Religion & Dispute Resolution in Florence, Italy

Religion & Dispute Resolution in Florence, Italy

The SMU Center for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management cordially invites you to join the annual study abroad program in Florence, Italy featuring the class Religion and Dispute Resolution. Professor Richard Blackburn will lead the group in this exciting study-tour focusing on religion and conflict against the backdrop of the artistic and ecclesiastical history of the Italian Renaissance. The program will be offered for 7 days and 7 nights from June 23 - 30, 2013. The majority of students in previous classes have added extra days to visit Rome, Tuscany and other sites easily accessible by train from Florence.  Students earn 3 credit hours for this class.

The context of this class is truly unique. It will educate students in a powerful transformative mediation model, interspersed with on-site tours that highlight the spirit of artistic rivalry and revival, conflict and creativity, that blossomed into the Italian Renaissance. This interactive course is designed to prepare leaders to deal effectively with interpersonal, congregational and other forms of group conflict. Although primarily focused on the religious environment, the skills learned are directly transferable to other settings, and will be invaluable to managers in business, attorneys, mediators, and other professionals who manage conflict. This class satisfies the State of Texas statutory mediation requirements and the mediation course requirement for the Dispute Resolution program.

Click here to view the itinerary and course requirements.


The program will be taught by Richard Blackburn, Executive Director of the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center in Chicago. Professor Blackburn is an ordained Mennonite minister and teaches courses in dispute resolution across the United States and abroad, in addition to serving as a consultant and mediator for churches of all denominations. Professor Blackburn also has an M.A. in Art History from Northern Illinois University and undertook doctoral studies at the University of Chicago (ABD), specializing in Medieval and Italian Renaissance art, prior to being called to the ministry. He has taught art history both in the United States and Italy, with the art of the Italian Renaissance being a particular area of expertise. Professor Blackburn's unique background will offer students a truly extraordinary experience as he leads students on tours of some of the most important art collections in the world. He will integrate reflections on the interpersonal, civic, and religious conflicts that gave impetus to one of the most creative artistic revolutions in human history.

Villa La Pietra

Classes will be held at the spectacular Florentine estate and formal gardens of the Villa La Pietra, one of the grandest and most famous villas in Florence. The Villa dates to the 15th century and is situated on 57 lush acres with gorgeous views of the surrounding Tuscan countryside. It is conveniently located within a 10-15 minute drive from the heart of Florence. A shuttle bus will be provided to transport students to the Villa for classes. The Villa La Pietra is particularly distinguished by its beautiful formal gardens, one of the world's premier private art collections and all modern conveniences. Students will receive a tour of La Pietra, including the private art collection which is only open to the public twice each year. For more information on La Pietra, you may visit their website.


Students will be provided stately accommodations for 7 nights during the program at the beautiful Hotel Carolus in Florence. This gracious hotel offers European four-star accommodations including private bath, air conditioning, in-room internet port, satellite TV, direct dial telephone, hairdryer and in-room safe. The hotel is ideally located in a quiet Florentine neighborhood, yet conveniently situated within walking distance to the major sights of Florence. Accommodations are double occupancy. Students may choose a roommate, or the program can provide assistance to students in finding a roommate. Single rooms are available for a one-time $300.00 upcharge. For more information on the hotel, you may visit their website.


Professor Richard Blackburn will deliver all lectures and tours.  Prof. Tom Hartsell, Clinical Director of the SMU Center for Dispute Resolution will be the on-site coordinator.


The program includes daily buffet breakfast at the Hotel Carolus, five lunches, and a special farewell dinner in one of the mountain towns surrounding Florence.

Also Included

Tours and entrance fees to the museums listed in the itinerary, transportation between the Hotel Carolus and the Villa La Pietra, and most tips and taxes.

Not Included

Passports, trip insurance (recommended), personal tipping, airfare, airport taxes where applicable, airport transfers, lunches and those dinners not specified in the itinerary, laundry and room service, phone calls and textbooks.


The Room and Board cost is $2449, charges are per person, and based on double occupancy. Single rooms are available at an additional charge, please call the Dispute Resolution office for more information.  SMU tuition and airfare are separate. Non-credit tuition is $1548, for-credit students pay the standard $2352 per class tuition. If you have a spouse or friend interested in traveling and rooming with you, but not taking the class, we can accommodate a limited number at a very attractive rate, so please reserve early.  Students are responsible for obtaining their airfare and making travel arrangements to the Hotel Carolus in Florence. 


Arrive Sunday June 23 - Depart Sunday June 30, 2013


The class is limited to 24 students, a non-refundable deposit of $500.00 is required to reserver your seat.  The balance will be due March 14, 2013. Tuition is due according to regular registration policies and deadlines. Refund of room and board (minus deposit) if cancelled by March 14th; thereafter, there are no refunds unless we are able to refill the slot. To make reservations, please contact Kay Barclay at 972-473-3435 or

Click here to see photos from previous Study Abroad Florence trips!