Student Profile: Abbey Tiernan

Monday, March 28, 2022

Abbey Teirnan
When Abbey began her co-op position last spring, she struggled to see how her Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) education could be relevant to her work. Now that she has finished her co-op position, she can hardly fathom a position where PACS would not apply – at least in some capacity.

Abbey is a 3A student studying Arts and Business with a PACS major and a Psychology minor. For her most recent co-op, Abbey worked for Canada’s Children Hospital where she was responsible for the research and implementation of Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) and managing corporate partnerships.

Abbey saw that there were parallels between her position and the PACS program as they both focussed on bringing about positive social change, but did not see how the skills and methods she learned in class were transferable. She viewed PACS through a narrow scope and believed that she would only have the chance to utilize PACS related techniques in specific peacemaking contexts, such as mediation, or restorative justice. Abbey’s perspective shifted as the term progressed resulting in a newfound understanding of PACS techniques.

At the beginning of her co-op term,  she was laying the groundwork for implementing ESG. She began by researching how the organization and cooperate partners could become more ethical, equitable, and environmentally conscious. It became clear to Abbey that the ESG plan was going to be implemented as more of the foundation was built. There was, however, one major hurdle: many people were reluctant to get on board.

As negotiations surrounding the ESG project continued, Abbey was able to bring a unique PACS lens to the table and make progress based on mutual understanding and empathy.

One course in particular that was integral to what I was doing is PACS 202: Conflict Resolution. This was where the interests, rights, power paradigm was introduced to me. We dug deeper into that. That helped to prepare me for what I was doing in my role.

She could see that the types of negotiations used were power and rights based. Arguments like “this order is coming from the CEO”, and “it is your duty as an employee to work to implement this process” were used. She recognized that these techniques were not making headway, so she suggested a shift from a power and rights based negotiation to an interests based one. It was through taking the time to understand why the employees were hesitant to cooperate and support ESG, and through communicating how an ESG plan could benefit the longevity of their careers and the world that made way for real progress.

Not only did Abbey’s PACS education enrich her co-op experience, but also, Abbey’s co-op experience enriched the future of her education in PACS.

Always going into negotiations with an ‘Interests’ mindset, I think, was important in what I ended up doing, and it has sparked an interest in negotiations. Now, I am in this negotiations course - PACS 323 “Negotiations: Theories and Strategies

In PACS 323, Abbey connects what she has learned in class to a ‘real world’ negotiation in which she played a significant role.

When I asked Abbey what her advice is for PACS students looking for co-ops, she responded definitively:

You might not think that the jobs that you are applying to or have access to are PACS-related, but I would say 9 times out of 10 you are going to find a way to apply your PACS education. Cast a wide net, apply to a whole bunch of different jobs because I think there will almost always be an opportunity for you to apply your PACS education

She highlights that students can apply their PACS education in unexpected places:

I had always thought that pursuing a PACS career would be something very narrow and something very specific and that I would not be able to find a job even in this field because it seems very niche. I have the perspective now that, that’s not the case because there is so much PACS application that happens in a wide variety of jobs even in jobs that do not seem related. This past placement for me was a prime example.