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SPS Students Take Home Bronze in International Negotiation Competition

A group of three students representing two Columbia University School of Professional Studies (SPS) graduate programs was the only American team that advanced to the final round of an international negotiation competition, ultimately taking home the bronze prize.

The team, composed of Zack Billick (’24SPS, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution), Jerome Crettol (’24SPS, Negotiation and Conflict Resolution), and Anna Goula (’24SPS, Nonprofit Management), placed third in The Negotiation Challenge, hosted by the University of Twente in the Netherlands in March and April 2024.

The Negotiation Challenge is among the oldest and most prestigious international negotiation competitions. Sixty-six teams participated in the qualifying rounds, and only 14 made it to the finals in the city of Enschede. A team representing the University of Twente won this year’s competition, with Omar Fawzy from the University of Twente was recognized with the year’s Outstanding Negotiator award. Students from the University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland, placed second.

Each year, participants are asked to negotiate the best possible outcomes based on a series of realistic simulations. In this year’s final competition, which consisted of three rounds, the SPS team represented a film production house seeking a contract with a streaming service, a wine distributor looking to expand, and tech optimists arguing for no restrictions on AI.

Team Members Jerome Crettol, Anna Goula, and Zack Billick

Left to right: Jerome Crettol, Anna Goula, Zack Billick

Negotiation and Conflict Resolution (NECR) student Zack Billick shared that unlike other teams, who received extensive support from competitors from previous years, the three SPS students had only one another to rely on.

“I think what separates some of the results is how well you work as a team and how well you can communicate with each other,” Billick said. “I think part of the competition tested us on how you can handle yourself in an intense situation. If it’s very stressful, are you able to regroup as a team? If someone makes a mistake, how do you handle it?”

Fellow NECR student Jerome Crettol said the competition was a culmination of his master’s program.

“It was a good way to wrap everything up and to apply everything that I learned,” he said. “It highlighted the value of training to become a good negotiator.”

Nonprofit Management student Anna Goula decided to take her learnings from the competition one step further by hosting a similar event for underprivileged high school students in New York City.

“It’s exciting that we’re able to take this and not only integrate the things that we’ve learned into our lives and what we’re doing, but hopefully even make a difference in the high school region,” she said.

Goula has since worked with The Negotiation Challenge in organizing a competition for high schoolers that was held at the end of May, with teammate Crettol and NECR alumni Isadora Costa Caldas (’23SPS, NECR) and Cody Smith (’14SPS, NECR) as judges.

About the Program

Columbia University’s Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution prepares students to analyze the root causes and dynamics of conflict and to transform disputes through reasoned and resourceful interventions. The program focuses on developing self-awareness, tenacity, and interpersonal competency; building common ground; opening lines of communication; ensuring representation and recognition, and building sustainable possibilities for resolution.

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