Judith McKay

Judith McKay, J.D., Ph.D.

Associate Professor in the Department of Conflict Analysis and Resolution
Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Conquering Conflict

Walk into the office of Judith McKay, J.D., Ph.D., in Nova Southeastern University’s Maltz Psychology Building, and it’s easy to forget she deals with serious problems such as bullying in the workplace and domestic violence.

Amongst the books, the shelves are crammed with collectible fairies, angels, and stuffed animals. With framed photos of her students and a snapshot of McKay and her mother, the office feels more like a comfy den than a hub for conflict analysis and resolution.

McKay explained the stuffed animals are given to children who visit her office, but the fairies and angels make her feel at home while spending so much time at work. The décor also puts nervous student visitors at ease. If they appear uncomfortable, she asks them to look around for a few minutes while she finishes a task. Typically, she said, they will find something on the shelves that makes them more relaxed – giving McKay one fewer problem to resolve.

McKay has been involved in conflict resolution for 25 years and is chair of NSU’s Department of Multidisciplinary Studies in the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS). She is also an associate professor in the SHSS Department of Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

You name it, she has taught it at NSU: Mediation Theory and Practice; Conflict Coaching Theory and Practice; Strategic Community Planning and Partnerships; Family Violence: The Effects on Families, Communities, and Workplaces; Conflict and Crisis Management Theory; and Critical Incidents, Facilitation Theory, and Practice.

As director of NSU’s Community Resolution Services, she runs programs that offer training, workshops, mediation, and facilitation services and conflict coaching to individuals, families, groups, and agencies. “We try to give people new tools and train them to use the tools,” she said, concerning the workshops that she gives about once a month. “There is a tendency to go back to an old tool unless you realize it is not working. Then you reach for the new tool without feeling unskilled.

McKay’s own professional “toolbox” includes her down-to-earth manner and ability to communicate – skills that, perhaps, can be attributed to her varied experiences inside, and far beyond, the classroom.

McKay calls herself a “pracademic” – someone who has one foot in the academic world and the other in practical experience. That ability has also made her a favorite of radio and television news shows that need an expert on anything from Internet bullying to neighborhood conflicts. Producers of WSVN Channel 7’s Idol Insider even asked McKay to provide a conflict-resolution perspective to the onscreen bickering of the American Idol judges.
“We live so much on the intellectual side of life,” she said, “I don’t want to lose the other side. And, it’s so easy to do when you are an academic.”