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This Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Alumnus is Serving as a Direct Line of Contact Between the New York Governor and Some of the City’s Hardest Hit Communities

As the Brooklyn Regional Representative for the Office of the New York Governor, Christian J. Williams ('15SPS) is putting his Master’s in Negotiation & Conflict Resolution to work, responding to the changing and often competing needs of the borough’s constituency as the state continues to contain and treat coronavirus. 

What are the most important skills that you gained or perfected through the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program? 

It continues to be a great blessing to be part of the NECR family. The most important skills that I've gained through the M.S. in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program are negotiation, mediation, reflective listening, and the ability to articulate resolution strategies to address complex matters. These skills allow great flexibility when communicating with various stakeholders. In my current role, I have the privilege of serving as the governor's top New York State official in Brooklyn. I manage relationships with elected officials, steer inter-departmental/ interagency initiatives, and lead community outreach to promote state policies and ensure effective and open communication between government and the communities it serves. 

How have those skills carried you through your career and specifically in your current role, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic?  

During COVID-19, I often spend time discussing budgetary matters with elected officials and collaborating on ways to address ongoing as well as emergent issues. While we’re all working to ensure the delivery of critical state resources to Brooklyn residents, the priorities change quickly and often, and sometimes they even compete. This role - especially during these times - doesn't have a set schedule; rather, each day brings new opportunities to assist the constituents where I often have to use theory and skills I gained through the program. From using advanced mediation strategies to practicing self-awareness, I can’t think of a more critical time than now to use everything I learned through Columbia’s M.S. in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program.

What made Columbia the right choice for you to earn an M.S. in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution?  

Columbia was the right choice for me to earn an M.S. in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution as I gained invaluable skills in analyzing the root causes and dynamics of conflict along with applying interventions for complex matters. Attending Columbia was the best decision I have made both personally and professionally. The career opportunities that have been offered to me are the direct result of the connections I made while attending graduate school. Last fall, I had the tremendous honor to serve as an Associate for the Applying Conflict Analysis course with the talented Betsy Keating, where the class focused on applying theory to practice utilizing data collected from conflict analysis tools. 

What advice would you give to students who will graduate soon? Which skills and competencies should they be perfecting as they prepare to enter the working world?

The best advice I could give a student who is graduating is to be flexible for different opportunities, as you have a degree that is adaptive to many professions. I strongly recommend practicing all of the alternative dispute resolution skills you have learned, as each job is likely to rely on several of its components. Applying agility, grit and a willingness to try new things is a sign to an employer that a candidate has the necessary confidence and adaptability to handle the responsibilities of the job. 

Another piece of advice I recommend is to take risks and to be fearless in conquering your goals. It is perfectly fine to not have everything figured out yet. There is a beauty in knowing that the skills learned today will prepare you to be a leader of tomorrow. Take that new opportunity that arises and be great. Nothing can stop you from achieving your goals, as long as you are determined to make it happen. Please be encouraged in utilizing the resources that Columbia has to offer and enjoy the journey!

Learn more about the Master of Science in Negotiation & Conflict Resolution at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies.