Reflections on the 15th Annual DRC Conference Highlights:
"Honoring Our Past...Celebrating Our Future"
Kimberly Ann Kosch
The Dispute Resolution Center hosted more than 1,000 conflict resolution practitioners at our Annual Conference for Mediators and Arbitrators: Honoring Our Past, Celebrating Our Future in August at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando. The Conference highlighted the 15 th anniversary of Annual DRC Conferences along with the 20 th year anniversary of the Dispute Resolution Center. Attendees were welcomed to the Conference and Orlando by Chief Judge Belvin Perry of the 9 th Judicial Circuit whose commanding presence and heart felt words captivated the audience. In keeping with our theme and celebrating our milestones, our invited plenary speakers, Professor Joseph “Josh” Stulberg, Dean James Alfini and Professor Nancy Welsh, embodied the successes and challenges alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in Florida has experienced over the last 20 years.
One of the most memorable moments of the Conference was the presentation of the DRC Annual Award of Appreciation to David Strawn before a thousand of his peers and his family during the opening plenary. David received the award for his “vision and leadership in advancing alternative dispute resolution in Florida” over the last two decades. In presenting the award to him, DRC Director Sharon Press recited the history of a man who truly has worn “many hats” – including: his life’s passion as a cattle farmer, his service to the judiciary, his gubernatorial appointment as Sheriff, and his contributions as one of the founding fathers of court –connected ADR in Florida. The presentation ended with a gift from the DRC staff of one more hat, one to keep the sun off his head as he enjoys in his retirement.
There are only a few people I can think of who could follow the type of tribute that was given to David and keep the flow of excitement and electricity in the air. Attendees were honored to hear Professor Joseph “Josh” Stulberg deliver a keynote address. Josh was instrumental in the initial offerings of the first certified mediation training programs in Florida and to this day, the DRC continues to use these materials when training new county court mediators. Josh was in a unique position to congratulate Floridians on a job well-done and reminded the audience that there is more work still to do.
From singular stars to the dynamic duo, Dean James Alfini and Professor Nancy Welsh, took center stage during our Friday afternoon plenary “Do You Need A Vision…Where Are You Going Without One?” Thought-provoking and reflective banter between Jim and Nancy demonstrated their understanding of important issues facing our profession and the collective wisdom of two intellectual giants in our field.
Complimenting our historical superstars, were over 100 Conference faculty members who offered a combined 37 individual workshops and nine facilitated break-out sessions. Cary R. Singletary, a mediator, arbitrator and trainer from Tampa, once again conducted the pre-conference offering of our Approved Arbitration Training Program. Over 100 neutrals were trained in that forum.
Our co-sponsoring organizations, Florida Academy of Professional Mediators, Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Nova Southeastern Department of Conflict Analysis & Resolution along with our collaborating organizations Association of South Florida Mediators & Arbitrators, Florida Chapter of ACR, Florida Chapter of AFCC, Mediation Training Group, Inc., and USF Conflict Resolution Collaborative contributed to our educational endeavors and offered participants an opportunity to learn about their organizations.
Our last plenary session, an Ethics Panel, featured members of the Mediator Ethics Advisory Committee (MEAC) and moderator Jim Alfini discussing mediator confidentiality and a recently released MEAC opinion on the same topic. This plenary, offered an opportunity for audience participation and many attendees offered their opinions. This plenary could have been entitled “the great debate!”
There was no debating when it came time to present the DRC Awards of Recognition. The voice of the DRC for over six years, Glenda Larry, was honored for her service and dedication to the DRC and the Office of the State Courts Administrator. Glenda had recently received a promotion and currently serves as Justice Quince’s judicial assistant. So while she is gone, she hasn’t gone too far. Thank goodness for that! Also recognized was MEAC member Willie Walker who had served eight years on the MEAC and was term-limited from accepting another appointment. MEAC members meet, as needed on Saturday mornings throughout the year to discuss ethical issues and provide advisory opinions to their colleagues. The members of the MEAC are truly unsung heroes!
On a personal note, I wish to thank all of our Conference staff: Sharon, Rosezetta, Glenda, Stephanie, Ramon, Sherry, Karl, Carlotta, Josh, Dawn, Jacob, Tameka and Beth for their hard work, dedication and most importantly their friendship. They are, beyond a doubt, the perfect “A-Team”.
Hope to see you next year at the 16 th Annual Conference on August 23-25, 2007 in Orlando at the Rosen Centre Hotel.