My Take on the Programme at Pepperdine University

– Garima Wadhwa Kapoor

In life, we are constantly facing an arrangement of swirling moments, whether it is a swirl in our thought processes, day to day occurrences or in our relationships. These swirls in life can either move in an ascending or descending directions, ascending being the more positive of the two. When taking a close look at the possible situations that could take place, there are moments when mediation is a necessary tool for resolving disputes and problem solving. Firmly believing that relationships are an important factor in our lives, mediation and learning to be a skilled mediator is of utmost importance because it works to reverse any descending swirl taking place within our relationships or in a society. 

Looking at the rapid growth of mediation over the past few years, an important question for young and aspiring mediators is whether it is worth the time and/or money to invest in any extensive mediation and dispute resolution training programme that have come up around the world. Trying to pursue the track of a young mediator is hard enough without being distracted by opportunities that may not be worth the time or expense required to see them through and it is important to carefully exercise your options while doing so. These were the exact thoughts that came to my mind when I had the privilege to attend this advance mediation training programme at Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, Pepperdine University, School of Law. 

Pepperdine is everything I dreamt it to be and I couldn’t be happier that I took this opportunity to attend this programme. It was really an eye opening, taking up this programme and coming to this place, meeting so many wonderful people who constantly challenged me to think critically and push me to go beyond my capacities. At Pepperdine, I instantly gained a family and felt like a part of the scene. I was ecstatic to be at the university which has been voted as one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation and thats no joke. Located in the heart of Malibu, California, it really is breathtakingly amazing. Beautiful, well kept landscaping, rolling hills and awesome view of the ocean, truly sums up Pepperdine. 

The Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution has been ranked as the #1 dispute resolution programme for the 9th consecutive year and my attendance at this programme has been an important cornerstone for my mediation skills. The programme was an entirely practical, interactive course designed to bring the mediators to the fringe of disaster followed by proficient recuperation. It also taught me that surviving as a mediator is dependant on the ability to predict, control and live through unexpected perversities of dispute. In the process of learning, I also realised that there are many instruments that the mediator can install to avert obstruction which hamper negotiation and lost settlement opportunities. 

The entertaining presentation style, participatory arrangement and frequent use of invigorating exercises to strengthen learning points made this programme different from the others. It also gave a lot of emphasis on the fact that the beginning impacts the end, teaching about customising your convening process and opening statement, rapid and trust building strategies which maximise the potential for settlement in mediation. Another important and a very new experience for me was communication across cultures/ cross cultural disputes – working with different processing styles, direct and indirect speakers, different levels of risk taking and different attitudes towards law and equity. The programme also taught about strategic questioning that is moving beyond information gathering and utilise questions for moderating tempo and power balancing and creating empathy. It provided information on diagnosing resistance and moving beyond an impasse, assessing the specific cause of obstacle to settlement and choosing the appropriate intervention to move beyond an impasse. 

I, as a mediator, never gave such a dimension to apology and forgiveness, the way it was taken care of at the Straus institute. They introduced me to exploring the intricacies of apology in mediation, including the types of apology, the different components (timing, sincerity, delivery), what types of apologies work and what type of apologies will backfire, creating true and effective resolution. 

The programme also focussed on the various stages of the process, identifying and working with different negotiation style and facilitating problem solving regardless of its nature. It made me realise that every successful mediation requires focus and direction and also the mediators must command and keep the party’s trust to find the divisive issues early in the process, allowing the participants to direct their efforts more effectively. I learned that opportunities for a quick resolution do exist and they should not be missed. 

Pepperdine has given me the best time and needless to say that I learnt a lot from this experience. People I met are genuine, passionate, experienced, kind and want to create a positive impact on the world. I would choose to attend Pepperdine over and over again if given an opportunity.