Friendlier Confines for Resolving Conflict
Published in Campaign for TC
Aided by generous support from Trustee Marla Schaefer (M.A. ’03), Teachers College has renovated the offices of The Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR).
The state-of-the-art facility, located in 232 Horace Mann Hall, formally opened its doors with a ribbon-cutting in late October. It houses the new Marla L. Schaefer Conference Center, which honors Schaefer’s longtime support for ICCCR. Schaefer has previously funded a translation into Arabic of The Handbook of Conflict Resolution, coauthored by the Center’s founder, Morton Deutsch, Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Education, and current Director Peter Coleman, Professor of Psychology and Education. She and her husband Steven Weishoff have also personally hosted many of the Center’s visiting speakers.
“Marla has been our angel for the past several years,” Coleman said in his remarks at the ribbon cutting, at which TC President Susan Fuhrman also thanked Schaefer for “giving us a fabulous space that will help us to attract the new students and faculty who, over time, will continue the program.”
The field of conflict resolution was in large measure shaped at TC, beginning with the 1973 publication by Deutsch of The Resolution of Conflict: Constructive and Destructive Processes, which provided an empirical basis for emerging theories. ICCCR, founded in 1986, has been a world leader in conducting basic and applied research on theory related to conflict, justice, cooperation, and systemic change and in working with educational, non-profit, corporate, and governmental organizations. Yet that impressive track record has been forged more or less in spite of a space that Schaefer, who took courses through ICCCR during her time as an organizational psychology student at TC, has called “a rabbit’s warren.”
“Morton Deutsch, Peter Coleman and the entire team did amazing work all crunched up – and I mean really crunched up – in a warren of tiny rooms,” she said at the October ribbon cutting ceremony. “In this beautiful new space, a roadmap to conflict resolution is being created – a roadmap that extends from the personal, one-on-one, to the community, to the world at large.”
Schaefer, the former co-CEO of Claire’s Stores, brings a businesswoman’s sharp eye to work she supports. Through the Rowland and Sylvia Schaefer Family Foundation, she has backed TC’s master’s degree program in Diabetes Education and Management – a first-of-its-kind online venue for nurses, pharmacists and dietitians who serve on the front lines of a burgeoning health crisis. She also is an alumna of TC’s social-organizational psychology program. As a student, Schaefer spent significant time within ICCCR, and “applied what I learned on a constant basis,” as she recalled upon joining TC’s Board of Trustees in 2007. “Whatever I was studying, I looked into my own company and saw it happening. It was like my very own petridish.”
Clearly, for Schaefer, the value of that experience has only grown with time.
“I know this new space will continue to foster brilliant minds bringing light to a world often mired in conflict,” she said in October. “I’m honored to be part of TC and blessed that I have the ability to be part of something so meaningful.”