June 25, 2012
A hallmark of St. John’s School of Law is its commitment to
serving the Vincentian mission of redressing injustice through
advocacy and reform. This commitment is manifest in
The Hugh L Carey Center for Dispute Resolution, a leader in the
growing field of alternative dispute
resolution, offering courses, conferences, clinics and
co-curricular activities with the aim of developing conflict
resolution as both a value and a practice in students’ professional
lives, communities and the world. This year, through the initiative
Elayne E. Greenberg, Director of the Carey Center and Assistant
Dean of Dispute Resolution Programs, the Law School launched a
chapter of the non-profit humanitarian organization Mediators
Beyond Borders (MBB).
Partnering with NGO's, universities, political and activist
groups, community organizations, professional societies,
environmental, commercial and other entities, MBB helps communities
worldwide to build their capacity for preventing, resolving and
healing conflict. “The St. John’s Chapter of Mediators Beyond
Border offers our students an unparalleled opportunity to further
develop global dispute resolution skills in a way that also
reinforces the values of our Vincentian University,” said Professor
Greenberg. Two students, Yael Boloker ’12 and Josh Samples ’12,
collaborated with Professor Greenberg to start the St. John’s MBB
Chapter. Law School Communications Director Lori Herz spoke to them
about the experience.
LH: When and how did you get involved with Mediators
Beyond Borders at St. John’s?
JS: I first became involved with MBB when
Professor Greenberg approached me in the summer of 2010. At the
time, she was in the early stages of establishing a University
Chapter at St. John's. Our initial vision was to create a program
in Spain to help young soccer players in poor communities prepare
culturally for a professional soccer career. Although the program
did not materialize, our efforts were the first steps in
establishing the MBB chapter at St. John's.
YB: I was interning in the ADR (Alternative
Dispute Resolution) unit at the Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission in 2011 and two people I worked closely with, Brad Roth
and Patricia Araujo, were forming MBB’s New York Professional
Chapter. I asked Professor Greenberg if we were involved in MBB or
had any other opportunities like it at St. John’s. She said that
St. John’s had started the process to become a recognized
University Chapter, but the founding students had graduated.
Together with Professor Greenberg, we identified the remaining
requirements to make St. John’s a chartered chapter. We held an
initial meeting to gauge student interest and, with the
overwhelming response, started the journey to becoming a vibrant
and active University Chapter.
LH: MBB partners with communities across the globe on a
range of initiatives. Is the Law School’s MBB chapter involved in
any of MBB’s current projects?
YB: This year, we’re partnering on a project
with the Rwanda team. Two St. John’s students will travel to Rwanda
with the team to mediate conflicts and, even more importantly, to
train local parties on different sides of the conflict to be
effective mediators who can resolve differences without violence,
even after the team leaves. In addition to the Rwanda project,
we’re working with other MBB chapters to organize a trip along Abraham’s Path, an
initiative founded by acclaimed mediator William Ury to bring
together people of many faiths, provide common ground and highlight
the shared faith traditions of our ancestors.
LH: What are the next steps in building the St. John’s
chapter’s partnership with MBB? Do you plan to initiate any
projects or initiatives?
YB: MBB University Chapters aim to work on
international and local projects. On the international front, the
UN General Assembly recently approved the peace mediation
resolution presented by Finland and Turkey. MBB worked with the
Turkish ambassador to draft and pass this resolution and hopes to
be an integral part of its implementation. The St. John’s Chapter
could play a role in this effort, in addition to our ongoing work
with the Rwanda team. For our local project, we’re partnering with
Community Mediation Services
to train in mediation and to help resolve a variety of conflicts in
our Queens, N.Y. community. We also actively engage with other
University Chapters. This past year, we proposed a chapter
mediation competition as an opportunity to meet face to face and
hope to hold that event soon. We will also invite professionals in
the field to the Law School to provide skill-building opportunities
in cross-cultural encounters, trauma training, gender differences,
mediation training and more. MBB’s New York Professional Chapter
has expressed interest in creating a mentoring program with our
students and to have us partner on their projects. We also hope to
involve other schools at St. John’s in our activities.
LH: How has your involvement with Mediators Beyond
Borders enhanced your legal education at St. John’s?
JS: MBB has challenged me to look beyond the
walls of the classroom and into the world of real life conflict. It
has also given me the opportunity to make a real difference on a
global scale ― to take knowledge cultivated in the classroom and
spread it to communities that need it. I am thankful for this
opportunity and challenge future St. John’s law students to truly
take advantage of this program.
YB: MBB has allowed me to put into practice
methodologies and theories I learned in the classroom. It builds
skills in numerous ways, from how to handle difficult clients to
collaborating with attorneys and professionals in other
disciplines. More importantly, it exposes students to a broader
application of the law. MBB has allowed me to learn and apply
local, state, federal, international and UN law. In addition to
learning ADR, you learn how to resolve practical problems that
arise in any business, such as funding, grants, accounting,
accreditation and continuing education.
LH: How has your work with MBB altered or enriched your
understanding of the field of dispute resolution/conflict
resolution and the role of lawyers as leaders in that
JS: Through my work establishing our MBB
University Chapter, I gained a great deal of appreciation for the
organization’s mission and the role MBB plays on a global scale. In
the classroom, I learned about ADR through the lens of fact
patterns and role-playing scenarios. And with MBB, I learned about
real issues and how MBB and its members are helping to establish
effective dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve those issues. In
the end, my experience with MBB served as a link between the
classroom and the interesting and complex real world of lawyering
and conflict resolution.
YB: My involvement with MBB has already
enriched my professional life. My view of conflict and disputes has
been broadened, not in the sense of across the world, but in the
sense that minute conflicts can be derived from many different
sources and occur on a myriad of scales. MBB has challenged any
understanding I had as a student about dispute resolution. It has
helped me zero in on the root of resolution issues, rather than
solving the facial demands of the interested parties. The real gem
of MBB is its professional members. The members are very successful
and have dynamic experience, skills and characteristics students
can emulate and adopt. Going to the MBB conference this year was
the most inspiring moment of my law school career.
LH: How have your professors mentored you and otherwise
supported your work with MBB?
JS: Professors Elayne Greenberg,
Christine Lazaro and
Chris Borgen were integral in my development as both a law
student and as a young attorney. My passion is international ADR,
and each of these professors dedicated their time and experience to
helping me take steps towards initiating a successful career. I can
honestly say that I have lasting memories with each of these
individuals and that they are truly valuable to the students at St.
YB: Professor Greenberg has been a driving
force behind the creation of St. John’s MBB Chapter. Her support
and initiative have allowed us to brainstorm new ideas, tailor
projects that are exciting and valuable on our career paths and
avoid making mistakes that would waste our time and resources.
Rachel Andron, Director of our Public Interest Center, has also
been a big supporter of our programs. She helped us design the
local program, discussing with us the successes and mistakes of
other student initiatives. I must also mention Professor
Robin Boyle, Associate Dean for Academic Success and Professor
of Legal Writing, as a major supporter of MBB. She helped me
connect with my fellow students and share this exciting new
opportunity with them.
LH: Yael and Josh, we look forward to seeing the Law
School’s Mediators Beyond Borders chapter grow and thrive. Thank
you for sharing your experience with us.