Melody is familiar with the role of a listener and mentor. As a Master in Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS) student at Conrad Grebel University College, being amongst those in her cohort who were new to the MPACS and dispute resolution space, Melody seized the opportunity to absorb each moment with her fellow classmates and professors, gaining valuable insights from every class discussion. Melody found these discussions impactful, as they helped to shape and challenge her perspectives.

“I stumbled into the world of Peace and Conflict Studies as an undergraduate at the University of Waterloo, majoring in Legal Studies,” Melody explained. “The area of alternative dispute resolution was starting to emerge, with local and international actors seeing a rise of arbitration and mediation.” The use of non-violent conflict resolution methods in international conflicts resonated with Melody, as it challenged her assumptions on what dispute resolution could look like. Her interest in alternative dispute resolution and in peace-making initiatives caught the attention of one of Melody’s professors, who suggested that she consider the MPACS program.

The people-oriented community and overall sense of care and compassion from faculty and students made it easy for Melody to find community at Grebel. “Dr. Nathan Funk, Dr. Riena Neufeldt, and Professor Lowell Ewert were the embodiment of the three-legged stool of support for me during my time at Grebel,” she said. “Nathan was always ready to share a laugh or offer a listening ear and was the most supportive supervisor I could have asked for in the lead up to the graduate colloquium.” Melody fondly recalls Dr. Neufeldt’s tireless encouragement of her students’ pursuits and persistent invitation to ask difficult questions to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the world around them. “Lowell was a mentor and friend all rolled into one,” Melody remarked. “He was someone who always offered quiet words of wisdom sprinkled into every interaction.” Such impactful professors were instrumental in teaching Melody the importance of sharing wisdom and being a supportive role-model to mentor the next generation.

Melody Chen

After she finished her MPACS degree, Melody was inspired to experience the other half of mentorship within her local community and to “pass on the kindness” she had received. “People have always been important to me and are truly at the heart of what I do,” she said. “Across my personal and professional life, I’ve greatly valued making time for mentorship to feed my community and take satisfaction in knowing my professional undertakings contribute to lasting change in my industry.”

Melody started volunteering in her local church in 2014 as a peer mentor. She held weekly check-ins with her students to guide them during their university experiences at a time of great impressionability and change. “Over the course of many meals, I have had the privilege of watching them grow and walking through life alongside them. I’ve even witnessed two of my students go from first years to graduate students, navigate their first jobs, start a relationship, and get married to each other! Overall, mentoring has truly been one of my most rewarding experiences."

Through a combination of volunteer experience and learning about the intersection of law, society, and methods of non-violent conflict resolution during her MPACS degree, Melody was well-equipped to step into the workforce. After graduating, Melody completed law school in Singapore and was admitted to the Singapore Bar as an Advocate and Solicitor in 2018. She is currently working for the Ministry of Law in Singapore, where she works in policy development focused on the development and regulation of Singapore’s legal industry. “I look at construction of thought leadership, engagement of key stakeholders, the review of existing legislation and policies, and how these support Singapore’s

legal industry,” she explained. “MPACS underscored that change takes time and such efforts must include a diversity of voices to be successful.”

“My time in the MPACS program also helped inform my understanding of key issues and shaped my perspectives for policy making,” she said. “Grebel introduced subjects relating to alternative dispute resolution and imparted an appreciation for the multi-faceted nature of international conflicts and relationship-building. My experiences during role-playing workshops on facilitative negotiation and active listening during MPACS has come in handy during policy discussions and stakeholder engagements.”

Most recently, Melody has been involved in the curation and organization of the UNCITRAL Academy Conference, a headline component of the Singapore Convention Weekend (SC WEEK). “SC Week is a premier event focused on international dispute resolution, encompassing arbitration, mediation, and legislation,” she explained. “It serves as a key platform for international thought leaders and policy makers to discuss emerging trends, address common issues, deliberate new innovations, and drive change.” At the 2023 Conferences, Melody helped bring hot topics to the forefront like dispute resolution in the digital economy, as well as intercultural needs and sustainability in arbitration and mediation. In this year’s iteration, Melody hopes to explore issues relating to artificial intelligence, net zero dispute resolution, mentorship, and gender stereotypes. Her work shapes the discussions to acknowledge the realities of various stakeholders amidst practical challenges in international dispute resolution, and allows participants to engage in constructive sense-making of these developments.

From searching for answers as a student, to providing gentle guidance as a mentor, Melody’s journey through her MPACS degree and beyond demonstrates the importance of inspiring the next generation and participating in continued constructive dialogues towards change. In her work and daily life, Melody continues to share wisdom with those around her in a compassionate and open-minded manner.

By Jiho Mercer

Melody Chen is an Assistant Director of the Legal Industry Division at the Ministry of Law in Singapore. After graduating with a Master of Peace and Conflict Studies degree from Conrad Grebel University College in 2014, Melody completed law school and was admitted to the Singapore Bar as an Advocate & Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Singapore. In her free time, she loves honing her culinary skills in the kitchen, an interest she developed after bartering homemade lunches in exchange for rides to campus from fellow MPACS graduate, Ellen Sikorski.

Melody's story is part of Grebel's 60 Stories for 60 Years project. Check out our 60 Stories page for more articles in this series. If you would like to nominate a Grebel alumnus to share about their experiences at Grebel, please submit a nomination form.