New Mediation Service at Kent State Offers Conflict Management for Students
A new on-campus mediation service is underway at Kent State University for students experiencing conflict. Student Mediation Services, which began this fall, is led by Jacquelyn Bleak and is located at 118 Twin Towers on the Kent Campus.
Although the office is providing services now for students, its main focus this semester is conducting a needs assessment of all students. The assessment includes formal and informal surveys, as well as focus groups, to narrow down the particular needs of Kent State students.
“If I know how students deal with conflict in their everyday life, I can better understand what services might work best and how to deliver those services,” Bleak says. “We are also trying to figure out what it’s going to take for students to reach out.”
The three main services the office will provide include mediation, facilitation and conflict coaching. Mediation is a confidential and voluntary process in which an impartial third party assists two or more people experiencing a conflict or disagreement. Facilitation deals with a neutral third party intervening to assist a group conflict or a conflict between two groups. Conflict coaching is a process in which an individual works one-on-one with a conflict coach to improve problem-solving skills or design options for approaching a certain conflict.
“We’ve seen on other campuses and universities that have embraced conflict management that it’s really worked out for the students’ benefit,” Bleak says. “Students who participate in mediation end up doing better in school, graduating more often and are less likely to be so distracted by a conflict that it impacts their grades or their academic standing.”
Bleak says referrals from trusted faculty and staff are imperative.
“One of the benefits of mediation is how effective it is,” Bleak says. “If a student is experiencing a challenging situation, they may be more likely to reach out to the service if the referral comes from someone whom they can count on. Faculty and staff are more than welcome to refer students to the office, and word-of-mouth will be especially helpful for the long-term success of the office.”
The mission of the office is to have a lasting impact on students.
“My goal is that we can provide these services to students throughout their career here at Kent State,” Bleak says. “Ultimately, when they leave us, they’ll already have those tools available to them when they find themselves in the workplace because conflicts do not end when we leave college.”
Because the office is so new, Bleak says she needs art to decorate the walls. Students are invited to participate in an art contest and submit a piece of art to hang in the front lobby. The winning piece should be able to fit in a 6 x 9 foot space. Artists are asked to consider the office’s themes of transformation, recognition, empathy and empowerment as they are designing their pieces. Artwork is due on Dec. 12 and can be submitted to the Student Mediation Services office via email. The winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card.
Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to reach out to the office to provide insight as to how the service could be improved or to offer any thoughts they may have.