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Student's Passion for Outdoors Turns into Action with Kroc School MS-CMR Degree

Peter Martin '19 (MS-CMR) has a passion for the outdoors and through his graduate degree at The Kroc School, he turned his passion into action.Patrick Martin, front row, second from left, was among a solid first Kroc School cohort for the Master of Science in Conflict Management and Resolution degree program in 2018-19.

Patrick Martin loves the outdoors. He surfs, swims and snowboards for fun and for work, he’s been a river guide, a scuba divemaster, and a rock-climbing instructor, to name a few.

Being outdoors isn't just a passion for Martin, it's a way of life. Because he’s engaged in it, he's also a proponent of preserving and caring for the environment as a volunteer policy advocate for San Diego's Surfrider Foundation. Martin enjoys helping others, such as underserved youth learn about and enjoy nature in his work as a wilderness coordinator.

Does this seem like a perfect candidate to apply for the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies' Master of Science in Conflict Management and Resolution (MS-CMR)? It does, and he did. In the 2018-19 academic year, Martin completed the nine-month, 30-unit degree program as part of its first graduating cohort in May.

"I enjoy intense study and the accelerated pace was well-aligned for my personal and professional goals," Martin said. "San Diego is a nice place, too, so obviously it has a great climate. I love the ocean, so the thought of studying by the Pacific, being able to surf, swim or just walk on the beach was wonderful. San Diego's proximity to Mexico was appealing, too, for studying conflicts and peace and justice, so I was in."

While the MS-CMR has a nine-month track, the program has a 15-month option and a part-time track for working professionals who need beyond 15 months to complete the degree.

Martin's perspective and personality fit with an inaugural cohort consisting of active and retired military, police, education and medical professionals and international students. The diverse backgrounds for a program that requires all participants to have three years of professional work experience means everyone contributes to class discussions and everyone can learn and appreciate others' perspectives.

Martin said the flexibility of the curriculum contributed to a well-rounded educational experience — in and out of the classroom.

"The program has specific courses required as part of the curriculum, but it's a master of science degree so there's a lot of focus on the practical application as a practitioner of conflict management and resolution: negotiation, facilitation, dialogue and facilitation conflict analysis. There is room, too, for electives taken across the Kroc School and USD. I'm a practitioner, but I also have a theoretical bent towards my thinking, so it was great to pick and choose classes that allowed me to go deeper into my specific curiosities."

He took on the advocacy role with the San Diego Surfrider Foundation soon after arriving from Colorado where he had been a traveling city canvass director for Amnesty International USA. The Surfrider role fit with his affinity for the outdoors and environment. It also worked its way into his final project.

"It was specifically for the Clean Border Water Now campaign. It was my intention to study specifically environmental conflict management and resolution of environmental diplomacy," Martin said. "Due to my outdoor background and seeing, over the years, the natural world deteriorate and people get in conflicts over it, I've seen the effects that environmental degradation has on everyday living, on people, on environmental justice issues, and access to natural resources and recreational resources. It's really sad."

His volunteer status was necessary due to his degree time commitments, but the coursework certainly helped. "I used a lot of what I experienced and incorporated that work into my studies and predominantly focused on federal issues," Martin said.

He organized a delegation trip to Washington, D.C. to seek infrastructure funding for the Tijuana River Valley. There's been ongoing pollution issues for over 100 years, Martin said. "It's a trans-national, bi-national conflict between the United States and Mexico.

"It's one of the most environmental conflicts I know of, and there's a lot of people working to try to get things going to fund projects, stem the tide of raw, untreated sewage spilling into the Tijuana River from Mexico, and inundating both the U.S. and Mexico coastlines," he said.

Martin's D.C. trip included lobbying on behalf of the Surfrider Foundation, partnering with Four Walls International who also sought to partner with Ocean Conservancy and the Trash Free Seas Alliance to act. He visited some 30 U.S. representatives’ and senators’ offices, talked with Environmental Protection Agency officials and nonprofits to get them onboard.

"I learned a lot and It really drove much of my conflict management and resolution experience. A lot of things I read about in conflict analysis courses, the conflicts I saw arise, my own position as an outsider — how do I come into a conflict and build trust in a way that allows me to be effective, but authentically, knowing that I have the coursework to do and constraints on my time?"

The knowledge he gained from the D.C. trip was aided by another class he took after he returned to San Diego. "I took a Policy Advocacy class (from USD's School of Leadership and Education Sciences) after the trip so I was really able to analyze what happened. It was a great learning experience. I also took a business and social innovation class with Professor Juan Roche, who is a fantastic guy and is the former CEO of Nabisco."

Martin’s multiple experiences, in and out of the classroom, learning from diverse, top-notch professors all combined into having plenty to draw from when doing his final project.

“I incorporated everything I was working on in an academic conflict analysis. I did a conflict analysis comparison between the situation going on with the river flowing across the U.S.-Mexican border, and the U.S.-Canadian border with the pollution of the Columbia River,” he said. “Both rivers are on borders, the U.S. is the common denominator, but the relationships with Mexico and Canada are remarkably different. Analyzing the case through an environmental justice lens, a conflict analysis lens, and a sustainable development lens was insightful. I feel the fruits of my work were well received by my professors, peers and colleagues. It satisfied curiosities I had while also tying in the practical work I was doing as a volunteer with my theoretical side. I ended up creating an environmental conflict class for myself.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

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