Intergroup Relations

Leslie V
IGR Conflict and Co-Existence Course
My name is Leslie V., I am a sophomore in LSA where I am majoring in 
International Studies, with a concentration on International Security, Policy, and Norms. My plans for the future include law school where I will either pursue a career in corporate law or international law.
I am currently enrolled in an IGR Conflict and Co-existence course that focuses on the roles that religion, culture, and ethnicity play into conflict and co-existence between and within groups. I stumbled upon this course (cross-listed as SOC/ALA 228 and PSYCH 312) while looking through the list of courses approved for my major, and it instantly drew my attention.
Ever since my middle school Social Studies teacher talked about the Armenian Genocide (himself being of Armenian descent) I have always been drawn to the issues of why people come into conflict and how they can hopefully eventually come to some type of resolution or agreement, if 
not a peaceful settlement. The issues of war, in-group conflict, and non-violent conflict, whether it be international or domestic, has always sparked interest in me and being able to see how religion, culture, and ethnicity could play a role in these issues only ignites that spark further.
However, it is not just the issue of conflict, but also that of co-existence and how hard and complicated it can be to achieve because of these issues that most of the time we cannot change. This course is definitely one that makes you think critically and about your own life.
So far throughout the course, we have seen some of the reasons as to why conflict could arise between groups. Most of these conflicts are because there are some types of perceptions between the groups that lead to tension which can then build up and lead to conflict. These perceptions usually do stem from a difference in religion, culture, or ethnicity.
One of the things I found very interesting is that sometimes these perceptions are so deeply rooted in a culture that to some people it just seems right to have a bias against the out-group without ever having had any contact with them. These perceptions go back so far in generations that, even though an individual may not necessarily agree with them, they will not speak out for fear of being shunned by their own group.
From this class I have definitely learned that to be able to avoid and/or resolve conflict, we truly need to step aside from the conflict and view from our opponent’s position. We need to try and understand the motives behind their actions and ask ourselves how we would react in that same situation. In order to achieve peace, we need to empathize with those we see ourselves in conflict and view the issue from their perspective.
The course is taught by Dr. Adrienne Dessel, who does an amazing job and allows for a very comfortable and welcoming environment in the classroom teaches the course. Not only will this course allow me to have a different view of conflict and co-existence in the world, but also how to best handle conflict and develop co-existence in my own life, no matter the situation.