Margaret S. Powers is a divorce mediator and collaborative practi
“The topics of negotiation and mediation apply to virtually everything,” says Rod McIntyre, vice president for program development for the Kansas Association of Realtors®. “We negotiate daily without thinking about it. Anyone who has more than one child has been a mediator.” Wanting to refine those useful skills, McIntyre enrolled in Northwestern’s Mediation Skills Training 40-Hour Certificate course. “I think we all came into class with some mediation skills,” says McIntyre. “What we learned was the value of allowing people to reach conclusions themselves, to give them more of a buy-in. The process makes you a better listener and more patient.”
With a PhD in education from the University of Kansas and a long career as an educator, McIntyre knows his way around a classroom. “I came to Northwestern with high expectations, and they were exceeded,” says McIntyre. When the intensive weeklong program concluded, McIntyre wrote a fan letter to his instructors: SPS Dean Thomas F. Gibbons; Lisa Zulanas, a mediator and consultant; and Erin Jennings, an attorney, mediator and private investigator. “You each brought something special and powerful to every session,” wrote McIntrye. “I had many conversations with my classmates throughout the week, and you would have enjoyed hearing what they said.”
McIntyre connected with his classmates as they worked on exercises in groups of three, rotating through roles as mediator and opposing parties in a dispute. Situations included community concerns about a church’s plan to serve people with psychological challenges; a real estate transaction where a problem with a property had not been disclosed; university students protesting grades. The exercises allowed the class to practice the ideas explored in lectures and discussions. “The instructors didn’t just hand us formulas,” says McIntyre. “We learned to weave these skills into our thinking process.”
Oluseeni Komolafe is a fast learner. After coming to the United States from Nigeria at age 15, he completed high school in one year and gained early admission to the University of Maryland Baltimore County, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. Because of his longtime interest in medicine, Komolafe considered applying to medical school, but he also wanted to use his engineering background. “I figured I could marry both concepts by studying biomedical engineering,” says Komolafe, who completed a PhD in that field at Drexel University in 2010, writing a thesis on computational analyses of the Achilles tendon.
Next came a postdoctoral fellowship at Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center, where Komolafe is working under a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to develop prosthetic sockets that are flexible, comfortable, and strong enough to serve highly active users. As busy as he is at work, Komolafe could not resist the opportunity to explore some of his many other interests at SPS, especially when he realized that evening classes coordinated with his work schedule.
At SPS Komolafe has sampled courses in finance and project management from the menu of professional development certificate classes. “The instructors were experienced and brought helpful insights and a practical approach to their areas of knowledge,” says Komolafe. “My classmates were diverse in age and background, from undergraduates to lawyers wanting to change careers. Everyone brought something quite interesting to the table.” Komolafe sees the courses as “huge skill boosters,” adding that, “It’s not always something you need for your resume. It might be about making you work more efficiently in the job you already have.”
With a law degree from Duke University and more than 20 years experience with litigation, Stuart Ringel was already familiar with mediation when he enrolled in Northwestern’s Mediation Training Professional Development Program. What was left for him to learn? His answer: a new perspective.
“The zero-sum game approach doesn’t always work,” says Ringel, who is senior litigation counsel for global and specialty lines at CNA, a Chicagobased insurance company. “At Northwestern I learned to get beyond positions to find out what’s driving the other the party in a dispute and what’s important to them. What’s major to one party might be minor to another.” Such an approach is more cost effective, says Ringel, and allows both parties more control over the outcome.
At Northwestern Ringel’s class explored the process of facilitative mediation with instructors Jennifer Morrow, a conciliator for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Conciliation, and SPS Dean Thomas Gibbons. “Both of them had the professional experience and academic backgrounds to maintain a good balance between the theoretical and the practical in class,” says Ringel. His classmates included other attorneys, human resources specialists, a judge, and a physician — a mix that Ringel says made for lively role-playing as they practiced the techniques they learned.
Ringel was immediately able to apply what he learned in the program to his work. “By sitting down with the opposing party and sharing our respective needs we can discover the areas where we really don’t have a dispute,” he says. “That makes for a more focused discussion, with the potential to avoid litigation.” Ringel is currently overseeing a pilot medical malpractice mediation program he helped develop for his company. “Mediation used to be a last resort,” says Ringel, “but now we’re trying to use it earlier, when alternative dispute resolution can be an especially powerful and valuable tool.”
“You never stop learning,” says Brigid Donohue, RN, MBA, and information services applications supervisor at Elmhurst Memorial Healthcare. “Or you could say that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up,” she adds, only half-joking, to explain her lifelong quest to learn about new areas and adapt her career to her interests.
Donohue started with a one-year program that trained her to be a respiratory therapist, a vocation she practiced for 13 years. In 1992 she completed a two-year program in registered nursing and began working as a nurse. In 2000 she earned a bachelor’s degree in health arts. Deciding to spread her wings even wider she earned an MBA from National-Louis University in 2004. “I saw that as a way to branch off into other areas,” says Donohue, who by that time had become interested in information technology. “Health care informatics is growing by leaps and bounds,” says Donohue, “and I wanted to be in on the ground floor.”
But Donohue had her eye on yet another goal, becoming a Certified Associate in Project Management, a credential issued by the Project Management Institute (PMI). When she discovered that Northwestern was a registered education provider for the PMI and that enrolling in its Project Management program would prepare her for certification, she signed up for more coursework.
“My instructors at Northwestern, Qung Go and Dan Baumgartner, were excellent,” says Donohue. “They illustrated the required information with their own personal experiences. I couldn’t have asked for better classes.” Donohue liked that the class addressed customer relations, an important part of project management.
Donohue has already applied what she learned at Northwestern to her work. “Our organization is growing and moving to a new site in three years, and technology
“Northwestern’s Divorce Mediation program really opened up a new area of my practice that I enjoy and have a passion for,” says Tammy Daniele, director of Daniele & Associates, a counseling and mediation service in Naperville, Illinois. Before she attended Northwestern, Daniele, who earned an MSW degree at Washington University in St. Louis, was a member of a group general counseling practice and often dealt with the psychological fallout of divorce. But she wanted to start her own practice and include mediation as a specialty. “Northwestern prepared me to do that,” says Daniele. “My practice took off in a short amount of time.”
Daniele chose Northwestern’s program for the quality of its instruction, its comprehensiveness, and its intensive 40-hour format. Her classmates included attorneys, financial professionals, and mental health professionals. “As a mental health clinician I was able to contribute a different perspective than an attorney — and I was very interested to hear what the attorneys had to say,” says Daniele.
In her practice, which she began shortly after completing Northwestern’s program, Daniele offers both mediation and counseling services. Although she keeps those services separate and does not counsel couples whose divorce she is mediating, she says her counseling background gives her a better understanding of human interaction and how people communicate. “I’m able to educate families about how divorce affects children, and that’s very valuable for couples,” says Daniele.
“Mediation helps families maintain dignity and respect throughout the divorce process and helps them heal after divorce,” says Daniele. “It’s a good way to help individuals solve conflicts, especially when children are involved. The public is becoming more and more aware of the benefits of mediation.”