Mediation team competes in national tournament in Georgia

The Loras mediation team consists of six students and is led by faculty advisor Dr. Mary Lynn Neuhaus, a communications professor. This past weekend, the team traveled to Gainesville, GA, in order to compete in the national competition  along with other collegiate teams from across the nation.

Mediation is the process of facilitation by a neutral third party that aids two parties in a dispute with negotiation and voluntary decision-making. The mediation process is used to solve disputes between two parties that wish to resolve their issue outside of the court system.

For college-level mediation, three to five students receive a two-page case. Students can take the role of an advocate, client or mediator. The client-advocate team competes against another client and advocate team from another university. They are evaluated by judges, who award them points based on oral advocacy, teamwork, creativity, listening, critical thinking skills and professionalism.

The mediation process consists of numerous smaller parts. There are a few different types of gatherings that make up this process. A “conference” consists of having both parties in a room at the same time. There are also private meetings between mediators and each party, and this is called a “caucus.”

Neuhaus has been the mediation team coach for 15 years, as long as the team has existed on campus. She decided to coach the mediation team after receiving extensive training in the area of mediation in  the summer of 2000 in Chicago, where she attended courses at a law school and became certified as an instructor in alternate dispute resolution.

“We encounter conflict every day and for many people it causes stress. Learning to solve problems and create alternatives is helpful and valued in  the workplace,” Neuhaus said about the benefits of mediation.
The current Loras mediation team is composed of six students: seniors Mark Chapman, Gabbi Herrera and Mark Fuentebella, and sophomores Lucas Tully, Dallas Knapp and Emily Decker.

This past weekend, the national portion of the International Intercollegiate Mediation Tournament, sponsored by the InterNational Academy of Dispute Resolution (INADR), took place at Brenau University in Gainesville, GA, a city about 75 minutes northeast of Atlanta. There were 50 teams in attendance, including Loras, University of Dubuque and UW-Platteville.

Each round of mediation has six people: two mediators from two separate teams, a defense side consisting of an advocate and client from one team, and a plaintiff side also consisting of an advocate and client from one team. There are two judges. Mediators are judged on how they handle everything.

They begin with opening statements that should include things like how the process works, building rapport, and remaining completely neutral between the two parties. Then the advocates and clients are judged on how well they represent their certain parts, how well they support their case, and how creative they are in finding solutions.

Fuentebella joined the mediation team this year and enjoyed the experience of being a part of it.

“I like mediation because it allows for both parties in a conflict to walk away with something,” said Fuentebella. “In court cases, either the plaintiff or the defense can win the case. However, mediation allows for win-win outcomes.”
The team took first place in the Advocacy portion of the competition, and Neuhaus was awarded the International Coach of the Year award. Although the team did not advance to the international competition, they plan to continue building a strong team dynamic next year.

“National championships are always nice, but as Mark Chapman said upon returning from nationals, he learned so much about himself ­— his ability to listen better, to persuade others and to critically think has improved,” Neuhaus said.
Any student interested can join the team, and should contact Neuhaus if they are interested or have additional questions. Practices begin each year after Labor Day, and take place three times a week.

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