MA in Dispute Resolution


Admissions to the MADR program have been suspended.

The MADR program experience

An innovative curriculum will prepare you for a specialized career in dispute management. You will learn theory, tools and tactics to analyze and negotiate disputes, and apply these learnings to improve facilitation and communications in public policy disputes, as well as design dispute systems with optimal engagement. This will allow you to take on leadership roles in a government, community or private organization.

The courses are delivered over two academic semesters, interleaved with two optional co-operative work term semesters. Academic and work terms are grounded in a problem-based learning approach and are integral to develop capacities in strategic awareness, analytical thinking, engagement and communication, and professionalism and leadership. Students also complete a client-focused capstone project which provides strategic options for a government agency, non-profit organization, or community client on a real dispute management challenge. The project involves reviewing literature, undertaking empirical work, conducting process and design analyses, and developing options and detailed plans for implementing recommended options. All of the MADR courses prepare students for this capstone project.

Program Synopsis

The MADR program begins with a one-week immersion where you will meet and work together with your fellow students in the Public Administration (PA) Program because these distinct programs have skills and postures of relevance to each other. The orientation will introduce you to problem-based, applied learning as you work through challenging case studies with your team. Faculty will engage you in concepts directly related to the courses you will take in the program, some with your DR cohort and others with students from the MPA cohort, who are also developing skills for sizing up and addressing complex challenges. The orientation will ground you in the program and prepare you for the stimulating work to come.

In the first fall semester, in addition to taking your MADR core courses on Public Policy, Law and Dispute Resolution and Conflict, Culture, and Diversity, you will work with your peers from the MPA program in two courses on Collaboration and Engagement and Analysis for the Public and Non-Profit Sectors. These courses include a team-based integrative case that spans the semester and addresses a real-time significant policy challenge. The case will require you to consider and negotiate the interests of key stakeholders including industry, First Nations, communities, and different levels of governments. Your team will interact with other teams representing these stakeholders, as well as with actual representatives from government agencies in British Columbia. At the end of the semester, you will present your recommendations to these and other interested parties. These “PADR” courses are dedicated to fostering skills in facilitation, collaboration, engagement, negotiation, analysis, research design, and policy interventions.

In the second term of this first year, you will have the opportunity to participate in the co-op program. Introduction to Professional Practice, PADR 589, instructs students on how to manage and learn from the co-op experience. This course provides practical assistance with basic skills such as preparing resumes, writing letters, interviewing, understanding competencies and networking. Securing a co-op term is a competitive process. You should apply for as many jobs as possible. In later work terms, you may be more selective as you gain work experience with each placement. For their first term, many students take advantage of opportunities that are offered outside Victoria and it is advised to not sign a lease that will disadvantage you from being mobile.

While the co-op experience is optional it is strongly recommended for MADR students. As Dispute Resolution is a highly specialized field, there may not be many co-op opportunities available that are directly related to your interests. There are too few organizations offering direct mediation or other dispute resolution services to accommodate all students. Students are much more likely to secure a co-op with government, working on programs, policy or administrative tasks. Be open to jobs that are outside your discipline and apply for jobs that may relate indirectly to your studies. With each placement that you complete, that experience will hone your skills and improve your chances of securing a more relevant co-op placement in the future.

Even though the co-op experience may not provide direct dispute resolution practice, it will provide the student with a strong foundation, by preparing them to be competitive in the job market upon graduation. The school recommends co-op to students because it provides a deeper understanding of the workings of government while building the student's capability and credibility. Few government positions call for mediators, but they do involve working with conflict and the application of dispute resolution skills.

When you return in the summer, now enriched by your co-op experience, you will spend your first week immersed in a PADR course on professional integrity. You will have opportunities to reflect on your co-op experiences in the context your joint courses, Public Leadership and Management and Policy Making and Policy Communities, learning about the evolving nature of public governance work from multiple vantage points. This will allow you to reflect on your learning in the first term and in particular on your experience in the work place. It will deepen your insight and capacity to function with integrity in your field while being appreciative of the challenges that others face. As a DR student, you will deepen your process and analytic skills by taking the courses on Mediation Processes and Skills and Dispute Resolution System Design and Public Interest Disputes. Another problem-based integrative project will anchor the joint PADR courses focused on leadership, dispute analysis, and policy-making at an advanced level. You will also be preparing for a second co-op or practicum placement for the second fall semester.

With the learning from two cycles of applied courses, integrated cases and co-op placements, you will be well-prepared to identify or get matched with a client to undertake the capstone project or thesis project. Here you will apply critical skills in sizing up and parsing out dispute problems, undertaking reviews of literature and best practices, carrying out empirical work, and developing strategic options for your client. Finally, you will learn how to prepare and communicate a substantial professional report.

Academic year one (September to April)

Fall: First Academic Term

  • Immersion
  • DR 502 (1.5) Conflict, Culture and Diversity
    Cross-cultural conflicts involve navigating among diverse identities, meanings and ever-changing perceptions. This course uses experiential education and dialogue to explore processes, capacities, and tools to bridge cultural conflicts that draw on multiple intelligences. Develops fluency with ways of naming, framing, and taming conflict across cultural contexts, and fluency with culture animates and how it offers creative ways to deal with conflict. Theory and research are applied to interpersonal, inter-communal and international conflicts.
  • DR 503 (1.5) Public Policy, Law and Dispute Resolution
    Looks at the nature and scale of conflict in civil society and at the primary strategies that society employs to cope with it. Examines a range of contemporary issues of governance. Focuses on the interaction of legislative, judicial, and administrative institutions around two major themes: how programs and public policy are developed and how conflict is managed.
  • PADR 501 (1.5) Collaboration and Engagement
    - shared course with Public Administration
    Prepares students for public and non-profit sector work environments by developing conflict competence skills to anticipate, identify, prevent, mitigate, manage and/or resolve conflict. Through case studies, students develop self-awareness around personal conflict style and interpersonal skills to work collaboratively by building consensus and problem solving. They develop communication, negotiation and facilitation skills. Conflict theory provides an understanding of the nature and sources of conflict and primary models to manage and contain disputes.
  • PADR 502A (1.5) Analysis for the Public & Non-Proft Sectors
    - shared course with Public Administration
    Provides an intensive introduction to qualitative and quantitative approaches and methods for research, policy analysis, evaluation and other analytical projects in the public and non-profit sectors. Offers students opportunities to learn and apply methodologies for evidence-informed decisions in organizational and inter-organizational settings.
  • PADR 589 (0) Co-op Seminar: Introduction to Professional Practice
    - shared course with Public Administration
    Discusses the nature of co-operative education experiential expectations, how to bring learning into the co-op experience, and the services provided by the School of Public Administration Co-op Office. Guidance on how to succeed in co-op placements is provided: preparing résumés and covering letters, interviewing, networking, job development, managing diversity. Attendance at this non-credit course is required for all MADR and MPA On Campus students.

Spring: First Co-op Term

  • Co-op placement with government, non-profit or consulting organization
  • Students may enrol in one online elective while on co-op
  • Non co-op students must take DR 517 Issues in DR: Working in Community. This counts towards elective credit.

Academic year two (May to December)

Summer: Second Academic Term

  • PADR 503 (1.5) Professional Integrity in the Public and Non-Profit Sectors: 1-week intensive course shared with Public Administration
    Builds professional competencies and reflective practice skills for those working in the public and non-profit sectors. Using a case-based approach, topics include: ethical dilemmas and management of disputes, the issues of personal responsibility and accountability; loyalty to employer; political and professional neutrality and obligations to the public interest; conflict of interest; confidentiality and transparency; and privacy protection. Students study standards of conduct established in both sectors and the philosophical theories which underpin them.
  • DR 506 (1.5) Mediation Processes and Skills
    This course couples mediation processes with practice in communication skills needed for effective third party facilitative intervention. Using the paradigm of Attitude, Process and Skills, students learn and practice mediation as a dispute resolution tool, integrated with prior learning in conflict analysis and diagnosis. Through lectures, clinical exercises, demonstrations, coached role play, reflective listening skills practice, and group discussions, students connect skills with theoretical and philosophical foundations of mediation required to satisfactorily conclude mediated agreements.
  • DR 509 (1.5) Dispute Resolution System Design and Public Interest Disputes
    Introduction to designing, assembling and implementing systems to prevent, manage and/or resolve a series or stream of disputes arising out of a single organization and/or relationships. Examines models of conflict intervention and the design process. Introduces the theory and practice of negotiating public-interest issues and managing stakeholder conflicts.
  • PADR 504 (1.5) Public Leadership and Management
    - shared course with Public Administration
    Introduces theories of leadership and management development and practice. Examines the role of leaders, managers and conflict specialists as agents of positive influence in complex socio-technical systems. Leadership, management and dispute resolution competencies will be introduced and developed in individual, team, organizational, and inter-organizational contexts. Through experiential learning, students will apply concepts to self, others (as team members), leaders and managers.
  • PADR 505 (1.5) Policy Making and Policy Communities
    - shared course with Public Administration
    Students learn about the public policy-making process and develop skills in the art and craft of policy analysis. Introduces key concepts and theories and then builds skills and knowledge with information-gathering exercises, case studies, and preparation and presentation of decision briefs. Students review policy-making in a broad context, pulling together evidence and different analytical lenses for a variety of organizations and identify and recommend strategies and develop workable implementation and communication plans.

Fall: Second Co-op Term

  • Co-op placement with government, non-profit or consulting organization
  • Students may enrol in one online elective while on co-op

Academic terms three and four

Spring and Summer: Third and Fourth Acadmic Terms

  • DR 598 (4.5) Master's Project. The capstone project is a substantial analysis of a management, policy or program problem undertaken for a client in the non-profit or public sector. The Master's Project is prepared in consultation with a client and an academic supervisor in the School of Public Administration and must be both practical and academically rigorous. The Master's Project is defended in an oral examination.


  • DR 599 (6.0) Master's Thesis. The thesis is a substantial contribution to the knowledge in the field of Public Administration. It demonstrates a student's mastery of a substantive body of scholarly or practice literature as well as using appropriate and academically defensible methodologies to analyze research questions, test hypotheses or contribute new theoretical knowledge. The thesis is defended in an oral examination.

Dispute resolution graduates in practice

MADR graduates go on to build careers in:

  • local, provincial and national governments and agencies;
  • negotiation processes involving Indigenous peoples and governments;
  • international development and human rights; non-profit organizations in Canada and other countries;
  • educational and health sectors; and
  • dispute resolution organizations and businesses.

Some graduates also pursue further studies in PhD programs to become academics and researchers.

Co-operative education

The MADR program allows students to combine their classroom knowledge with Co-operative work experience. Students have benefited from placements in the federal and provincial governments, Aboriginal governments, as well as in national and international non-profit organizations, universities, hospitals, and private businesses. Students normally receive a salary for their work term. The salary is the responsibility of their employer and is determined by their organization's wage structure.

To qualify for the Co-op designation graduation requirements, a minimum of two co-op terms or a maximum of three co-op terms are required. Co-op is supported by the School of Public Administration Co-op Coordinator. All students are expected to complete DR 589 Co-op Seminar: Introduction to Professional Practice (fall term) to prepare for their Co-op placement.

Tailoring your studies

You can tailor your studies to suit your interests through selection of elective courses, co-op work term placements and project or thesis topics that focus on specific areas of study.

Professional Association

While the MADR program offers a wide range of skills for graduates to take into their future workplace, if you are particularly interested in becoming a mediator in British Columbia, you will find that some courses in the MADR program can count towards partial requirements to join the Roster of Mediate BC.

View completed MADR Master's Project and Thesis titles.