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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Advancing Civility and Managing Conflict in the Public Sphere

Faculty: Anuj Gupta, Aparna Gupta, and James Schuelke

Public discourse in our communities is becoming increasingly uncivil and polarized, often resulting in conflicts, big and small. Using examples from the instructors' public-sector experience and case studies from across the country, this course examines four separate, but related, public spheres—the modern workplace, local government, higher education, and social media. Participants will have the opportunity to situate themselves in relatable scenarios, understand individual and group dynamics, problem solve, and identify creative solutions and strategies. The ultimate objective of these learnings will be to promote respectful dialogue, enhance collaboration, and effectively resolve policy debates as well as individual or organizational disputes.

What you will learn:
● The cost of conflict within the modern workplace, public institutions, and social media
● The framework for promoting civility in dialogues and relationships in the public sphere
● Strategies to build trust between individuals and groups in conflict
● How to convene and lead diverse, and often opposing, stakeholders to action
● The role of transparency in promoting engagement
● Managing and de-escalating conflicts on social media
● Appropriately messaging and communicating in the midst of crises and following a conflict

Anuj Gupta is the deputy city manager and director of policy for the City of Santa Monica, a role he has held since 2017. Gupta serves on the city's executive team and works across city departments to lead and coordinate policy initiatives on issues including mobility, homelessness, economic opportunity, and sustainability. He previously worked for Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti as general counsel for the mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs. From 2011 to 2014, Gupta served in President Barack Obama's White House as associate staff secretary, managing the flow of briefings and decision memos to and from the president, and traveling with him on trips domestically and abroad. Gupta's prior work experience includes serving as counsel on the judicial nominations team at the US Department of Justice, working on Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign in several states, and working as an associate at O'Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles. He earned his BA from Stanford University and his JD from the New York University School of Law.

Aparna Gupta serves as associate director of professional development and external relations at the Straus Institute, where she manages students' career development, the institute's communications platforms, and strategic relationships with professionals and organizations. She received her JD from the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law and was awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City to represent low-wage workers seeking enforcement of their labor rights. Gupta has previously worked at the American Constitution Society in Washington, DC, and most recently, she served as assistant director for the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law's Public Interest program. In her various professional roles, she has written and given presentations on a variety of legal and policy-related topics, including employment law, law student careers, and diversity in higher education.

James Schuelke is the director of institutional advancement, community relations, and marketing at Moorpark College. Recently Schuelke advised the Biden Foundation and helped lead Dr. Jill Biden's advocacy efforts for College Promise's free tuition programs at community colleges across the nation. Previously, he served in the Obama White House where he worked across the Offices of Management and Budget, Public Engagement, and Intergovernmental Affairs, building broad coalitions of support for President Obama's policy agenda. Prior to that, Schuelke worked on the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, beginning in the Iowa caucus. He attended community college at Ventura and Cuesta Colleges, earned his BA from the University of California, Davis, and an MA from Brown University.