School for Conflict Analysis building new facilities in Lorton

POV pic

All photos courtesy of Mason Facilities

Mason’s School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution is constructing new buildings at a site in Lorton, Virginia for students, faculty and potentially outside organizations to practice conflict resolution.

Scheduled to open June 2015, the Point of View facilities are designed to give students the opportunity to conduct research and gain practical experience in applying the theories they have learned in class. Mostly intended for members of the Mason community, with a particular focus on graduate students, Point of View will also be open, for a fee, to other groups looking for a venue to host meetings, conferences or retreats.

“The facilities that S-CAR has in Fairfax and in Arlington are really predominantly focused on traditional teaching and learning,” Associate Dean Juliette Shedd, the project’s main administrative contact, said. “The emphasis [with Point of View] is on practice and training students…How do they do that conflict resolution work in the field?”

The Mason Neck site for Point of View was donated to S-CAR by longtime Mason supporters Edwin Lynch and Helen Lynch. The 120-acre piece of land sits near the Potomac River and is around 30 minutes away from S-CAR’s main campus in Arlington.

According to Shedd, because the property had previously been used as the Lynches’ private residence and therefore did not meet the needs of an academic facility, the architects and designers brought in by S-CAR to construct Point of View decided that the preexisting structure needed to be taken down. The new building will contain three conference spaces along with additional meeting rooms, offices and a digital library.

The school also plans on creating residential spaces for visitors staying for conferences or workshops and Ph.D. students looking to work on their dissertations, but a lack of funds has put that part of the project on hold for now. Shedd says fundraising for the planned 27 bedrooms is a priority.

Maria Seniw, who became S-CAR’s lead fundraiser in late September, puts their current goal at $5 million, though the school has not made that official yet.

Most of Point of View has been funded by the state of Virginia, which allocated $6 million to the construction of the facility in 2006. The economic recession in 2008 and increased construction costs have made it more difficult to raise money and forced some modifications to the initial designs, which delayed construction until July of this year.

In addition to fundraising for the planned residential facilities, Shedd says recent Mason budget cuts have made it harder to provide money for the furniture and technology that will go in the buildings that are currently being constructed.

According to Seniw, Point of View will be greatly beneficial to Mason despite these economic setbacks, helping to enhance the university’s global presence by attracting outside organizations, like advisory boards and advocacy groups. The Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service, which is designed to be a peacemaker for community conflicts and tensions, has already hosted meetings on the site.

“People can interact in a more casual setting,” Seniw said. “They come together, they make meals together, they talk and then they keep those interactions in mind as they work through their conflict issues.”