LOWELL, Mass. – A UMass Lowell student who wants one day to help bring stability to his native Nigeria placed third in a national contest that tests competitors’ mediation skills.
Ikechukwu Ikerionwu, a Lowell resident who is pursuing a master’s degree in UMass Lowell’s Peace and Conflict Studies Program
, competed against more than 80 students from 17 universities in the 2013 Cyberweek eMediation Competition, hosted by Cornell University. Using real cases, contestants served as mediators, corresponding online with parties representing the plaintiff and defendant. A panel of judges that included the chief of staff of the National Mediation Board and other alternative-dispute resolution experts evaluated contestants’ techniques throughout the process.
Ikerionwu learned his skills through the UMass Lowell course, “Mediation: Theory and Practice.” Combining academic theory, experiential education such as role playing, skill-building and observation of real-life mediation sessions, the course trains undergraduate and graduate students to be mediators in accordance with guidelines set by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Experienced mediators also coach students in dispute-resolution techniques through a partnership between UMass Lowell and the Middlesex Law Center at Lowell District Court.
“The competition was an avenue to put what we learned in class into practice,” Ikerionwu said. “The UMass Lowell mediation course has all it takes to produce experts in the alternative-dispute resolution field and I have come to realize we are one of the best, judging from my experience in the competition.”
After graduation, Ikerionwu hopes to use his skills to help Nigerians find non-violent ways to settle conflicts.
The UMass Lowell mediation course is offered through the university’s Division of Online and Continuing Education. Once students complete the course, they may apply to become court mediators. Two former students are volunteering as mediators with Middlesex Law Center.
“I am so proud of Ike for representing UMass Lowell at this national competition and for earning third place,” said Seth Izen, Ikerionwu’s instructor and the assistant director of the Middle East Center for Peace, Development and Culture at UMass Lowell. “His success validates the important work we are doing in preparing students to resolve conflicts on the local, national and international level.”
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