Maria Volpe

Professor of Dispute Resolution, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

Interviewed by Julian Portilla, 2003

This rough transcript provides a text alternative to audio. We apologize for occasional errors and unintelligible sections (which are marked with ???).

Q: What techniques have you found to be the most useful?

A: Probably meeting with the parties before you bring them together. I think that in my early days I was taught, you bring the parties together without knowing them, saying, I don't know either one of you, I don't know anything about this situation, I'm here to hear what you have to say, as an advantage. That doesn't work anymore for me. Particularly in a setting, as a pracademic, there's a lot at risk for me, things could just explode in the room. Afterwards people saying, Dr. Volpe doesn't know how to control a session. I'd like to know what people are coming into the room with. I'd like to anticipate what some of those hot buttons are going to be. This goes for mediation particularly, but also for facilitation for the kids. A lot of people say that they don't meet with the parties.

Q: You're sort of going against the grain with that?

A: No, actually there are a lot of mediators who are doing that. It's called case development. It's called screening. Its also called preparing parties to come to the table. I think it depends on the context in which you do mediation, but its called different things in different contexts. It's called caucusing for some before you bring them to the table. But that notion that you don't know the parties- in fact, in my case, I do know most of the parties. I'm a member of the community. I'm an indigenous conflict resolver. And so there are special burdens that I have in being able to have the trust of lots of people. Once you lose the trust of one, you just can't continue. So sometimes that means that as an academic I can't serve on certain positions, because then you're known as someone who's being positional, or making statements to support that position. How could you ever go in and mediate a situation involving someone who was one the other side? They may not trust you.