Hat Trick: Three Fulbrights in Conflict Management

David Churchman was an IACM member from the mid-1980s until 2003, creating then chairing a California State University program in conflict management initiated in 1982 that was awarding 100-125 masters degrees a year on campus and through a televised distance learning program initiated in 1989. He also co-founded a live animal environmental education and rehabilitation organization building on his experience as a trainer of big cats, raptors, primates, and elephants.



My First Fulbright Experience

For this Fulbright, I was more nearly a grassroots community organizer than researcher or lecturer. Two previous awardees had left about two dozen mediators who were not yet doing any actual mediation. Rather than give these same people more training when it apparently was not being put to use, I identified pairs of Greek and Turkish Cypriots to develop three workshops on topics that they chose based on local needs and could offer monocommunally in Greek or Turkish or bicommunally in English.

The first workshop focused on business negotiation avoiding any politically sensitive issues. A field test (in the Greek community) established that evening workshops did not work well, that one of the simulations we developed was culturally inappropriate and that some of the simulations were unclear. A second field-test (in the Turkish community) suggested that changes made were sufficient, and the workshop then was given successfully to a bi-communal group, completing the project as intended.

Instead of a second workshop, we wrote a brief play to popularize and create a market for mediators. We sat the test audience at tables and after the play ended had one member of the cast join each table for refreshments and discussion. We designed a one-page flyer designed to be included in monthly telephone bills to advertise future performances.

A third workshop on consensus building was developed based on a constructing a waste-treatment plant to serve one community on each side of the buffer zone, with eight different groups from the two communities in support or opposition for different reasons. This project barely got off the ground before I left.  Whether or not any of these projects continue provides an interesting test of local initiative.

I attended two bicommunal conferences on education and a multinational Seeds of Peace conference. Another Fulbright Scholar and I brought three groups of Cypriots together to start joint environmental centers. I attended several meetings to charter an NGO for the bicommunal movement (a total failure) and several to write proposals (all successful). I assisted Intercollege in developing a sabbatical policy, assisted the Fulbright Commission in staffing an education fair, and delivered two public lectures.


My Second Fulbright Experience

My second Fulbright began with an orientation in Washington for 200 Fulbright awardees heading to Eastern Europe and Central Asia. The orientation was well thought out. There were general meetings, meetings by country, and meetings by academic discipline. The Fulbright staff picked up my books (shipped ahead) from the U.S. embassy, arranged my train to Odessa,

The Fulbright award required me to teach a class in conflict theory to English-speaking international relations students at the National University. On arrival, I was asked and agreed to teach the same class at the National Law Academy. The class included instruction in negotiation based on my own book and simulations. The students enjoyed the departure from their lecture-only experience but had some difficulty at first. Tried successfully, the major adaptation was to group students together to learn their roles before pairing them with a similarly prepared opponent for the actual negotiation.

I gave a public lecture on “Hard Choices and Grand Ideas in an Era of Terrorism and Rogue States.” I attended a meeting of American Fulbright Scholars in Kiev, a meeting of the Ukrainian Fulbright alumni in Lviv, and helped recruit Ukrainian Fulbright applicants, stressing the need for applications to be specific, feasible, and to provide a good reason for studying in the United States. I was interviewed for an article about “conflictology” and distance learning, and wrote a requested article for the Law Academy newsletter. I was interviewed on local television and participated in the opening ceremonies of a NATO resource center. s. Friday evenings I joined a long-running English Club, leaving each member with some simple souvenir of the U.S. (a trick learned earlier on a Malone Fellowship to Saudi Arabia) such as the baseball hat from the wildlife education program I ran in Los Angeles (everybody had to try it on!). Each Saturday afternoon I joined Ukrainians at the American Library to discuss aspects of American life based on documentary film. When my stay in Ukraine ended in late December, I rushed home for Christmas with the family.


My Third Fulbright Experience

In March 2017 I headed to Norway for an April-June Fulbright at the Nobel Peace Institute. The Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps both the world’s most prestigious and most controversial, has been awarded 129 times since 1901, usually to one but sometimes to joint recipients such as Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin, and sometimes to an organization such as the International Red Cross (thrice).  Past recipients include saints (Mother Teresa), sinners (Yasser Arafat), women (first in 1905, 16 through 2018), statesmen, soldiers (George C. Marshall was both), scientists (Linus Pauling, the only Laureate in two entirely different fields) and symbols (Malala Yousafzai). Twenty-one have gone to American, 8 each to British and French, 5 to Irish, 3 to South African, and 2 to Russian citizens. The youngest was 17, the oldest 87. The laureate is selected by a committee of five Norwegians elected by the Parliament. Nominees submitted by 1 February are winnowed in phases over eight months. The Committee takes its final vote in October then announces its choice in Nobel Hall to an invited audience of about 175.

The laureate receives the prize in December.

My research focused on Iraq and Syria, leading to an article accepted for the Journal of Social Science for Policy Implications and a synopsis free of academic methodology on the 1 October 2017 History New Network webpage. There were speakers, conferences, lunches with colleagues, and presentations to be made to invited Norwegian academics. Not everything was academic. There was a public celebration of the king’s 80th birthday that he watched from the palace balcony while several thousand were offered entertainment and ice cream. I received a ticket to a reserved area to view the four-hour parade celebrating Constitution Day. An early U.S. Independence Day celebration was held on 22 June at the U.S. ambassador’s residence because Norway closes down for a month-long holiday in July. There was a private tour of the Norwegian Parliament including a complimentary lunch in the members’ cafeteria. There are 165 members of Parliament divided between two houses, all elected to simultaneous four-year terms. Voting “present” or abstaining is prohibited—members must vote yes or no on everything.

There is much to see and do in Oslo, a pleasant walking city, architecturally distinctive for its traditional wooden stave and modern churches, City Hall, Opera, Parliament, medieval fortress, modern royal palace, and ski jump with parallel zip line to mention a few noteworthy specifics. Just wandering turned up something interesting every weekend. Instances? I blundered into a children’s fair, a Sikh Festival, a music festival, a Freedom Forum with chess master and Russian dissident Gary Kasparov among the speakers, and an event featuring foods of a dozen or so countries. There is a huge park with some 290 sculptures by one man although there is a sameness to them with people taking selfies sometimes imitating the poses.

I am grateful for the support always so willingly provided by the Fulbright Commission staffs in Washington and in all three countries visited.  They were always ready to give advice and assistance on matters small and large. Their kindness and generosity are major reasons my awards proved both pleasant and productive.


Why not You?

If any of this sounds attractive, why not apply for a Fulbright yourself? They are available overseas for U.S. citizens, and in the U.S. for non-U.S. citizens. Simply go to the website for the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars and search by discipline, by country, or by region for an appropriate award. The list comes out every spring with applications due for the most part the following August. There usually are a few related to conflict management.

Covering all points required is of course vital. Applications are first winnowed by the U.S. Fulbright Commission then forwarded for consideration by the host country, which makes the final decision. One of the Norwegian judges of my application said it is hard to say what makes a successful application, but added, “Every scholar has his or her unique biography and it is a winning touch to tell some of that story even in a research proposal.” The host country wants individuals who will adapt easily and well to local conditions, in all their variety from the wealthiest first world countries with many English speakers to the poorest third world ones with few English speakers. Equally important, the judges want to see a good feasible plan but also evidence of flexibility and initiative. The number of applicants, and thus your odds of success, depend on many factors, including language requirements if any, living conditions in the host country, and length and details of each award including provisions for family members. Combined with sabbatical pay, they even can be profitable. Finally, I attribute much of my own success to having recommendations from both U.S. and non-U.S. scholars. IACM meetings are a great venue to make such contacts—even design your own award.

If you apply and are selected, you will find the experience personally and professionally rewarding.

For questions or comments regarding this article, please contact David Churchman at dchurchman@csudh.edu.