Dr. Parsons believes that the Practicum in mediation offers students an opportunity for professional and self-development as they participate in the practice of Conflict Resolution in the field. Dr. Parsons also teaches the course "Reflective Practice and Evaluation" (CRES 4111) in the Master's program.

When asked what she thought the future for CRI should look like, Dr. Parsons replied, "I would like to see the Institute bear more research in the cultural arena. We need more research to understand if the Conflict Resolution models we are transporting [to other countries] are a cultural fit. We need to research and become more aware of what models will work [in that country], and what indigenous models already exists within the culture." Reflecting upon CRI's work over the past decade in the West Indies, Georgia and Cyprus, Dr. Parsons proposed, "CRI has the potential to lead in the cultural appropriateness of Conflict Resolution training in other countries and across cultures."

With many deep personal and professional relationships in the Trinidadian community, Dr. Parsons now spends two to three months out of every year in the country, where she leads "Train the Trainer Workshops" in Mediation and Conflict Resolution at the University of the West Indies. Many of her former students come back to the workshops as Trainers. In addition to her work at the University of the West Indies, Dr. Parsons has recently worked with the Crime and Social Justice Commission in developing social policy recommendations for prevention of crime and violence. She also spends time in Trinidad playing the steel drum and sailing with her husband.

For more information about CRI's partnership with the University of the West Indies, see our Winter 2008 Newsletter.

Dr. Ruth Parsons can be contacted at

--Tanisha White-Phan


Collier, M.J.; Parsons, R.J.; Hadeed, L.;& Nathaniel,K.(2011). Problematizing Cultural Dimensions in Community Members'views of Conflict and Conflict Management in Trinidad and Tobago. West Indies. Howard Journal of Communication. 22:2, 140-162.

Parsons, R.J., Hadeed, L. & Collier, M.J. (2010). Preferences for third-party conflict resolution processes in Trinidad and Tobago. Caribbean Journal Of Social Work. Vol. 8 and 9, PG. 32-54.

Sogren, M.; Parsons, R.J. (2008). Carnival Fete or Conflict? Caribbean Journal Of Social Work. Vol. 6 and 7, PG. 167-185