Transatlantic Mediation Practicum

Spring 2013

The 2013 TransAtlantic Mediation Practicum
During the week of March 25th through the 29th, twelve mediators arrived at the Dispute Resolution Center (DRC) in Austin from Switzerland. Led by their sponsor, James Peter, spiritus rector of the program. They came in order to participate in an educational and experiential practicum in the field of Mediation. Private and DRC mediators lent their time, expertise and mediation opportunities to give this group observation and practice in the art and science of mediation. The experiences and educational backgrounds of the group were as diverse as those of their American counterparts. The group participated in early morning lectures from noted mediators/trainers in the topics of Family, Commercial, Styles of Mediation, Neuroscience of Conflict, Human Resource related conflict, and advanced skill training in Reframing, Power Imbalances and Impasses. Afterward, they would disperse to the various mediation sites in order to observe and/or co-mediate actual mediations. All parties of these mediations consented ahead of time to allow the observations in order to contribute to the training of future mediators.
In addition to Center based mediations, guided tours of the Gardner-Betts Detention facility were conducted where our guest mediators observed and/or participated in Victim-Offender and Parent-Child Pre-Release Mediation programs. This year, a special treat occurred when our closest neighboring DRC, the Hays County Dispute Resolution Center provided opportunities to observe mediations in the nearby communities of San Marcos and Dripping Springs, Texas. In addition to observing and practicing co-mediation with experienced mediators, the group was exposed to tenured and published private mediators providing formal and informal instruction including: Eric Galton and Ben Cunningham from the Lakeside Mediation Center, Jeff Jury, of Burns, Anderson, Jury & Brenner, Luemara Wagner, with Hunter Wagner PLLC, Walter Wright, Mediator and Associate Professor in the Legal Studies Program at Texas State University, Michael Schless, Private Mediator, Kathleen Hall, JD, Private Mediator,and Susan Cefai, Office of Domestic Relations, Travis County, Marty Shumaker, Mediation Program Coordinator for Gardner-Betts Juvenile Detention Center, Karen Smithson, Director of Human Resources at Atchley & Associates, David Huang, Director of Case Management at the Dispute Resolution Center and Kris Donley, Executive Director of Dispute Resolution Center.
The group also had opportunities to explore the sights and cultural offerings of Austin and the surrounding hill country. In addition to the staples of Bar-B-Que and Tex-Mex, the group dined at an array of Austin’s diverse restaurants. They also enjoyed the club scene and live music venues of downtown and shopped SoCo for cowboy boots and locally made crafts. Also included were scenic trips to Lake Travis and Mount Bonnell. The final evening was spent at the La Trattoria Linsini and Winery on Onion Creek in Southwest Travis County.
This practicum began in 2004 and is approaching a decade long relationship status. The DRC staff and mediators embrace their European colleagues with anticipated delight and satisfaction of sharing mutual learning goals and, more importantly, re-validating the universality of our desire to contribute to peacemaking. It is most comforting to rediscover and reinforce this shared value and its steadfastness, in spite of geographical origin.


Spring 2008

In 2004, the DRC launched a pilot project involving the pairing of European mediators with our own Austin mediators for observation and co-mediation practice.  Two years later, two more practicum sessions occurred in the spring and fall of 2006. In April 2008, six more participants arrived making a total of Thirty One European mediators who have now completed their practicum at theDispute Resolution Center.   In past years, the participants were graduate students  enrolled in the Executive Master’s Program in Conflict Resolution at the Universidat fur Humanwissenschaften . The most recent group were private mediators who had taken their Basic Training in Mediation in Switzerland, before signing up for the Texas based Practicum.  Along with their Program Director, James T. Peter, the trained mediators hail from Liechtenstein, Germany, and Switzerland joining the staff and volunteers at the Center for a week of education and practice yielding an enriching cultural exchange experience for everyone. The participants this year represented the fields of Law, Business, Human Resources, and Psychiatry.  In the past they represented fields as diverse as Social Work, Corporate Management, Sales/Retail, Engineering, Technology and Publishing. The students met with instructors each day for presentations on topics chosen by the program’s faculty members before assignment to specific mediations at the Center or a private practitioners’ office. The training for this group was provided by our own Central Texas professionals. These presenters and their topics included:

Kris Donley, Executive Director of the DRC 
     ‘Community Mediation in Central Texas’

Walter Wright, JD., Texas State University
      ‘Mediation Styles Comparison’

Susan Schultz, JD,
      ‘CPPDR Mediation and Public Policy’

Patrick Keel, JD,
      ‘Mediator ADR & the Judiciary’

Jeff Jury, JD, Burns, Anderson, Jury & Brenner
      ‘Mediation and Commerce’

Michael Schless, JD;  Judge Frank Evans & David Garza                                                              ‘International Applications for Mediation’

Adreayn Wilson, Ph.D.,& Officer Chris Evoy, 
  ‘AISD Mediation in the Schools and the Austin Police Department Gang Mediation Project’

At the conclusion of each training session, mediators were assigned to experienced mediators in order to co-mediate or observe those mediations as permitted by the parties.  The types of cases included divorce/family issues, parent/child pre-release at the Gardner-Betts Juvenile Detention Facility, commercial, personal injury and general civil disputes. The mediators who volunteered to help with this mentoring for either or both 2008 sessions were:

Michael Schless, Judy Corder, David Garza, Mina Brees, Paul Blanke, Molly Bean,  Mary Thompson, Steve Gluck, Tricia Williamson, Pam Autry, Sherri Moore, Travis Smith,  Vicky Bergin, Rick Bradstreet, Randy Leavitt, Margie Cowden, Bob Kamm, and Chuck Landrum,


But it wasn’t all work and no play.  The group experienced good Texas food and culture with fare such as  Bar-B-Q at the County Line;  Z-Tejas, Vivo’s Mexican Restaurant, Artz’s RibHouse , country western dancing at theBroken Spoke and weekend day trips to the lakes and countryside.  But the pinnacle may have been a tie between visiting Whole Foods on 6th and Lamar and getting to see Scorsese’s The Rolling Stones movie at the IMAX before heading to Gumbo’s for our final meal together.  All in all, a good way to blend a bit of Europe with a bit of Texan Cajun on our last night.

….and what were the impressions left on the participants at the conclusion?  Well, based on the comments received from the written evaluations, the experience was very good!….some specific comments are below:

  • The best was observing real cases
  • Great Experience!  Particularly impressive in Juvenile Court
  • Trainers, Staff, Management:  Top!!
  • Your Hospitality really great!…Sincere Thanks
  • Was An Extraordinary and Good Experience!
  • I’ve Got a lot of new ideas about mediation
  • Thank you for the very friendly atmosphere!


—–and a final note from the Executive Director

To the Board Members, the staff, the presenters, the mediator mentors and my good friend and colleague, James T Peter:

Thank you!  For making this such a valuable educational and cultural exchange endeavor!!…..

Peace! (uf Widerluege)

Kris Donley