MC3: Anthony Keen-Louie, newly announced Director of MC3, congratulations on your appointment. Perhaps we can start with you letting us know a little bit about your background and your introduction to MC3.
AK-L: Thank you and I’m happy to share a little of my history. I’ve worked for a long time now on college campuses. From the time I was undergrad myself at UC Riverside, I was an RA, a Resident Advisor, where I assisted students living in the residence halls and with the many issues that arise when students live in dorms (smiles). Upon graduation, that work with students led me directly into the world of student affairs and taking me to New York University NYU where I received a master’s degree in Student Affairs.
Not surprisingly, most of my professional life after NYU has been spent working at various educational institutions. I first returned to CA and worked at UC Santa Barbara where I was a Resident Director and responsible for the general oversight of student life within a residential community. After a few years, I returned to New York, once again, and took a position at Columbia University where I worked primarily in graduate student support. And, after a few years in New York, there were some family issues that wound up pulling me back to Southern California, where I’ve been for the past 10+ years.
In 2011, I began working at San Diego State where I was involved in Residence Life and, in 2015 I began working at UC San Diego, where I was hired as a Director of Residence Life, supervising a team who oversaw the student life needs of one of the residential areas on campus, which gave me some great managerial and leadership experience. Finally, my current student affairs role is supervising the professional and student staff team responsible for the student live initiatives of UCSD’s Graduate and Family Housing operation. Most universities don’t have a large graduate and family housing community, typically a couple of hundred people, if that. But, UCSD has 5,500 such people currently, and is on track to become the largest housing operation in the country.
MC3: That is a pretty large community. So, how did all your work in academic settings lead you into the world of mediation?
AK-L: I’ve lived in this world for a long time now. Actually, I first learned of mediation in seventh grade when I became a peer mediator, learning how to address issues like a friend not returning a CD (something I know is not familiar to any seventh graders today). Regarding my more recent career in student affairs, I joined a professional organization for people that do the Student Affairs work that I’m involved with called NASPA. I’ve had leadership roles within NASPA and attended various continuing education opportunities. One of those was a Certificate Program/Training called Higher Education Law and Policy, which was sort of a crash course in Law School for non-lawyers, but it particularly focused on issues in higher ed.
My work at schools has been interesting and diverse and touches on so many different arenas, including program development, student conduct, crisis management and mentoring. It’s a lot of different responsibilities packed into one area, and it was, in fact, through this work where I developed so many skills that I later came to understand were, in fact, mediation-based skills.
There is, not surprisingly, a fair bit of conflict that exists on college campuses. So much of my work with students touched on issues of dispute and the resolution of that dispute. And one skill I began recognizing in myself was that I’ve become pretty effective at being a translator between worlds; from students to staff to faculty as well as to other constituent groups on campuses that work with, interact with and often disagree with, one another.
I wanted to explore different avenues where I could use and develop some of these dispute resolution tools. I thought perhaps I might become a counsel for a university, I started learning about Ombuds positions and, although I’m abbreviating this career/thought process I’ve gone through, I came to a few conclusions. The greatest of them was an understanding that, for now, I didn’t want to be a lawyer, I didn’t want to be a litigator or work in a courtroom. But, at the same time, I absolutely wanted to become more skilled at facilitating the resolution of disputes.
And that led me to go back (once again) to grad school, at USC Gould School of Law, and receive my Masters in Dispute Resolution. It’s taken me to this place where, for now, I feel like I’m running on two career tracks; One in a university setting where I continue to do the work I’ve been doing for over 15 years, and another where I’m pursuing work as a mediator. What I really hope is that these two paths might converge as one, where I can bring my passion for, and understanding of, education and university settings together with my interests in and the skills I continue to develop in ADR. I also work as a mediator and trainer for the National Conflict Resolution Center in San Diego and have done work for Educational Solutions 4 Change – in addition to some independent contracting mediation work.
MC3: That sounds like a great convergence of your professional passions. I’m guessing that it was at USC where MC3 first got on your radar?
AK-L: I took a class with Jack Goetz (President of MC3) and another with Jason Harper (former Board Member and VP of MC3) both of whom did a fantastic job of talking about MC3. They’ve shared the reasons why they, and others, initially got involved in the organization and have worked to create and establish MC3.
It’s interesting because I come from a very different yet, in some ways, similar world where there’s not necessarily a ‘certification’ for working in student affairs but there are qualifications and there are other measurable steps that are involved in becoming an effective, responsible professional in that arena. Certification for Mediators is an idea that I easily and naturally connected with.
MC3: I know that you’re new to MC3 but are there any bigger picture initiatives that you’d like to champion in your new position with the organization?
AK-L: Well, to start, I would share that I’m still absorbing a lot every day. That said, I feel like we have a very good foundation, a really good product to underscore the seriousness of our mission. That is a consequence of the hard work that has been done over the past few years and it has put MC3 in a position where we have something really good that we can offer to the mediation community and, by extension, to the public who utilize mediation services.
One thing that I’m working actively on right now is connecting with our education and training partners and being able to share what they’re doing with our certified mediators. I think there are exciting opportunities on the education front, particularly in being more communicative and connected with schools or law schools that have that have MDR, or similar, programs. I can speak to my own experience and how I look at the MC3 qualifications for certification as a more tangible roadmap for me as I work to establish myself as a mediator.
Along with strengthening our educational our educational initiatives, one of the things I really hope we can do is communicate the message of what MC3 is to other mediation organizations around the country. Although our initial growth has come from Southern California, a few years ago, there is a Virginia-based mediation organization – the Virginia Mediation Network – that was looking to do something very much like MC3 certification. The then-president of VMN became aware of MC3, ultimately joined the organization as a Board Member and has further established an affiliation between VMN and MC3, that has allowed us to expand our reach in another part of the country.
I imagine there are mediation organizations like VMN, and like SCMA in Southern California, that exist in every state in the country. And one of the things I hope to accomplish is to establish our presence and communicate our mission to those other organizations so that they’re aware of what MC3 has accomplished to date as well as how the MC3 standard can be a benchmark for mediation practice in their own communities and jurisdictions.
MC3: Any other observations you’ve made in the relatively short time that you’ve been in your new position?
AK-L: I really want to recognize the MC3 Board and everybody that’s been involved in building the organization. It’s not something that’s easy to do, staring an organization like this. When I first saw the MC3 website, I thought that this is a very well-developed organization – and I thought it had been around for a longer period of time than it actually has – especially given our well-developed certification process. That only happens when you have dedicated people working towards a goal and I’ve come to realize that, at MC3, it’s actually not a very large group. It’s a small, relatively nimble group that figures things out. MC3 has an active, involved Board where everybody has their own lives and is busy with their own professional and personal pursuits, but they’re committed to figuring things out, and dedicated to ensuring that the organization is growing and that the standard we’re all working towards becomes better understood and established.
I’ve become more directly involved with SCMA activities recently, and was able to present at the SCMA Annual Conference last fall. I think that, to the extent that I’ve been able to become involved in both MC3 and SCMA, it has showed me how strong our community is here.
MC3: Anthony, it sounds like you have a very full plate. We wish you great success in your new job and thank you so much for taking a little time today.
AK-L: There is absolutely a lot to do but I couldn’t be more pleased to be here and to begin the work. Thank you.