Susan Carpenter is a mediator, trainer, and writer in private practice. She has spent the past thirty-five years developing and managing programs to reach consensus and resolve controversies at the local, state, and national level. She was the founding director of the Program for Community Problem Solving in Washington, D.C. Ms. Carpenter has authored numerous materials including the book, Managing Public Disputes: A Practical Guide to Handling Conflict and Reaching Agreements.
by Susan Carpenter
I have had the privilege of working with ELP participants, staff, and faculty for most of its fifteen-year history. Every summer, as a new group of ELPer’s assembled for the three-week Berkeley program, I marveled at the amazing diversity of individuals in the class. I looked forward to reading where participants were coming from and what their particular environmental interests were. Each summer I learned more about the daunting obstacles each individual faced at home trying to manage wildlife in a national park, provide clean water to impoverished communities, promote sustainable agriculture, or develop viable urban refuse removal. The challenges to addressing any one of these problems were great. What made ELP exceptional to me was the strong vision and passionate commitment each participant brought to the session.
One of ELP’s strengths over the years has been its ability to provide a variety of platforms for participants to talk about their issues with faculty, with local practitioners, and with their fellow ELPer’s. Through these different interactions people had an opportunity to learn, reflect, and strategize how they might best proceed when they returned home. As part of the leadership curriculum participants were exposed to state-of-the-art research on a broad-range of environmental issues along with the personal dynamics of leadership in the form of effective communication and collaborative problem solving skills. (ELP to its credit recognized the importance of paring technical knowledge with effective social skills in order to promote effective leadership when participants returned home.)
This past month I had the opportunity to work in Vietnam with Do Thi Thanh Huyen (ELP ’14) thanks to the Buck Kingman Initiative. Huyen and I co-taught the first ever environmental education workshop for environmental educators from 20 national parks and nature reserves in Southern and Central Vietnam. I saw Huyen’s visionary, energetic leadership in action. I realized how many ELP participants return home to work on their causes without a strong network of local colleagues. I understood better how the ELP program can serve both as a re-energizer to its diverse participants while they are on the Berkeley campus and can provide a network of colleagues who can offer support and encouragement once participants have returned home.
In addition to reflections, anniversaries also give one the opportunity to think forward. With alumni now numbering close to 600, ELP has an opportunity to build more formal networks and programs among its talented graduates. By creating stronger regional and topical networks and by using social media to share opportunities, pose questions, and seek ideas, on-going learning and problems solving can be enhanced. Also as UC Berkeley proceeds to develop its new Global Campus up in Richmond, California, I am hoping that additional ELP activities such as topical or regional conferences and joint-projects between Berkeley faculty and ELP fellows can be initiated. I celebrate what ELP has accomplished to date and look forward to seeing it pursue even more productive activities in the future.