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For Ten Years, Institute Has Trained Hundreds in Art of Conflict Resolution 11/18/16  11/18/16 11:35:33 AM Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly Version

Creighton’s Werner Institute marks 10-year anniversary with (from left) School of Law Dean Paul McGreal, benefactor Gail Werner Robertson and Institute Director Jacqueline Font-Guzmán, who has been involved with the Institute from its inception.                                                                                            
For Ten Years, Institute Has Trained
Hundreds in Art of Conflict Resolution

By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record

Ten years ago this semester, Creighton University’s Werner Institute opened its doors to students.
The idea grew out of a desire to offer students an interdisciplinary approach to teaching how to conduct successful dispute resolution, negotiation and conflict management.
“We have great leaders running this, and great support from the university. I never dreamed it would be embraced the way it has. I’m really thrilled about that,” benefactor Gail Werner Robertson said.
Housed in Creighton’s School of Law building, the Institute partners not only with the law school, but also with Creighton’s own College of Nursing, Graduate School, and Heider College of Business. Dual degrees have been created, including a master’s of science degree and a graduate certificate in negotiation and conflict resolution, and a graduate certificate in health care collaboration and conflict management. Students have the opportunity to study both in person and online.
To date, 443 students have graduated from the Institute including, on average, 62 students annually from other programs and schools at Creighton.
Among the Werner Institute’s other stellar accomplishments include four books published by the faculty and more than 22 articles in peer-reviewed and legal journals, 40 book chapters and 25 publications in trade journals and magazines. Within its first decade, it has hosted and facilitated more than 100 workshops and conferences in the Creighton and Omaha communities, as well as nationally and internationally.
Through the 412 practicum-based projects in the last decade, Werner students have given more than 33,000 hours of service.
US News and World Report ranked the Werner Institute in the Top 15 Dispute Resolution Programs in the 2011 Dispute Resolution Specialty rankings among law schools.
At the dedication in 2005, the Institute’s then-director Pat Borchers said, “The students come from a wide variety of fields – park rangers, human resources specialists, and business people. We appeal to different people because conflict is so ubiquitous in the human experience, and if you’re going to be a supervisor you need to learn conflict resolution.”
The goal of the Institute was simple, he said. “We try to teach people how to deal with conflict productively and not just throw a blanket over disputes and ignore them.”
None of this would have been possible without the enthusiastic encouragement of Gail Werner Robertson and her family. Werner Robertson, CEO of GWR Wealth Management, earned her undergraduate and law degrees at Creighton, keeping close ties with the school. She said she was in an executive seminar on conflict negotiation at Harvard and when she returned, she called Pat Borchers, then dean of the law school, and said, “We have got to do this here!”
He agreed, and with the blessing of Creighton’s late president, Fr. John Schlegel, the two flew out to Colorado to make a pitch to her dad (C.L. Werner, founder of Werner Enterprises). After presenting a “huge strategy” to him, he said, “I just don’t know if there’s that much need for this.” She said, “Oh no, there’s a need for this.” He told them he’d call the office to check. He came back and, seemingly astounded, said, “Do you know how many negotiations and mediations we’re doing?!” She said yes, she knew.
“In all honesty, it really rang true to him because there was one particular story about a time when our company was very young and he was only 25 or 26 at the time. He had a very large litigation in a southern state and … he knew the trial was going very poorly. At times it seemed like his lawyer was working for the other side. Finally, the judge called him up and said, ‘Young man, I think you need a continuance. I think you need a new lawyer.’ And my dad never forgot that; [without that advice] he probably would have lost the company,” Werner Robertson said.
“It really goes to show that these things affect the economy, industry and people’s personal lives. So I am delighted at what the Institute is doing to take away conflict in so many people’s lives, and make people’s lives better. To make industry work better, to make healthcare work better, and hopefully maybe even make universities work better.
Gail and the C.L. Werner family donated $4 million to Creighton to establish the Institute, creating the most richly endowed program of its kind in the country.
Its mission is “to be a leader in advancing the field of conflict resolution to a new quantum level, with a focus on developing the next generation of practitioners and scholars who are responsive to the real, and often unacknowledged, needs of those in conflict. With an interdisciplinary foundation and a focus on collaboration and open inquiry, the Institute supports the mission of Creighton University and builds a bridge between the field of conflict resolution and the issues faced by people in an increasingly complex world.”
Anniversary Reception
The success of the program, with schools far and wide beginning to emulate it, certainly warranted a celebration upon reaching a decade of service.
In September, the Institute threw a 10-Year Anniversary Reception to mark that milestone, inviting past  students and faculty and all those interested in the program to attend.
Before the reception, they sponsored a three-hour workshop on “Creative Approaches to Interprofessional Conflict in Healthcare.” The presenter was Deb Gerardi, the chief creative officer for EHCCO (Emerging Healthcare Communities) in Half Moon Bay, Calif. She holds a teaching degree from Peru State Teachers College, undergraduate degrees in biology and nursing, in addition to a juris doctor from Creighton University, and a master’s in public health from UCLA. She has extensive experience in coaching and conflict resolution, served on the adjunct faculty at the Werner Institute from 2005 through 2008, where she founded the program on healthcare collaboration and conflict resolution.
Powered by that program’s success, the Institute has just announced the creation of two new dual-degree programs offered jointly by the College of Nursing and the Werner Institute. The programs integrate portions of the Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution (MSNCR) with either a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree programs.
They have also partnered to offer a new graduate certificate in Health Care Collaboration and Conflict Management. The programs were announced by College of Nursing Dean Catherine Todero and newly named Director of the Werner Institute Jacqueline Font-Guzmán.
“Ten years ago, the Werner Institute was a vision waiting to come true. Through the years, I have witnessed how this vision has evolved into a vibrant national center of excellence in the vanguard of the conflict engagement field,” Font-Guzmán said. “The Werner Institute team looks forward to continuing its unwavering commitment to creating a more just world by teaching individuals how to engage and intervene in conflict constructively and to resolve disputes effectively, efficiently and humanely.”
At the reception, Dean Paul McGreal addressed the crowd and related a story of an “aha moment” he had after visiting with a Creighton Jesuit, Fr. Larry Gillick. “One day, I realized that conflict is everywhere. It was a stunning realization of the power and importance of what they do here at the Werner Institute. Conflict engagement means bringing your best self every day to everyone you meet. [We must ask] ‘How can I be better in relationship to others?’
“We’ve made collaborations with nursing, human resources, business school, mission ministry. Everyone could benefit from being conflict competent. It means better workplaces, families and communities. It’s a ministry,” McGreal said.
He singled out “three peers who have had tremendous impact on the Institute – former law school deans Pat Borchers, and Marianne Culhane and Nursing Dean Katherine Todero, for their contributions to the success of the Institute.”
Werner Robertson said, “I want to thank the staff. You have done an amazing job. I am so incredibly proud of you and C.L. is so incredibly proud of you. And he doesn’t need quite as many lawyers because he’s mediating more effectively now! I look forward to the next 10 years.”
Before the ceremonies, we asked Werner Robertson about her expectations from a decade ago.
“It has exceeded my expectations in many ways. Both in the number of students, the cross-campus approach, the nursing collaboration. I never thought about health care being an area of conflict resolution. We’re just delighted with that.
“I have run into a number of mediators that have been trained through here and that makes us really happy,” she said.
“I’m a big fan of Abraham Lincoln – he always advocated that a good lawyer helped his client not to have to go to court; to get things resolved. So I love that the lawyers are now getting trained in that. Because in conflict – in the end, nobody truly wins.
“This is a better approach; it transcends all types of businesses and industries. And the fact that we rank 15th in the country, that makes us a model.”
You can read the Werner Institute’s 10-year Anniversary Report online at: http://viewer.zmags.com/publication/806dc038#/806dc038/1.

– Photos by Lorraine Boyd
Deb Gerardi (above left) conducts a workshop on conflict resolution in the healthcare setting. Pat Borchers and Gail Werner Robertson (right) catch up at the anniversary reception.
Werner Awards
These Werner alumni were recognized as part of the10-year Anniversary “for their extraordinary efforts in bringing the mission of the Werner Institute to life.”
Larry Oliver MS’14 and Charles Thomas MS’09
Greg McQuade MS’15 and Katie Kummer MS’08
James Hillis MS’08 and Kelly Tadeo Orbik MS’08

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