The day after Elaine Lin ’10 finishes taking the Bar Exam in California this summer, she’ll be on a plane to Belfast. Two days later, she’ll be working with dozens of young people who have lost loved ones to terrorism—from Israel, Palestine, Ireland, Spain, India, and the U.S.—in a camp where she will teach them skills for resolving conflict.
The work stems from a project she helped design this spring at the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP). “The theme of the camp is to let the past change our future. The curriculum we’ve designed acknowledges participants‚ unique life experiences and helps equip them to move forward in a positive way,” Lin says.
Lin, her project partner Annie Levin ’10, and a team including HNMCP Director and Clinical Professor Robert Bordone, will offer the seven-day program as part of Project Common Bond, an annual summer camp for children who’ve lost loved ones to terrorism. The camp is hosted by Tuesday’s Children, an HNMCP client.
This kind of fast-paced action has become old hat for Lin, who was Chair of the Harvard Negotiators, a student practice organization that provides law students with opportunities to become actively involved in the field of negotiation and alternative dispute resolution while working with clients in the ‘real world.’ Harvard Negotiators had a particularly busy year under Lin’s leadership, undertaking projects as diverse as union negotiation trainings, expanding the skill sets of regional politicians, and teaching negotiation tactics across disciplines University-wide. Bordone, who founded the organization, says, “When I first approached students in 2005 about beginning this organization, I had had high hopes and they have met those aspirations. During the last two years, they have built an infrastructure that has allowed them to have a profound effect locally, nationally, and internationally. It’s exciting to think about the ways the student organization and the clinical program can work together to empower people to manage conflict more creatively.”
Lin joined Harvard Negotiators as a 1L. Since then, she and her peers worked hard to build the organization: cultivating lasting client relationships; thinking about project management; and leveraging their successes into increasingly complex and interesting projects. All that hard work has allowed Harvard Negotiators this year to more than triple the number of projects and trainings it has taken on, as well as increase the number of students active in the organization.
Last summer, while teaching an executive education course to business professionals and industry leaders, Bordone met several firefighters who were so impressed with the material that they asked about further training. He immediately spoke to Lin who, along with Adam Glenn ‘10, gave a day-long training in Nantucket on negotiation preparation, creating value in negotiation, and difficult tactics, for a packed house of fire, police, airport, and restaurant union members, and the Town Administrator. Soon afterward, HLS Dean Martha Minow received a letter of thanks from the town and the firefighters who praised the “exceptional workshop,” and noted that the “class was so successful and captivating that [the] town manager suggested . . . similar training before all rounds of negotiation.”
A month later, Lin and other members of Harvard Negotiators' training corps traveled to Mississippi for similar events. In Jackson they presented at the NAACP Black Leadership Summit for African-American elected officials, sharing skills to enhance their effectiveness as representatives and policy makers. The training was so well-received the President of the Mississippi NAACP invited them to present again in the afternoon. “It’s not every day that, as a student, you’re recognized in a room of 250 elected officials and have the President of the MS NAACP say that everyone needs to learn what we’re offering,” says Lin. Harvard Negotiators’ work in Mississippi is continuing with the design of a negotiation curriculum for the Freedom Project of Sunflower County, a nonprofit dedicated to educational excellence and youth leadership development in a state that ranks at the bottom of the country in 4th grade math and reading skills. These efforts are part of the larger “Delta Project” at HLS and across the University—including the Graduate School of Education, the School of Public Health, and the Medical School—to assist Mississippi, one of the poorest and most under-resourced states in the nation.
Students from Harvard Negotiators are also teaching people how to use negotiation skills in all aspects of their lives. The organization aims to take theory out of the classroom and empower others to become more effective in resolving conflicts wherever they arise. In reaching out beyond the Law School campus to the wider University community, the group seeks to tap into cross-disciplinary interactions and resources, helping Harvard students to be more effective both during school and after they graduate. Harvard Negotiators worked this year with the Global Health Student Forum at the School of Public Health and the Student Alliance for Global Health on a simulation workshop with students from the College and the graduate schools interested in negotiating health care policy in developing countries. In February Harvard Negotiators Training Chair Zeke Reich ’10 instructed students in constructive dialogue at the internationally attended Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations Conference. The Negotiators also offer training sessions to student leaders through the Harvard College Office of Student Life and the Leadership Development Initiative. Grant Strother ’12 and Jake Slowik ’12 developed a consulting project to provide Harvard community members one-on-one consulting on real-life negotiation problems. Adam Brown ’11 is using his interest in deal design in corporate settings to explore connections in the Law and Business School communities. These collaborations and the Delta Project are examples of how Harvard Negotiators have embraced President Faust’s emphasis on cross-disciplinary work, by recognizing that negotiation and communication skills are valuable across a range of academic disciplines and professional contexts.
“There is enrichment in the cross-disciplinary interactions.” says Lin. “We are all one university, not isolated fiefdoms, and there is plenty we can learn from one another. The more we interact and can see things from different perspectives, the more well-rounded and broad-minded we will be when we leave Harvard—more capable of working with others irrespective of our fields. Negotiation is the piece that we bring to the table.”
- Tracy Blanchard