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Solving employee differences for 10 years

This year marks the 10th anniversary of WSU’s Conflict Resolution Program (CRP), a groundbreaking service in Washington higher education and still one of only two in the state.

In 1994, university administrators met with two local ministers who expressed concern for the well being of university personnel. A task force subsequently created by Sam Smith, former WSU president, concluded that a program was needed to help employees and students confidentially resolve conflict at the lowest possible level.

Since then, the CRP has served hundreds of WSU employees and students in communities throughout the state; the only requirement is that WSU personnel are involved in the conflict.

More recently, the program expanded to become the Office of Human Relations and Educational Services (HRES), providing services that include conflict management, organizational effectiveness consulting, coaching, training and facilitation.

Few conflict resolution programs existed in higher education when WSU established the CRP. WSU drew on the experiences of programs at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Syracuse University. WSU and Evergreen State College began their programs around the same time, and they remain the only programs in the state.

Felicia Gaskins, HRES associate vice provost and the first director of the CRP, said a few of the lessons she has learned about conflict and resolution in the past decade include:
• Conflict is inevitable. Treat it as an opportunity for growth and change.
• Effective management of conflict contributes to general wellness of individuals and organizations.
• There is no recipe for resolving conflict; but creativity, flexibility and commitment are key components to any resolution.
• Peace in our workplaces, classrooms, living groups and indeed in the world requires us to go on learning about each other — about our conflicts and about ourselves.

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