May 4, 2010
Cooley Law School Professor Awarded 2010 Rotary World Peace Fellowship for Teaching Peer Mediation Skills to Thousands of Lansing Students
Professor Nancy Wonch
Thomas M. Cooley Law School Professor Nancy Wonch has been awarded a 2010 Rotary World Peace Fellowship, which will allow her to travel to Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand in June to study peer mediation and conflict resolution programs. She is one of only six people from the United States to be selected for this three-month program.
Wonch estimates that she has taught peer mediation skills to more than 2,000 Lansing public school and Cooley students in a volunteer capacity since she first began teaching conflict resolution in 1994. She was instrumental in developing the Cooley/Lansing Schools Peer Mediation Partnership, which teaches about 70 Lansing High School students conflict resolution skills during a two-day-long program every year. The program is implemented with the help of Cooley Law School students.
Statistically, fights and behavioral problems decrease when a fully supported peer mediation program is in place because students learn ways to achieve productive, peaceful conflict resolution that preserves the dignity, respect and relationship of those involved.
"Students are afraid of violence and they want to learn how to solve problems without it," Wonch said. "If you give students the framework for how to peacefully resolve conflicts, they will take what they learn and put it into action."
At Chulalongkorn University, Wonch will study mediation programs representing different countries and cultures. "I hope to learn from these programs to make our program better and to promote building conflict management skills into high school curricula everywhere, thereby taking a viable step toward a more peaceful world," she said.
"One of Rotary International's central missions is to promote world peace, which Nancy does through her work teaching conflict resolution skills to Lansing public school students," said Mark Henne, a member of the East Lansing Rotary Club and Assistant Governor for the Lansing area, who nominated Wonch for the fellowship. "I know Nancy will contribute much to the program in Thailand and help in creating mediation programs across the U.S. and the world."
The fellowship will fund Wonch’s participation in a 90-day professional development certification program at the university, which costs approximately $10,000 per student. She will study youth conflict resolution programs offered in other countries and write a comparison of the programs and detail their success. A total of 50 scholars from 40 different countries across the world were selected for the Rotary World Peace Fellowship certification program.
Wonch first began developing a mediation program for Lansing students in 1994, which was initially funded by a grant from the State Bar of Michigan Foundation. When Wonch began teaching at Cooley in 2002, she was able to further develop the program with the support of Cooley President and Dean Don LeDuc, Cooley Adjunct Professor Anne Smiley and Cooley students. The program has been supported through the years by grants from the Ingham County Bar Foundation and the Capitol Region Community Foundation as well as funding from Cooley. The program received the Nanci Klein Award from the State Bar of Michigan Alternative Dispute Resolution Section in 2006.
At Cooley, Wonch is part of the Professionalism Department faculty, teaching Professional Responsibility and Negotiation and Confrontation. She is a former litigator and partner in Anderson and Wonch, P.C. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University and a juris doctor from Cooley Law School.
Each year, a limited number of Rotary World Peace Fellowships are offered on a competitive basis with the goal to support and advance research, teaching, publication and practical field experience on issues of peace, goodwill, causes of conflict and world understanding.
Cooley Law School is the largest law school in the nation. Founded in 1972, the private, non-profit law school operates J.D. programs across Michigan in Lansing, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. Today, Cooley Law School has nearly 14,000 graduates across the nation and worldwide and also offers joint degree and master of laws programs. Cooley offers enrollment three times a year; in January, May and September. Additional information about Cooley can be found at cooley.edu.