May 3, 2002 — Two neighbors have a dispute about damage to one of their properties. A student is truant from his high school for several weeks. Former business partners have different views on assets they should keep after parting ways. All of these situations could be the start of protracted legal battles in the courts with costly attorneys’ fees and a permanent rift in relationships.
Or they could mediate. The mediation process allows both parties to come together with a neutral facilitator, a mediator, and resolve their dispute in less time and for less money-and may even help avoid permanently straining relationships.
Leonard and Michelle Hawes have been training mediators for more than 10 years to do just that. Today they received the Peacekeeper Award from the Utah Council on Conflict Resolution (UCCR) at the organization’s annual symposium on alternative dispute resolution.
According to Christine Durham, chief justice of the Utah Supreme Court, resolving conflicts through alternative means is a growing trend in the nation and Utah is leading the way. This is in no small measure due to the efforts of Leonard and Michelle Hawes. Governmental support for these efforts in Utah is also very high, evidenced by the attendance at today’s conference, which includedDurham, former Chief Justice Michael Zimmerman, and Governor Leavitt’s chief of staff, Rich McKeown.
The Conflict Resolution Program has trained more than 300 people in alternative dispute resolution and mediation since the early 1990s. “We have a wide diversity of people in the program of all ages, races, and backgrounds,” Leonard Hawes explained. “We’ve had attorneys, physicians, police officers, human resource specialists, fire department chiefs, and union leaders, to name a few.”
Each year about 100 people apply for 36 slots in the one-year program. “Our graduates are in all kinds of organizations, including the governor’s office, government agencies like the Division of Child and Family Services, health care, law enforcement, for-profit businesses, real estate, labor management, and social-cause groups such as the NAACP. There have been members of the clergy from several different religions, as well,” said Hawes. The program qualifies the graduates to become certified mediators and negotiators in Utah. It can also be used for continuing education credits for attorneys.
One graduate, Nini Rich, is now a child welfare mediator for the Utah Administrative Office of the Courts. “So much of what used to have no recourse except through the courts can now be resolved through mediation. The use of mediation would not be at the high level it is in Utah without the work of the Haweses,” she said.
Leonard Hawes, a professor of communication, co-founded the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center at the University of Utah in 1990, which grew into the Conflict Resolution Certificate Program in 1993. He has published and taught courses on the topics of conflict resolution, discourse, and peace studies. He is currently developing a new tract in the master’s program on negotiation. In October he was an invited consultant at the University of Denmark to help develop a program on institutional conflict resolution. Government officials in Denmark have invited the Haweses to return next year to continue this work.
Michelle Hawes has taught for the certificate program since 1996 and co-directs the program. She is an adjunct associate professor of communication and a senior partner of Praxis, a communication and conflict management consulting and training company in Salt Lake City, where her clients include government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and educational institutions. She also volunteers in local high schools where she trains at-risk students to be conflict resolvers.
This year’s UCCR conference, “An Invitation to Dialogue,” is being held May 3 – 4 at the Utah Law and Justice Center (645 S. 200 E.) in Salt Lake City. Former Utah Supreme Court Justice Michael Zimmerman is chair of the UCCR Board of Trustees.
More information about the Conflict Resolution Certificate Program can be found at http://www.hum.utah.edu/communication/. Additional information about UCCR is available at http://www.mediate.com/utah/.