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Champlain College Opens Center for Mediation and Dialogue

BURLINGTON, VT – From toxic clashes between individuals to global disputes over borders, one glance at today’s headlines will make you think the world is full of intractable conflict. Mediation—the process of bringing people together to listen to one another and work toward common goals—offers a pathway through these divides.

Champlain College just opened The Center for Mediation & Dialogue to provide mediation, facilitation, and multi-stakeholder consensus-building services and education for Champlain College, the greater Burlington community, the state of Vermont, and beyond. Julian Portilla, a renowned mediation expert and the Center’s director, sees it as a place to convene civil conversations on tough, divisive issues facing the state: How can we eliminate homelessness? How do we ensure that some parts of Vermont aren’t left behind as others thrive? What will be our energy mix in the years to come, and how do we ensure a sustainable future? These are just some of the complex topics Portilla would like to approach through meaningful deliberation at Champlain. “Thanks to the college’s reputation as a place of innovation and positive change, it provides an amazing platform on which to engage citizens on these critical issues,” says Portilla.

The Center for Mediation & Dialogue is the latest Center of Experience to open at Champlain College. Others include the Senator Leahy Center for Digital Investigation, the Center for Publishing, and the Emergent Media Center. All of the Centers embody the College’s radically pragmatic approach to education. They provide students with the opportunity to gain first-hand experience working on client projects alongside seasoned professionals.

A native of Mexico City, Portilla’s academic and occupational focus involves the design and implementation of community, environmental, and political consensus-building processes, primarily in Latin America and the U.S. He has worked as an organizational consultant for the United Nations, and maintains an active mediation practice in Vermont. His recent projects include mediating a national fisheries dispute in Mexico, a regional conflict over farmers displaced by an industrial plant in Haiti, and a long-simmering dispute between dairy farmers and camp owners closer to home in Northern Vermont. The Center’s team also includes Susanne Terry, David Specht, Neal Rodar, and Jared Ordway—all highly respected mediation consultants.

“The Center for Mediation & Dialogue provides courses and workshops for people in the community seeking to build mediation and consensus-building skills,” says Dr. Laurel Bongiorno, dean of the Division of Education and Human Studies. Whether people would like to expand their skills and capacity in their current jobs, or are looking to become professional mediators—including divorce and family mediators, conflict management practitioners, and consultants—the program teaches everyone how to listen reflectively, remain impartial, collaborate, negotiate more effectively, and solve complex problems. Champlain is known for its industry-expert faculty, and the instructors in this program are no different. “The faculty have years and years of experience on the ground,” says Portilla. “They are a unique blend of doers and teachers.”

“The mediation workshops offered by Champlain College are jam-packed with useful information, interesting people, and amazingly talented trainers,” says Laura Mistretta, who has taken a number of Mediation courses at Champlain. She is a housing advocate and member of Rights & Democracy VT's leadership team. “With an emphasis on role playing, you come out of the trainings with a clear understanding of what mediation looks like, and individualized feedback to help you improve.”

“At Champlain, we prepare learners of all ages to collaborate and make a difference across professions and communities everywhere,” says Interim President Dr. Laurie Quinn. “We are proud to launch The Center for Mediation & Dialogue to help further our positive impact, and we look forward to helping more people gain the consensus-building skills they need to lead change on important issues.”

Anyone looking to learn more about the Center's educational or consulting services should contact Julian Portilla at jportilla@champlain.edu.

About Champlain College
Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college overlooking Lake Champlain and Burlington, VT, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Our career-driven approach to higher education prepares students for their professional life from their very first semester. Champlain offers: 30 undergraduate degrees; 15 online Associate and Bachelor's Degree programs, and more than 25 online undergraduate certificates in business, technology, and health care; and 24 online and on-campus graduate degrees and certificates.

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