The following post was written by MA in Peace and Justice student, Aaron J. Pellot
When I was looking for an internship, I originally had no idea what I was going to do, or what field to really look in. The idea of an internship really brought some stress as I felt confused about what an internship could mean for the rest of my time here at USD, and my career development after. I am extremely grateful to Marissa Newman, the Kroc School’s Coordinator of Student Success, who was able to provide clarity and direction on a possible organization that would later offer me an internship, which I felt lucky to accept.
For my internship, I accepted an offer from the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center (APADRC). Located in Los Angeles, California, the APADRC is a mediation and facilitation center that works with parties on conflict resolution. I have been fortunate enough that although the center is located in Los Angeles, due to the pandemic, interns could work remotely. It was exciting to see I wasn’t the only one remote from another city, as one of my co-workers is currently working remotely from Taiwan!
Photo: Aaron Pellot
I have never considered myself a mediator. I do not believe my career path is leading me to be a mediator either. It was not until the fall semester of 2020, that my perspective changed on the concept and skills of mediation. I was taking mediation last semester, taught by Dr. Phil Gamaghelyan when my thoughts on mediation changed. Coming from a background in communications, language, dialogue, rhetoric, and semantics have all been essential to the art of storytelling. Whether I was writing, helping produce television, or hosting a podcast, I always tried to understand how to tell the story of those around me.
Since leaving my career in media and moving down a new path, my perspective has changed a bit. Yes, storytelling is still essential. How we structure conversations around conflict and peace is essential to peacebuilding and sustainability. Where my gaze has changed is who is telling the story now. Conflict parties know their situations more than we can ever really understand. This is true no matter the size of the conflict — it could be a war or a dispute with a next-door neighbor. When I started to take mediation, I came to realize this was about agency, and creating space for parties to tell their stories for themselves; to share their truth, their perspective. Working with parties to help them find a solution for their conflict was a different space I came to recognize. I keep this approach with me at the APADRC. From my early training to working on mediation cases live as they happen, I continue to remind myself, “this is not about me, this is their story.” This has changed how I understand dialogue building, and how I appreciate mediation.
Community mediation. Source: https://apadrc.org/
I am a few weeks into my internship and have been thrown into the fire. After some training, I was not sure how much mediating we actually would be accomplishing. Quickly I have been thrown into the mix learning how to read and understand cases, how to intake those cases, and am trying to utilize my organizing and community building skills to help expand the network of the organization itself. We work in 4 hour shifts Monday-Friday and spend time assessing cases as a team when we are done for the day. My time has been short, but it has certainly been productive so far. I am learning how to hone skills in ways I never thought I would. While my perspective on being a professional mediator has not yet changed, I have come to realize something about mediation and what I hope to do with these new skills I am developing. Mediation continues to be a toolbox of skills I can take with me anywhere — that are valuable everywhere. Whether I decide to stay in media or do something in communications, mediation continues to teach me about letting people tell their stories, understanding how wildly different our perspectives are and leaving room for grace in this peacebuilding process. It certainly is not always easy, as I continue to work through this internship into the summer, but I am certainly finding more than what I ever imagined, working for the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center.