Applied Conflict Management program celebrates 40 years, prepares Ph.D. program

Alexandra Fagan

The Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970, put the university in a unique position to promote and study non-violent means of social and political change.

A year later, the Center for Peaceful Change was established, which quickly grew into the undergraduate degree program, Applied Conflict Management. The center is celebrating its 40 year anniversary of the Conflict Management degree program and the introduction of its Ph.D. program, Conflict Analysis and Management, in the fall.

“The biggest shift in the 40 years is an increasing concentration on degree delivery,” said Patrick Coy, director and professor in the Center of Applied Conflict Management. The department used to do more hands-on work with the community and the campus, but as Kent State has become a major research university, focuses have shifted.

“We are moving in the direction to set up this doctoral program and we are trying to set up a master’s degree program as well,” Coy said. “We are known for conflict and we should also be known for constructive conflict management.”

Coy said conflict management is concerned with teaching, learning and practicing constructive approaches to managing conflict, an ever-present element in day-to-day life.

Karen Cunningham, assistant professor of conflict management, said one of the advantages of her department is teaching students skills they can use no matter what their focus is.

“As people start realizing the importance of conflict management skills we have seen the field grow, our program grow, our classes grow and we have seen a lot more opportunities for our students to find jobs and pursue different avenues depending on what they are really interested in doing,” Cunningham said.

Ronny Daugherty, junior conflict management major, said he plans to pursue a career in victim offender mediation.

“The classes you can choose from give a wide variety of selection that can help you choose a career,” Daugherty said. “The professors help out a lot, too, and are always being willing to help students with whatever they need.”

When Cunningham started teaching in 1990, there were approximately two sections of introduction conflict management courses available that held about 20 students. Today, that number has grown to approximately 10 sections a semester with around 50 students per class, Cunningham said.

“It has been a neat evolution watching the program grow over the years,” Cunningham said.

Contact Alexandra Fagan at [email protected].