Our Klein College of Media and Communication professors are always looking for ways to get involved in the greater Philadelphia community. The Center for Conflict Management and Media Impact (CMMI) is just one way our professors are creating community partnerships while also educating others about the relationship between media and conflict.
The CMMI was launched in July 2021, after Professor and CMMI Director Tricia Jones (she/her) and Senior Associate Dean Deb Cai identified the need to build media and conflict literacy and intervention mechanisms to stop the escalation of conflict in the community.
Jones’ and Cai’s work as conflict scholars have enabled them to lead professional associations like the International Association for Conflict Management and the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR). They are joined by other Klein College and Temple University professors and graduate students who bring their expertise and passion to the various projects of the center.
Jones has identified three goals for the center. First, research the relationship between media and conflict in order to study and prevent conflict. Second, to support academic programs within Klein College focused on conflict management theory. Third, to bring in student projects and provide internships and work experiences for students that are interested in the field.
Klein College has opportunities to study conflict and communication at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. A key focus of the undergraduate communication and social influence curriculum is conflict and communication, while students pursuing their master's in communication management can add a certificate in conflict management and dispute resolution.
The CMMI has several local partners, such as the School District of Philadelphia, SEPTA Transit Police and the Citizen’s Police Oversight Commission as well as several national and international partners such as the Global Partnership for Prevention of Armed Conflict and the National Association for Community Mediation.
Recently, the center received its sixth grant. On September 30, 2022, the Department of Justice awarded Jones and CMMI a $1.7 million grant to fund Resolutionary Partners, an initiative between the CMMI, the School District of Philadelphia and SEPTA Transit Police. The grant is part of the Bureau of Justice Assistance's Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Program. The CMMI was one of only two institutions in higher education to receive the highly competitive grant. The project is funded through 2025.
“The goal is for us to be building integrated conflict management and anti-violence systems with youth, particularly systems-involved youth,” Jones said.
Systems-involved youth are youth that are most involved in one or more systems such as the juvenile justice system, foster care, housing shelters and more. These students face a number of challenges in dealing with violence and finding a way to negotiate more constructive and effective conflict alternatives.
Over the next three years, the CMMI will train students, law enforcement and teachers in conflict management, dialogue facilitation, conflict coaching and mediation processes. As a result, the students involved will be given the power to lead those initiatives while building relationships with the adults around them.
The Resolutionary Partners grant is related to two previous grants Jones and the CMMI received to implement and study conflict resolution education in the School District of Philadelphia.
The first related grant is from the School District of Philadelphia and allowed the CMMI to establish The Youth Dialogue Insitute (YDI). YDI has established a cohort of high school youth who wanted to facilitate difficult conversations on important issues. The program started with 40 students learning how to facilitate the dialogues they wanted to have in their school communities. Now, some of those students are peer mentors for the Resolutionary Partners program. The groundwork from YDI will also serve as one of the sets of trainers for Resolutionary Partners.
The CMMI also received funding from the JAMS Foundation/ACR Initiative for Students and Youth to establish the Youth Conflict Specialists (YCS) program, which works specifically with systems-involved youth that are or were homeless. Mentor students from YCS are also supporting the Resolutionary Partners program in partnership with the School District of Philadelphia’s Educating Children and Youth Experiencing Homelessness program.
“Just hearing about the program was really amazing,” said Clinical Director at Achieve Academy East Samantha Petroski (she/her). “I thought it was something that our students definitely could use.”
Achieve Academy East is an alternative education school that works with students who had previously broken the code of conduct in the School District of Philadelphia. Students stay for at least 45 days, before transitioning back into the school district.
Petroski was eager to join the pilot for YCS and has seen the incredible impact it has had on students’ self-esteem and ownership of their ability to solve problems.
“I think that having this community partnership instills hope, it instills exposure, and it instills change for generations,” Petroski said. She noted that it has been incredible to see students’ eyes light up when they set foot on Temple’s campus and how many of them are excited about the possibility of continuing their education here one day.
Another key player in the CMMI is Adjunct Professor Trisha Swed, KLN ’12 CEHD ’15, (she/her). Swed met Jones while the former was a student and the latter was a professor in the College of Education and Human Development. Swed has been a part of all three mentioned grants and even other projects before the center officially launched.
“It’s been really exciting to watch the center kind of come together and fill out a little bit more,” Swed said.
Swed focuses on making sure the programs they are building are empowering for the youth they serve. Through her work with the CMMI, Swed has worked to understand the nuances of social media, and how students’ understanding of social media differs from that of adults.
In addition to the above projects, the CMMI has also received grants to support the Citizen’s Police Oversight Commission. The CMMI and its partners created a mediation program that is only the fifth of its kind in the country. The program aims to mediate lower-level disputes between communities and law enforcement in order to build trust and resolution skills.
Jones, Petroski and Swed are excited about the future of the CMMI and their various partnerships.
“All of the work that we do is trying to build community-based partnerships and systems for people to more constructively manage conflict,” Jones said.