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Inaugural Straus Alternative Dispute Resolution and Social Entrepreneurship Class Presents Business Pitches

Inaugural ADR and Social Entrepreneurship class

Straus Institute professor Helen Winter’s inaugural Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Social Entrepreneurship class culminated their studies as student teams presented their social entrepreneurship business pitches on April 10 and 17. Facing a jury of experts from Pepperdine's Graziadio Business School, Graduate School of Education and Psychology, and Seaver College, as well as the JAMS Foundation, the students showcased their social businesses with a focus on ADR solutions. Professor Winter and Straus Institute dean Suhksimranjit Singh opened the event, marking not only the inaugural celebration of the class but also recognizing the successful collaboration across the participating schools.

ADR & Social Entrepreneurship is a unique Straus course that hasn't been previously taught at Pepperdine Caruso Law or at any other law school. The class offers students a unique opportunity to explore the intersection of ADR and social entrepreneurship. Throughout the course, students delve into the world of conflict resolution, negotiation, and system design, with a specific focus on applying these concepts to address pressing social issues by forming ADR-related social businesses. By examining real-world problems and learning about business models, participants gain a comprehensive understanding of how ADR methods and innovative system design can be harnessed to create meaningful and sustainable solutions for the global challenges they are passionate about addressing. There is an emphasis on learning through a quasi-clinical approach. Students develop their own social business ideas and work on those business concepts over the course of the semester. 

The roster of projects presented by the students reflects their diverse passions and commitments to social impact:

Manthan Mediate (Harshit Rathore, Mannat Sandhu, Will Burrington)

Manthan Mediate builds communication channels and facilitates collaborative negotiations between local communities and government entities, addressing complex land-use issues in India.

Women’s Way Forward (Jessica Locke, Priscilla Maldonado, Jailynn Hill, Madison Leonardi) 

Women's Way Forward believes that women are the glue needed to rebuild societies after violent war, so their goal is to preserve peace in post-conflict areas by equipping women with Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) skills. Their pilot program aims to make progress towards a more peaceful world by working with women in Ethiopia to help them heal their country after the recent conclusion of the Tigray War.

aRt-Official eRasure (ROR) (Jean Fang, Jake Stokes, Myers Mentzer)

aRt-Official Erasure (ROR) is the first NGO of its kind, dedicated to wielding education, legal aid, and human art promotion to ensure that human creation is not subsumed in large part by advances in artificial intelligence.

Parent Harmony (Justin Choi, Steele Luoma, Evan Leshinskie, Benjamin, Jenna Briggs)

Parent Harmony is offering mediation services for newly divorced parents that focuses on developing co-parenting strategies. The goal is to avoid the traditional mediation stance on divorced families that often treats the children as an “asset” that is divided for time.

Aurora (Christian Parham, Felipe Glioche, Vandes Jackson)

Aurora equips students aged 16-18 with the skills to tackle the "compass of pain" - misinformation, discrimination, and polarization - through in-person and online workshops, podcasts, and social media ambassadors. Ultimately, our purpose is to bring knowledge that empowers people.

SCORE (Nicholas Conti, Kelsey Holmes, Sebastian Knauer)

SCORE strives to enhance the female soccer game by inspiring young female soccer athletes to pursue a career playing professional soccer without encountering insurmountable obstacles. To do this, SCORE creates a space for female soccer athletes, aged 15 to 25, to gain dispute resolution skills in negotiation to advocate for higher salaries, equal pay, and increased brand endorsement deals.

Connected Family Transport (Kellen Kroger, Sterling Parker, Jesus Rojas Vazquez, Christopher Goldbach, Carl Langholz)

Connected Family Transport focuses on addressing issues within the troubled teen industry, particularly forced transports, with the aim of educating and repairing familial relationships. They offer various educational channels, such as training programs with mental health professionals, informative materials for families, widespread awareness campaigns, and mediation services and counseling facilitated by partnered mental health professionals.

Each project exemplified the class's ethos of leveraging ADR methodologies to effect positive change in society. 

Professor Winter's inspiration for the course stemmed from her own experience founding R3solute, a nonprofit dedicated to conflict resolution and mediation among refugees and locals in Germany.  Winter and her team had to learn how to form and run a nonprofit organization by simply doing it. Her vision was to equip Straus students with the tools and mindset of social entrepreneurship, recognizing that mediators have a role to play in shaping a more just and equitable world.

Joy Qiao, a current Master of Dispute Resolution student and staff member at Pepperdine's Integrated Marketing and Communications, served as Professor Winter's research assistant for the course's design. Qiao earned her first master's degree in Business Management and Leadership at Graziadio Business School. With a decade of experience in entrepreneurship, Qiao contributed to the business components of the course. She was instrumental in making the class a success and bringing the panel of experts together who served as judges during the final pitches. 

On April 10, the panel of experts who evaluated the student pitches was comprised of Cecilia Morgan, attorney and ADR professional from the JAMS Foundation; Stephen Rapier, assistant professor of marketing at Graziadio Business School; Amy Wood, program manager for the Most Fundable Companies at Pepperdine University; Zarik J Boghossian, social entrepreneur and professor at Graziadio Business School; and Rami Rivera, an entrepreneur and Graziadio Business School alumnus. Their combined expertise provided the students with invaluable feedback on their innovative pitches.

On April 17, the students welcomed returning experts Stephen Rapier and Amy Wood, joined by Howard Jean-Denis, assistant professor of strategic management at Seaver College, and John Brown, a member of the Social Entrepreneurship and Change Advisory Board at the Graduate School of Education and Psychology. This group of experts brought a wide array of insights, which further enriched the students’ experience by highlighting different aspects of business strategy and social entrepreneurship.

These sessions not only offered students a platform to present their business pitches but also allowed them to gain critical insights from seasoned professionals across various fields. 

Reflecting on their class experience, students emphasized the transformative nature of the course. Student Christian Parham commented, “Because of this class, I have learned to think beyond myself to make an impact on others."

As the world grapples with ever-evolving challenges, combining ADR and social entrepreneurship offers a path forward with the work of ADR practitioners extending beyond individual disputes to address systemic injustices. The Straus Institute plans to continue the ADR & Social Entrepreneurship course and remains committed to developing the next generation of changemakers.