PROFILE: Managing Conflict: Education is Salvation

By: ANGELA NOMMENSEN ‘17

When most people hear the term conflict they tend to feel negatively. People like Pacific Lutheran University professor Dr. Amanda Feller feel the opportunity of possible change and transformation. Conflict is persuasive, never resolved, but managed through time.

This is a performance conflict model which shows to a certain degree conflict encourages better performance. It also shows when there is too much conflict you will have lower performance tendencies.

This is a performance conflict model which shows to a certain degree conflict encourages better performance. It also shows when there is too much conflict you will have lower performance tendencies.

While teaching many communications courses Feller’s forte is in conflict, dialogue, transformative and experiential learning. Feller has a doctorate in humanities and transformational learning and change from California Institute of Integral Studies.

Feller was raised to feel a need to strive and transcend her education to others. She feels her students and mentoring are the most exciting and important part of her job.

“Students are the heart of the whole enterprise.” Feller said, “There is never a day when I wake up and say, why am I doing this?”

One course Feller is teaching this semester is conflict and communications. This class focuses on teaching the students how to create dialogue and changing the narrative to progress the communication with in the conflict.

Professor Amanda Feller instructing her conflict and communication class on group presentation for a global problem. Their job is to identify and break down where the communication errors that occurred detailing their findings into a refined report at the end of the semester.

Professor Amanda Feller instructing her conflict and communication class on their group projects on a global problem. Their job is to identify and break down where the communication errors occurred, detailing their findings into a refined report and presentation at the end of the semester. Picture taken by Angela Nommensen

“Being in this class I have been able to look at things form a holistic prospective.” Turner said, “It helps you make a critical analysis with more depth and you’re able to look at different issues with certain lenses.”

Feller has created global ties which have benefited the students. In recent years she received a Regency grant which took her to Norway to work with the Nansen Dialogue Network. This organization works on transformations and dialogue across Europe and Macedonia. She also traveled to Ireland to work with Corrymeela on the Northern Ireland conflicts.

The connections Feller was able to build during her travels helped students during selective travel grant applications. One political science student received a Fulbright grant which enabled him to travel to Skopje Nansen Dialogue Center in Macedonia. While in Norway the student and Feller received the opportunity to coauthor a lead article for the “Conflict Resolution Quarterly Journal.”

Feller also was able to help another PLU student’s application process for a Corrymeela program. The student was selected into the program which only chose 10 people worldwide.

Feller uses her ties to reach out in other ways for the PLU community as well. She will be bringing the International Transformative Learning Conference to PLU fall of 2016. This conference originated at Teachers College, Columbia University with Emeritus Professor Jack Mezirow with his theory of transformative learning. Feller and a group of attendees set to make the yearly conference and organization more formal. Since then she has become the chair and the host for the formal group of scholars.

Filler works throughout the Puget Sound community as well. One local organization Feller is involved with is the Pierce County Center Dialogue Resolution. She also encourages her students involvement with the center. Here she provides training for the PCCDR’s employees and students. This training teaches how to begin dialogue and discussions when conflict is present.

One of the most challenging parts to mediating and teaching conflict management Feller’s said, “It’s not bring people to the table. The hardest part, no matter the scale or length of the conflict, is to deconstruct the narrative and context of the situation. People get stuck wanting to solve the problem.”

Feller gave an example of an Israel and a Palestine local group conflict she mediated, here in the United States. “The narrative had to be changed from global to local,” Feller said. What were the local problems with the two groups rather than the historical issues?

Feller comes by her communication and teaching ability naturally. Her parents have had a huge impact on her work and education drive. Both parents were teachers. One taught business and the other cultural anthropology. They passed on this drive to educate to their daughter.

Feller said, “I was raised to believe education is salvation.”



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