Brenau hosts annual mock mediation tournament

Nov 6, 2020
Kathryne Davis

The 18th annual Brenau University Mock Mediation Invitational Tournament had a different look than previous years.

The tournament, held Oct. 8-10, was hosted by the University of Central Florida, due to Brenau hosting the International Intercollegiate Mediation Tournament in the middle of November. Ken Frank, conflict resolution program director, said the tournament organizers didn’t want students to have to travel to Brenau twice, so the university partnered with Central Florida to have students experience different venues. Then COVID-19 forced the tournament to be held virtually, but the universities still co-hosted, and participants were able to have a tour of Central Florida’s new facilities.

“I’m convinced that going forward there is a place for a continuation of Zoom experiences just because of traveling,” Frank said. “This gives schools a chance to participate that wouldn’t be able to travel to a tournament site.”

While Brenau’s team did not place as well as it has in the past, the tournament was a great learning experience for the students as they were just beginning to understand how mediation tournaments work, Frank said.

Fewer schools registered for Brenau’s tournament this year because of technology challenges and the need for more judges. For example, clients and advocates used Zoom breakout rooms to discuss issues within their situations, but these required another person as a room host. Frank said that “it takes a village to do these,” but everyone was able to put on a successful tournament.

Brenau’s team also participated in a virtual tournament over the summer hosted by the International Academy of Dispute Resolution and Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius, Lithuania. Brenau placed sixth out of 16 teams in advocacy, which included many from law schools around the world. Junior Madeline Langford and 2020 graduate Cierra Franklin earned individual top advocate-client awards as a result of their hard work.

“The tournament really opened up some doors because, not only did we have teams from the US, but we had two teams from different schools in India and one team from Lithuania,” Frank said.

Senior Dejah Williams said the virtual tournaments were “amazing.” She was able to practice her conflict resolution skills on a new platform, which she said will help her with the unpredictableness of conflict resolution in the future.

“I definitely look forward to participating in more virtual tournaments,” Williams said. “The amount of people I got to still interact with during the rounds was great. In one of my rounds, I got to partner with a student from India. We worked well together and made sure to share social media tags with each other to stay connected. One of the best parts about the Brenau mediation team is that the tournaments open other doors for us all since there are so many experienced judges, students and coaches.”

Brenau has been preparing for its next competition, the IIMT, on Nov. 12-14. Frank said the IIMT will feature 16-20 teams instead of the usual 34-36 because of limitations due to Zoom. Frank anticipates a good amount of international schools at the IIMT, along with international mediation presenters who will be able to talk to the students via Zoom.

“We’re all looking forward to the day when we can go back to doing these tournaments in person,” Frank said. “But in the meantime, this keeps the process alive.”