Remembering Dr. Helen Swartzfager Ridley

 Dr. Helen Swartzfager Ridley
Dr. Helen Swartzfager Ridley

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 26, 2023) — Just like a mediator who sees the possibility of a peaceful resolution when disputants can't, Dr. Helen Ridley saw an opportunity where no one else did. Working alongside faculty and staff colleagues in Political Science, Dr. Ridley recognized—and seized—the opportunity to launch an innovative academic program nearly twenty-five years ago.

As recounted in Professor Doug Yarn's "Designing a Conflict Management System for Higher Education" (Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 2014), the University System of Georgia undertook the Initiative and Policy Direction on Conflict Resolution in the mid-1990s. With insight and foresight the document's authors advised,

"efforts to teach and use alternative dispute resolution are congruent with the Board of Regents’ vision and principles for the System. Institutions of higher education are communities that should encourage collegiality, trustworthiness, and collaboration."

Each campus in the USG system developed a local conflict management system unique to its culture and needs; at KSU the system has always included ombuds available to various campus constituencies. While in 2000 there were three ombuds, each one designated to serve a specific audience: students, staff, or faculty. In 2022 we have an office with multiple ombuds who serve all constituencies.

Piggybacking on the development of campus resources, Dr. Ridley oversaw the creation of an undergraduate certificate program in ADR. The early popularity of the certificate program led to the proposal for a graduate program in 1998. The program design integrated many of the contemporary trends in master's-level education of the time: weekend-only classes, practical relevance, real-world application, and experienced faculty.

Today's MSCM maintains all these qualities, for which we have Dr. Ridley—and her perceptive vision—to thank.

On the Scholarships donation page, select the Helen S. Ridley Scholarship from the drop-down list. Please support our MSCM students by donating today.