How to Become a Conflict Resolution and Negotiation Professional

A. Marco Turk, J.D. is professor emeritus and the founding director of Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peacebuilding at California State University Dominguez Hills. Professor Turk began teaching in 1995, when he entered the criminology, law & society department and later the global peace and conflict studies program at the University of California, Irvine.

Professor Turk has an impressive and extensive background. He has been a member of the State Bar of California since 1961, has experience as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association, and served as a member of the State Bar Board of Governors’ Committee on Alternative Dispute Resolution. In addition, Professor Turk has performed extensive work in the ethnic conflict arena. He was a Fulbright senior scholar and has made several trips to Cyprus to work on peacebuilding with Greek and Turkish Cypriots. In 2003, Professor Turk became the first-ever recipient of the A.M. Turk Values Award, given to him by the Negotiation, Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding Affinity Association of California State University Dominguez Hills.

What is conflict resolution and negotiation?

Actually, our program is negotiation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding. Negotiation is mutual discussion with the purpose of coming to an agreement about an issue or issues. Conflict management is the managing of an existing conflict so that it does not escalate. Conflict resolution is the resolving of an existing conflict.

What do you find most interesting about conflict resolution and negotiation?

The ability of people to move from positions to points of view so as to satisfy their respective interests and underlying needs.

What is your least favorite aspect of conflict resolution and negotiation?

The hostility that people in conflict exhibit toward each other and the intransigence that results.

Are there subfields of conflict resolution and negotiation that students might not be aware of?

The subject crosses all lines of human interaction irrespective of fields or categories. One example is the field of marital dissolution.

What careers do students commonly pursue with a degree in conflict resolution and negotiation? All sorts. Some go into teaching, others into law, medicine, foreign service, human resources, psychology, government service, management, etc.

Is a graduate degree preferable for a career in conflict resolution and negotiation, or can someone enter the field with a bachelor’s degree?

A graduate degree is preferable.

What personality traits do you think a student should have in order to be successful in a conflict resolution and negotiation program?

Ability to listen, empathize, understand, be nonjudgmental, patient, and put themselves in another person’s “shoes.”

What electives would you recommend that a student in a conflict resolution and negotiation program take?

It depends on the curriculum offered by the particular graduate program. As for undergraduate work, psychology and communication courses are good.

What study tips would you give to a student to help him or her succeed in a conflict resolution and negotiation program?

Attend class fully prepared, participate in class discussions regularly, and contrast reading assignments with current events that relate to this field of study. There are plenty of examples in each edition of any morning newspaper.

Do you think conflict resolution and negotiation is a subject that can be studied online, or is a traditional class environment ideal?

It can be studied online, and we have one of the best programs for that in the world. However, personal interaction is always best, so I would have to rate that in first position.

What pieces of advice, or caution, would you offer to a prospective student of conflict resolution and negotiation?

Make sure that the student’s personality is well suited to this. Not everyone can do this or is willing to make the necessary personality changes (which are possible) to conduct themselves in this manner.