How Conflict Resolution and Faith Help Strategic Communications

Dr David Rawson - Conflict Resolution

Living a strong faith and utilizing a long career of motivating people to do their best both contribute to the mentoring process at Spring Arbor University’s online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership program. When the mentor is Dr. David Rawson, former U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda, conflict resolution and its complexity enter the mentorship conversation in a big way.

Dr. Rawson grew up in Burundi, the son of medical missionaries, joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1971 and served in Rwanda, Mali, Senegal, Madagascar and Somalia as well as the U.S. He went on to serve as Ambassador to the Republic of Rwanda from 1993 to 1996, and to the Republic of Mali from 1996 to 1999. Dr. Rawson currently teaches African history and political history as a Professor of Political Economy at Spring Arbor University.

In-Depth Discussions of Readings Apply to Students’ Professional Situations

Part of Spring Arbor University’s mentoring component involves helping students to communicate positively within the hierarchies of their professional worlds, and as a mentor Dr. Rawson addresses student challenges through ongoing discussion of assigned readings on culture and conflict resolution. He focuses his effort on helping students to understand that any argument is wrapped up in one’s psyche and personal identity, which is wrapped up in the social environment of one’s business, which in turn is wrapped up in one’s culture.

The ending point is trying to tie conflict to the whole process of human communication. “The models used for conflict management and mitigation that fit inter-state and intra-state conflicts also apply to conflicts in the workplace or in the family,” Dr. Rawson points out. “Although identities and viewpoints at the personal level are different than in a nation state, there are very similar dynamics. We are all human beings who respond to each other in similar kinds of ways, and one can use the same kinds of conflict resolution techniques.” His ability to explore and share ways of communicating that are effective in building understanding and consensus has had a profound effect on SAUstudents.

Mentoring Students in Conflict Resolution

As a mentor of the Master’s program in Strategic Communication & Leadership graduate Kristine Kuhl, Dr. Rawson was instrumental in the online student experience being such a game changer for her, not only by providing her with new perspectives on how to navigate conflict but in offering practical solutions as well.

Dr. Rawson encouraged Kristine to write down the core elements of her path in order to evaluate and refine them, citing Aristotle’s Rhetoric which states that “Generally speaking, that which is written should be easy to read and easy to utter, which is the same thing.” His main objectives as a mentor are to help students be themselves and encourage them to be the best they can be in the context in which they live and work.

Teaching Humility as an Alternative to Domination and Manipulation

Dr. Rawson’s Christian beliefs and values directly inform his approach to mentoring. Being a good listener, being open to change and helping students to speak the truth in positive ways are all instrumental in creating a beneficial interpersonal mentoring relationship. As an ambassador, he practiced a willingness to converse in international situations, engaging with people and hearing their points of view. In his presentation of “Contemporary Modes and Christ’s Mandate in Conflict Resolution” at a 2016 conference, Dr. Rawson reflected on problems of peacekeeping that he witnessed as United States Ambassador to Rwanda.

When considering what Christian perspectives might bring to a peacemaking process he asked, “In a situation of tenuous peace and uncertain justice, what room is there for forgiveness? Forgiveness encompasses two vital social energies: truth and mercy — admitting the truth and accepting proffered mercy.”

In talking and listening to people now as a Professor of Political Economy, Dr. Rawson expresses one of the fundamental principles that Jesus was trying to teach his disciples. This revolves around not worrying about being at the head of the table, but getting to the business of serving others with humility instead. He ties interpersonal and inter-state conflict resolution to moral and spiritual values. While fostering a call to serve, Dr. Rawson describes how in the area of mitigating conflict, the value of reconciliation should always override the impulse to dominate and manipulate.

By imparting similar values through his mentorship of Spring Arbor University’s online Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Leadership students, Dr. Rawson demonstrates how conflict resolution techniques utilized in political life intersect with the communication strategies we use in everyday personal and professional life.