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Criminal justice and theater students unite for conflict management workshop

Criminal justice and theater students at Radford University are teaming up for a unique role playing exercise about conflict management and domestic disputes.

The exercise will be staged in RU's Hawes Studio Theatre in Porterfield Hall at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, April 1. In three different scenarios, theater students will improvise in their roles as disputants and criminal justice students will respond using knowledge from their studies.

This partnership is part of "Police and Society," a course in the RU Department of Criminal Justice that examines psychological, sociological and philosophical roles that police officers play in modern society.

"The Police and Society students play the role of responding officers who must mediate the situation," said Tod Burke professor of criminal justice and associate dean of the RU College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences. "At the conclusion of each 'domestic improvisation,' a debriefing is held before the entire class to reflect upon conflict management theory and its practical applications."

By teaming up with acting students from the Department of Theatre and Cinema, the exercise will take on an important added interdisciplinary focus. Not only will the criminal justice students get to put their studies to work, but the selected actors will have a chance to hone their improvisation skills in a socially-conscious project.

"They are providing a 'close to real-life' experience for the criminal justice students that potentially sets them on the road to making decisions that might one day save their lives," said Wesley Young, associate professor of performance, who helped identify acting students who would be up to the task at hand.

Conflict management and the handling of domestic disputes are regular challenges for police officers. To help students understand their performance in the scenarios, representatives from both the RUPD and the Radford City Police, including both police chiefs, have been invited to participate in the debriefings following each scenario.

The Department of Criminal Justice offers an interdisciplinary and professionally-oriented academic curriculum concentrating on many aspects of crime and the concepts that impact the system of justice. The program seeks to develop a broad foundation of knowledge pertaining to crime and its ancillary issues. 

The Department of Theatre and Cinema is committed to the development of creative, independent, well-educated students who are able to use their art and work collaboratively to address the challenges of a dynamic society.

Mar 26, 2014