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Getting Ready for a Challenge

Connie Meyer discusses why she finds excitement in negotiating and conflict resolution and how she will approach teaching those skills for the first time to MPD2 students.

Connie Meyer is a new adjunct faculty member in Northwestern Engineering's Master of Product Design and Development Management (MPD2) program and will teach Negotiations/Conflict Resolution this winter. 

She brings nearly two decades of professional experience to the class and an understanding that negotiating is a challenging skill to master.  

Connie Meyer“What I love about negotiation and conflict resolution is that it’s hard,” said Meyer, who outside the classroom is director of learning with Interfaith America, a nonprofit that supports leaders to leverage religious diversity as an asset. “These are skills that we develop over a lifetime of practice. Often the most effective strategies are the ones that are counterintuitive and that require a rewiring of our neural pathways.”  

Despite popular rhetoric that negotiations and deal-making are an art that people are either born with or not, Meyer will show these are skills anyone can hone over time. 

Meyer has a deep history with Northwestern. She has been an adjunct faculty member with the School of Professional Studies since 2017, teaching a 40-hour certification course for aspiring mediators and those who want to improve their mediation skills. She also earned her bachelor’s degree in history and international studies from Northwestern.  

It was shortly after earning that degree that Meyer became interested in making a career out of bringing people together, though the passion was born much earlier when she lived abroad several times while growing up.  

“I wanted my career to be about helping people find value across differences,” she said. “My graduate studies in intercultural conflict management, followed by deep work with a couple of organizations that had spun off from the Harvard Negotiation Project, cemented that aspiration into reality.” 

That interest has translated into different types of work that has helped unite people more effectively – from teaching negotiation skills around the world to mediating disputes in Cook County Circuit Court and supporting organizations like Interfaith America that help people navigate the challenges of religious diversity. 

The MPD2 class will be strongly oriented around practice, not lecture, since negotiating and conflict resolution are skills that most often happen verbally and through back-and-forth interactions. Her goal is for students to realize the skills they are learning are applicable beyond more formal negotiation settings. 

“Negotiation is something we’re doing every day. It’s not just something that happens when a contract needs to be negotiated,” she said. “It’s happening in every single conversation where we need to get to a decision on something. Who’s doing what? What’s the timeline? What’s the best approach? These are all negotiations.” 

Meyer is excited about getting started leading her first MPD2 class. She said effective negotiation skills are not just nice things to have but are strong traits she has seen throughout her career.   

“The most effective leaders in product design and development are skilled negotiators," she said. "They are curious about the underlying needs of the key stakeholders across a product development lifecycle. They facilitate conversations that surface and align those needs. 

“I’m excited to meet my first cohort of students and establish together a space where growth is ensured, taking risks is OK, and learning is a heck of a lot of fun.”  

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