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NSU's Edwards studies conflict resolution in Northern Ireland

(Tahlequah, Okla.)—Belfast, Northern Ireland, provided both the scenery and subject matter for Northeastern State University faculty Dr. Jennifer Edwards, during her June 10-18 visit as a participant in NSU’s International Faculty Development Fellowship Program.

Edwards, associate professor of sociology, visited the largest city in the United Kingdom’s Ulster province to learn about conflict resolution strategies.

“This was very much a strict learning experience for me,” Edwards said. “I attended to learn what role conflict resolution has played in the diminishing antagonism between Unionists and Nationalists, or Protestants and Catholics, in Northern Ireland.”

The Council on International Education Exchange arranged the trip in cooperation with NSU, and offered a comprehensive study opportunity.

The program is funded through an endowment with the Office of International Programs and managed by the NSU Foundation. During her visit, Edwards heard lectures from experts on the Ulster conflict.

“International faculty development is an important component of how NSU meets its mission, which includes international globalization opportunities for faculty and students,” said NSU interim president Martin Tadlock. “Experiences abroad allow faculty to enhance instruction, and that benefits the educational experience for students at NSU.”

This was not Edwards’ first trip to Northern Ireland. In 2001 she visited to conduct research for her dissertation “Construction of Maintenance of Power Through Ritual: the Orange Order and Orange Parades in Northern Ireland.” The topic of the faculty development seminar was “Truth and Reconciliation: Ongoing Conflict Resolution in Northern Ireland.”

While visiting Belfast this year, Edwards attended seminars and field trips around the Belfast area, including Londonderry.

“The field trips were mainly to meet people,” she said. “But the focus was to hear about conflict resolution. The Orange Order in Ulster was part of the conflict, and I was curious to discover how they engaged in resolution, what processes they tried and which were successful. I learned that community members played an important role. The lecturers I heard were truly experts and I was excited to hear from them.”

Edwards said she eventually would like to devote an entire section of her social psychology course to understanding conflict and its resolution.

“I would like to use the knowledge I’ve gained from the trip to Northern Ireland to develop a research design to help us study conflict and allow my students insight into this fundamental and persistent issue among and between social groups.”

An ancillary goal of international faculty development is to encourage students to take trips abroad.

“We want students to seek out those opportunities to travel overseas,” Edwards said. “CIEE has programs which hire recent graduates to teach or serve as teaching assistants abroad. I also would like to bring students overseas as research assistants for further studies.”

Four other instructors participated in the NSU International Faculty Development Fellowship Program this summer. Dr. Elizabeth Keller visited Spain and Morocco, Dr. Amy Aldridge Sanford and Dr. Dilene Crockett traveled to Jordan and Dr. Michael Wilds studied in Thailand.

For more information about the program visit the International Faculty Development Program page.

Published: 7/28/2011 2:58:08 PM

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