McCormack Speaks

Conflict Resolution Programs Prepare Veterans for Future Careers


Veterans at UMass BostonFor more than six decades, the G.I Bill has helped millions of active duty or retired veterans and their dependents pay for college, graduate school, and training programs. Like all the academic programs at UMass Boston, the Graduate Programs in Conflict Resolution at the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies salute their service and are committed to supporting veterans’ professional-development efforts, whether they are looking to turn their military experiences into a career, or to get started in a new field.

“The veterans in our program have added such an important dimension,” said Eben Weitzman, director of our graduate programs in conflict resolution. “They bring a very real understanding of the implications of how conflict is handled. On the one hand, they understand first-hand what happens when diplomatic negotiation fails. On the other, they have hands-on, real-world experience with managing interpersonal conflict within a group, team or organization in a high-stakes environment. And they go on to use what they learn here in a broad range of ways—whether working in the State Department, contributing to international aid programs, providing services to other vets, running their own businesses, or in many other career paths.”

Meet Veteran-student Josh Stuart-Shor

This Boston native and U.S. Army veteran served as an infantry officer in the 82nd Airborne Division and then as a Green Beret in the 3rd Special Forces Group. His experiences include multiple deployments across Afghanistan, Iraq, and Central Asia. He left the military in 2016 to pursue an MA in conflict resolution to further develop his interests in interorganizational conflict and leadership. These interests were developed during his time overseas working with local militias and organizations.

“I joined the service for a few reasons. I was told growing up that we had an obligation to our community to serve in some capacity as a way to give back or contribute,” Stuart-Shor revealed. “My formative years found us at war in two countries and I saw a lot of young men and women going to war. I figured that if I had to serve and my country was at war, this was how I could best be utilized at the time.”

Stuart-Shor found several parallels between his military experience and his study conflict of resolution at UMass Boston. His military background was heavily focused on working with local populations, governments, and militaries in foreign countries. “While our common enemy was the Taliban, the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, and other insurgent elements, we faced inter-group conflict in interactions with varying organizations with competing or separate interests. I was placed in the position multiple times where I had to mediate or negotiate various crises that could have significant implications.” His decision to study conflict resolution was heavily influenced by the fact that he “wanted to be better prepared for these types of situations in the future.”

Stuart-Shor finds that negotiation and mediation skills can make a difference in local or global disputes. “Understanding competing interests and how to define an individual organization’s definition of success or a ‘win’ in a dispute is the first step in the resolution process.”

He would recommend this program to other veterans who are looking for a way “to build off the skills they learned in military and contribute to the greater global good.”

Josh Stuart-Shor currently works as a human performance coordinator at O2X, a Quincy-based team of U.S. and U.K. Special Operations veterans, athletes, and human performance experts. His goal is to put to work the skills and techniques learned in the program and apply them in the world of organizational leadership and resiliency, eventually re-entering the national security apparatus.

Meet Veteran-student Jake Graff

Graff served as a U.S. Navy Seabee until 2014. After earning his BA in criminal justice in 2016, he is now enrolled in the conflict resolution program. He plans to use the skills he acquires to transition into the world of corporate mediation.

“I was always had a feeling I’d end up in the military,” said Graff in a recent interview. He explained that when he got restless after his freshman year in college, he decided it was time. “The benefits of traveling and having the Navy pay off part of my school loans and getting the GI Bill after also went a long way to influencing my decision to enlist.”

Graff went on to share this thoughts on conflict for servicemembers and the vital role of conflict resolution.

“There is conflict in the office, on the job site, and at home … everyone has conflicts to deal with,” he stated. “Yet, veterans have experienced some of the worst conflicts you can imagine. We exist, while serving our country, in an environment that is built on conflict. And military members have an extra burden. We have to constantly wrestle with the fact that we could get sent anywhere at a moment’s notice and there is always the possibility that we won’t come back.”

When asked if he would recommend the conflict resolution program to other veterans, he acknowledged that “learning how to deal with conflict moving forward can maybe help veterans workout some of the issues from their past.” He continued, “Knowing how to properly manage such a massive part of our everyday lives is invaluable. So while I am only a few months into this program, I recognize its vital importance.”

Learn more about the master’s degree program in confliction resolution or an accelerated bachelor’s to master’s degree for those without a current undergraduate degree.

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