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Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Capstones Analyze Google Nest, the City of Minneapolis, and the Dakota Access Pipeline

How do parties that disagree with each other arrive at working solutions? Akeema Duff, Tia Patrick, and Yuanhan He set out to find answers to precisely this question as part of their Negotiation and Conflict Resolution capstone projects.  

Columbia University’s Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program prepares students to analyze the root causes and dynamics of conflict and to transform disputes through reasoned and resourceful interventions.

The end product of this rigorous graduate degree program is the capstone project: a sequence of four courses, taken throughout the length of the program. The process starts with case study selection and conflict analysis; data collection and interpretation; the identification and implementation of resolution strategies; and finally, methods to ensure sustainable and enduring solutions. 

Below are some of the highlights from the Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Summer 2022 capstone thesis presentations, featuring students Akeema Duff, Tia Patrick, and Yuanhan He, whose topics spanned across organizational, community, and international conflicts.

Organizational Conflict: Google LLC and Nest

Akeema Duff, who works with Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City, chose to do her capstone on the dissatisfaction among employees stemming from the 2014 merger between Google LLC and Nest, a manufacturer of smart home products. Duff’s analysis of online reviews and social media posts of former and current employees revealed that job insecurity, low empowerment, and ineffective communication were the main drivers of discontent. To overcome these issues, Duff’s prescription for Google was to implement interventions like action review cycles and strategic visioning processes to validate past experiences of Nest employees and bring them on par with those of Google’s existing employees. 

The Road to Resolution: Employing conflict resolution strategies to improve relations between Minneapolis community members and police

Tia Patrick, a 2021 Columbia HBCU Fellow and Negotiation and Conflict Resolution student, focused her capstone project on improving relations between the Minneapolis community and the police department in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in May 2020. She identified the lack of trust and fear between community members, elected officials, and police officers as a source of heightened tensions. Employing a case-study methodology to get a pulse on the lived experiences of those impacted, Patrick was able to trace the source of mistrust to a historic lack of accountability for police guilty of wrongdoing. Innovative solutions like improvisational theater and online small-group discussions were proposed by Patrick as methods to increase understanding and encourage dialogue between community members and police officers.

Dakota Access Pipeline Conflict: Bridging the gap between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Yuanhan He, who previously worked in Digital Marketing with Fendi, chose to analyze the conflict between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016. For her capstone presentation, she identified the lack of environmental and cultural considerations for the Sioux Tribe as the root cause of conflict. She advocated for the adoption of large group scenario planning as a means to voice the concerns of all involved parties and chart a path to a collectively agreeable course of action. This, He posited, would serve to increase constructive communication and decrease the knowledge gap that is often the source of tension between parties. 

Capstone presentations take place toward the end of the fall, spring, and summer semesters and are open to the public. Registration opens one month prior to the event. 

Learn more about the M.S. in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution program


Image: Source - Bakken / Dakota Access Oil Pipeline, Tony Webster

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