It is an odd scene: thirty or so strangers gesticulating, nipping at each other, and slowly repositioning their cars along a single-lane road in exurban Missouri. We’re all here to catch our two-minute glimpse of the Great American Eclipse. Parking space is scarce, and everyone wants a spot. Still, we might, with a little creativity squeeze everyone in and preserve the view from our chosen bluff.
This shuffling draws my memory back to the first day of the “Negotiation Workshop.” During the opening plenary, the teaching team highlights how every student has extensive negotiation experience. Here in Lone Elk Park, I see exactly how.
My path to the dispute resolution community at Harvard began just forty miles from this midwestern park. As a high school teacher in north St. Louis County, I witnessed and participated in policy disputes about educational equity and racial justice that drew national attention. I came to law school to study how law shapes conflicts like those. In the “Negotiation Workshop,” I also found the opportunity to explore the human elements that ultimately define them.
Since then, opportunities provided by the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP) have challenged me to take those human questions as seriously as the legal ones. My clinical team, for example, was asked to evaluate and propose revisions to a special education dispute resolution process for Washington, DC public schools. Rachel Krol, our clinical instructor, encouraged us to learn from community members in creative ways: attending a family engagement summit, examining chatter about our client on social media, and more.