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PACS 3800 Topics in Peace and Conflict Studies

About the Course

This course examines the role of communication in conflict and in conflict management, with a special focus on conflict avoidance and conflict management skills: nonviolent and de-escalatory communication, cross-cultural communication, conflict styles, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, reconciliation, and conflict transformation. Students will examine what each of these approaches is, when each is useful and when not, how they are done, and what the costs and risks are of each.

Prereq., PACS 2500 or instructor consent.

Course Outline/Objectives

  • Understand the components of conflicts and disputes and be able to “draw” a conflict map of any given conflict or dispute. (“Draw” is put in quotes because maps are usually done in text, not pictures.)
  • Understand the best ways to avoid serious conflicts and disputes before they occur.
  • Understand the options for personal (“first party”) conflict/dispute resolution, including how these skills are done, when each is most appropriate, and how pitfalls of the various options can be avoided.
  • Understand what third party conflict/dispute resolution options are available, how (and by whom) they are done, when each is best used, and how pitfalls of each can be avoided.
  • Additional learning objectives are listed below, with each unit.

Grade Breakdown

  • Online quizzes (6×25) 150 Points
  • Written Assignments (6×100) 600 Points
  • Discussion Posts (20×5) 100 Points
  • Final Exam 150 Points
  • Total Points 1000

Required Text

All of the readings are available online. The bulk of the readings are posted on Beyond Intractability ( the website of the Intractable Conflict

Instructor Contact

Heidi Burgues, PhD


Heidi Burgess earned a PhD in Sociology at the University of Colorado, specializing in social conflict and conflict resolution. Her research interests are focused on better ways of dealing with difficult and intractable conflicts, and the intersection between conflict, governance (at all levels and across sectors) and peace.

Dr. Burgess has been teaching conflict-related courses in the CU sociology and communication departments since 1978, and for the last five years has also been teaching in the Korbel School of International Studies and the Conflict Resolution Institute at the University of Denver.

Together with her husband, Dr. Guy Burgess, Dr. Heidi Burgess established the Conflict Information Consortium – a multi-disciplinary research and practical conflict resolution program in 1988, where they have served as co-directors ever since.

The Burgesses also developed and maintain a number of large conflict-related online knowledge bases. The first is–the Conflict Resolution Information Source, which was established in the mid-1990s as a “one-stop-shop” for conflict-resolution information on the Web. The second online project, begun in 2001, is, which is an online encyclopedia on better ways of dealing with intractable conflicts. Both of these sites still exist, and are being updated during the 2011-2012 year. The most recent project (started last year) is which is focused on ways to improve governance to foster peace and avoid violent conflict.

Almost all of the readings for this course are drawn from these three websites.

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