Center for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management

Master of Arts in Dispute Resolution

In 2006, SMU became the first university in the southwest region of the United States to offer an interdisciplinary Master’s degree in dispute resolution and conflict management.

Both the Graduate Certificate and the Master’s degree emphasize the development of skills vital to the resolution of business, domestic, education, public policy, church, legal, and healthcare disputes. The Program’s quality and uniqueness stems, in significant measure, from its multidisciplinary approach to conflict management and its commitment to integrating ethics throughout the curriculum. Rooted in the social and behavioral sciences, the faculty and curriculum integrates such diverse fields as psychology, law, sociology, public policy, and economics.

The Master of Arts departs from the Certificate program, however, in the depth and breadth of its curriculum and in its admission process. The Master's curriculum affords greater depth of study than that offered by the certificate program, additional specialization of skills, and a level of professional scholarship that allows graduates to contribute to as well as practice in the profession.

Admission Requirements

  • A baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher education.
  • Official undergraduate transcripts from all institutions of higher education previously attended
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • An essay, minimum of 250 words, maximum of two pages double spaced, explaining why the applicant wants to study Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management.
  • A minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75 (on a 4.0 scale). If the GPA is lower than 2.75, the applicant must submit acceptable GRE, LSAT, or GMAT scores.
  • Interview with a member of the Admission Committee 
  • Students applying to the Master’s program after completing the certificate program must demonstrate a 3.5 GPA from the certificate program (and comply with all other admission requirements). Up to 21 credits from the certificate program will be accepted towards your Masters requirements.


Tuition for classes is $1869 per class ($623 per credit hour).

Financial Assistance

Federal financial aid is available to students in the Master of Arts degree and in the Graduate Certificate program. Please go to to apply. Employers often provide tuition assistance for graduate programs that enhance the training of their employees, so be sure to check with yours to determine if you are eligible. Follow the link below for specific information on Graduate student loan programs.

Students using financial aid programs must enroll in two classes per term to be in compliance. Click here for financial aid information.


The Curriculum

The Master of Arts program requires the completion of 42 credit hours, 21 of which will correspond with the Certificate Program's required curriculum and 21 of which will comprise electives. Most of the electives offer focused study in singular applications of dispute resolution, allowing students to concentrate in specific areas of interest.

Required Courses (18 credit hours total)

Psychology of Conflict (3 credit hours)
Negotiation (3 credit hours)
Mediation (3 credit hours)
Foundations of American Legal Systems or Communication and Dispute Resolution
Practicum (3 credit hours) or Internship (3 credit hours)
Research Methods (3 credit hours)

The elective courses offered within the Dispute Resolution Program cover a broad spectrum of applications and topics.  As an aid to planning, the following four tracks have been set up to assist in the selection of additional coursework:

Dispute Resolution Elective Tracks

1. Traditional Dispute Resolution and Mediation
Advanced Negotiation
Advanced Mediation
Family Mediation and Law
Communication and Dispute Resolution
Decision Theory
Engaging in Conflict
Advanced Engaging in Conflict
Conflict Coaching
Neuroscience: The Role of the Brain in Emotion, Collaboration and Conflict
Restorative Justice
Gender & Culture in Dispute Resolution
Generational Conflict
Integrating Conflict Theory and Practice
Using Online Dispute Resolution Tools

2. Organizational Conflict Management
Workplace Conflict
Employment Law
Advanced Negotiation
Engaging in Conflict
Role of the Ombudsman in Organizational Conflict
Standing in the Fire:  Leading High Heat Encounters
Generational Conflict
Decision Theory
Corporate Internships
Facilitating Dynamic Groups
Team Building Theory and Practice
Organizational Change Management
Gender & Culture in Dispute Resolution
Conflict Coaching 
Using Online Dispute Resolution Tools
Leaders as Managers of Conflict
Organizational Consulting Skills
Conflict in the Media - Crisis Management
Designing Dispute Resolution Systems for Organizations
Integrating Conflict Theory and Practice

3. Executive Coaching
Assessment and Interviewing
Transformative & Developmental Coaching
Performance Coaching
Conflict Coaching in the Workplace

4. International Dispute Resolution
International Conflict Management
Advanced Negotiation
Communication and Dispute Resolution
International Organizational Consulting and Collaboration
Using Online Dispute Resolution Tools
Conflict Revolution: Using Mediation to Resolve International Disputes
Gender & Culture in Dispute Resolution and Negotiation
Conflict and Trauma in Israel and the Palestinian Authority
Community Conflict Engagement
Multi-cultural Applications to Teamwork and Teambuilding

General Electives (to total 24 credit hours)
Designing Dispute Resolution Systems for Organizations (3 credit hours)
Employment Law (3 credit hours)
Engaging in Conflict (3 credit hours)
Advanced Engaging in Conflict using Current Events (3 credit hours)
International Conflict Management (3 credit hours)
Corporate Internships (3 credit hours)
Organizational Consulting Skills (3 credit hours)
Gender and Culture in Dispute Resolution (3 credit hours)
Generational Conflict (3 credit hours)
International Negotiation (3 credit hours)
Decision Theory (3 credit hours)
Advanced Negotiation (3 credit hours)
Arbitration (3 credit hours)
Facilitating Dynamic Groups (3 credit hours)
Neuroscience: The Role of the Brain in Emotion, Collaboration and Conflict (3 credit hours)
Public Policy:  From Chaos to Collaboration (3 credit hours)
Conflict Coaching (3 credit hours)
Conflict Revolution: Using Mediation to Resolve International Disputes (3 credit hours)
Communication and Dispute Resolution (3 credit hours)
Workplace Conflict Management (3 credit hours)
Organizational Change Management (3 credit hours)
Leadership for Successful Organizations (3 credit hours)
Family Mediation and Law (3 credit hours)
Education & Dispute Resolution (3 credit hours)
Role of the Ombuds in Organizational Conflict (3 credit hours)
Team Building Theory and Practice (3 credit hours)
Assessment and Interviewing (3 credit hours)
Transitional and Developmental Coaching (3 credit hours)
Performance Coaching (3 credit hours)
Using Online Dispute Resolution Tools (3 credit hours)
Crisis Management in Social and Regular Media (3 credit hours)
Public Policy & Dispute Resolution (3 credit hours)
Religion & Dispute Resolution (3 credit hours)
Advanced Mediation (3 credit hours)
Healthcare & Dispute Resolution (3 credit hours)
Independent Study (up to 3 credits)

Like the Certificate classes, the Master’s classes are on a quarter schedule and offered primarily in the evenings and on weekends.