Teaching Conflict Resolution Globally

Teaching Conflict Resolution Globally

From Aberdeen to Teaching Conflict Resolution Globally - Aileen RiddellAileen Riddell

MA (Hons) Psychology, 1998
From Aberdeen to Teaching Conflict Resolution Globally

It’s Never Too Late

I had three small children and a husband who worked away from home for long periods and, unbelievably, found myself with time on my hands, so I embarked on a degree course at the University of Aberdeen. I followed Psychology through to an MA (Hons) and graduated in 1998 at the ripe old age of 42.  

As a mature student I found myself welcomed and involved in University life from the outset and felt encouraged and inspired in equal measure throughout my degree. I particularly liked the tutorials and projects which helped to build my confidence and the skills to question and develop my ideas. I equally have wonderful memories of crisp autumn mornings at Kings, waiting for lectures and excited by the opportunity to access current learning in my field of study. Similarly, I recall late nights having finished studying in the library and walking through a quiet campus with the majestic buildings lit and looming against a navy northern sky. On the day of my graduation my family joined me on the lawn at King’s for the traditional champagne and strawberries. It was a ‘sad sweet sorrow’ to part from the inclusiveness and academic rigour I had experienced at Aberdeen University. I had no idea that 20 years later I’d be back, working as a tutor within the Law School.

I followed up my university experience by training as a counsellor with an agency in Aberdeen. A lot of the people I worked with were involved in conflicts and from there I began to be interested in working as a mediator. I trained with SACRO (Safeguarding Communities and Reducing Offending) and gained accreditation as a mediator over the 6 years I worked there, eventually leading the team of community mediators and volunteers. It was there that I met my friend and business partner, Linda Paterson, and together we formed the Mediation Partnership providing workplace mediation services, which we have been successfully delivering for over 16 years. We extended our mediation practice to include training and became the first to be accredited by Scottish Mediation, the umbrella organization for all registered mediators in Scotland. We achieved this quality standard by working in partnership with the University of Aberdeen – training delegates for their internal mediation team. I also gained an understanding of Employment Law, sitting as a lay member on Employment Tribunals for over 7 years. All of this convinced me that mediation was definitely a worthwhile and more humane and successful alternative to the more formal, adversarial processes for dispute resolution.

Then suddenly in 2015 I came full circle, having been asked to tutor on the Dispute Resolution part of the DPLP at Aberdeen. Subsequently, we were invited to develop online Basic and Advanced Mediation Courses as part of a Masters in Law at Aberdeen, which we have now delivered for five years. Recently, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic we have responded with an online commercial training course for mediators, so that social distancing rules can be easily adhered to. I now find myself at 64 getting to grips with all things Zoom and MS Teams, having already mastered the University’s Collaborate programme.  

Resolving conflict has always been a natural fit for me as I recall my north east childhood on a farm where my grandmother and mother shared a home and the kitchen. A good friend summed this situation up in inimitable Doric style by saying, “Twa weeman, ae kitchen, jist disnae work weel!”  So I guess I was mediating from a very young age! Nevertheless, this rewarding and interesting career could never have blossomed without the confidence, skills and knowledge of human behavior gained at the University of Aberdeen. I am particularly proud that we train such a high proportion of international students in mediation – interest in mediation is a global phenomenon.