UF law students attend ADR conference in Washington, D.C.
During spring break, five UF Law Gators for Alternative Dispute Resolution (GADR) members, represented the University of Florida at the Mediators Beyond Borders Third Annual Congress in Washington, D.C. Attendees were Zarra Elias (3L, senior president), Chase Wiley (2L, vice president), Alison Wender (1L), Michael Kelley (1L), and Rachel Loeve (exchange student from the Netherlands).
The theme of the annual conference was, “Preparing to Serve,” and its main purpose was to bring the leaders and members of the organization together to exchange ideas and learn various skills to promote and spread various conflict resolution programs and initiatives. Over 140 members from all over the world attended the conference, including renowned author Bernard Mayer, United States Ambassador John W. McDonald and President Jamil Mahuad, president of Ecuador from 1998-2000. Attendees also included student representatives from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, University of Winnipeg Faculty of Law in Canada, and University of Maryland School of Law.
The five law school representatives from GADR proudly represented UF Law at the conference. The students learned practical mediation skills from professionals as well as various ways for students to participate in mediation missions in local and foreign communities.
“Not really knowing anything about MBB and the work that they do I was blown away by the dedication and impact that the members have in their local community as well as in remote communities worlds away. From mediating disputes between Israeli and Palestinians in the Middle East, to working with communities in New Orleans trying to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina and mediating at the 2009 Climate Change convention in Copenhagen, there was truly nowhere the members of MBB could not reach through the complex and often misunderstood art of mediation,” said Alison Wender.
In addition, the GADR representatives met with the leaders of MBB to discuss the importance of expanding student chapters to include more skills-based training in the form of on-campus visits by mediation professionals and national training conferences.
“This weekend was such a wonderful experience and it inspired me in ways I can’t explain. Besides learning some skills at the workshop, we learned so much by meeting people who are actually working as peace builders and mediators. I am genuinely touched by this conference and when I’m back home in the Netherlands I want to start up an MBB University Chapter,” said Rachel Loeve, exchange student from the Netherlands.
Both the leaders of MBB and the general members expressed a deep appreciation for the students who were in attendance. On multiple occasions, leaders and members of MBB praised the students before entire congress and commented that student members are the future leaders of conflict resolution initiatives in the world.
“Hearing about the real-world challenges of professionals in the thick of resolving conflict, like Ken Cloke, Lynn Cole, Tom Fiutak, Prabha Sankaranarayan, and Judge Srdan Simac, helped to put in perspective what the preparation and learning of law school is really all about. I would recommend this conference to any law student dedicated to serving the local and global communities in changing our world,” said Michael Kelley.
In addition to the leaders praising the students, Zarra Elias was a keynote speaker at the conference and had the opportunity to address the congress. Zarra is the chair of MBB’s University Chapter Leadership Committee, and she spoke passionately about the work being done by the student chapters, the rapid progress of GADR at UF Law, and the need for more practical, skills-based training for university students.
“From listening to speakers to attending workshop presentations, I must say that this has been one of best conferences I have attended. I have never been in a room filled with that many inspiring people. Meeting judges, attorneys, doctors, and fellow law students have been a remarkable experience for me. The conference is a testament of goodwill as well as a reminder that many people are capable of opening their hearts to strangers and those in need. They are not just mediators, but they are also ambassadors of peace and kindness,” said Zarra Elias.
Based on the input from Zarra and the other student members, the MBB executive board is currently putting together a proposal to host a national workshop specifically for student members to facilitate skills-based conflict resolution trainings to better prepare students for service.
Mediators Beyond Borders (MBB) is a non-profit, humanitarian organization that partners with communities worldwide in order to build their conflict resolution capacity for preventing, resolving and healing from conflict. MBB is comprised of professional alternative dispute resolution specialists and students of all backgrounds who share a common passion for bringing conflict resolution to communities in need across the world. GADR is one of twelve MBB student chapters.