Educating The Next Peace Leaders. Member Spotlight: Susan Czyrny

As it is well known, Mediators Beyond Borders International is not alone in its mission of building a more peace-able world. Luckily, it can count on a synergistic partnership with several organizations and groups alike, with which to share values and deeds, as well as to carry on projects, initiatives, and actions throughout the globe. Among these, Rotary International stands out as one of the key partners of MBBI, keeping the promotion of peace as one of its main causes and cornerstone of its humanitarian task. For such a mission to be carried forward, Rotary’s leaders and all members need to be equipped with the appropriate set of skills, and this represents Susan Czyrny’s main commitment. While serving as the Director of Training & Leadership Development for Rotary District 7090, she is responsible for various key initiatives such as the development and execution of leadership and management training programs for existing and incoming club leaders. “I am focused on getting the Rotary clubs in our district to be able to mitigate conflict and work together”, she says. Educating leaders and advocates so they can act to heal and mend the much-fragmented American society demonstrates to be Susan’s core leitmotif.

From the corporate life to being a Rotary’s District trainer.

Owning a degree in Computer Information Systems from the Medaille University, Susan kicked off her working life as an analyst, in the business and IT functions at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Buffalo Branch and later on working as a Human Resources Implementation Consultant at ADP. However, her career took a gradual turn, leading Susan to embrace Rotary and its principles. All along her career and personal life, Susan had slowly realized how much the American society was conflicted, and how individuals tended to resolve conflict in non-peaceful manners. “We have conflict in our organizations, families, and even in our Rotary clubs” Susan acknowledges, “and that is why I decided to focus on getting people to be comfortable with conflict, have a dialogue around it, and being able to resolve differences so that they can move forward together”. Following her thinking, conflict should be faced honestly and directly, instead of being avoided, before it bursts out in an even worst situation. “We need to have a rational conversation around conflict” she states, “and mediation is the most powerful tool that we have to be able to get people to kind of settle down, listen, and come to some sort of agreement about how to move forward”.

After joining Rotary in 2018, Susan detected a certain degree of unresolved conflict within Rotary District 7090 (covering around 60 Rotary clubs throughout Southern Ontario, Canada, and Western New York). That is what motivated her to earn a Conflict Resolution certificate from the Cornell University, at the same time pursuing a master’s degree in Creative Problem Solving & Transformational Leadership at the State University of New York College at Buffalo. As a District trainer, Susan has been involved in wide range of educational activities, putting together programs and trainings for Rotary members. Among her duties, she is responsible for organizing leadership development and teambuilding trainings for the newly elected presidents of Rotary clubs and in some cases for fellow colleagues of the district leadership team. “Not everybody comes in with the right experience to be president” she recounts, “my aim is to set up coaching programs and training sessions to educate members about the various aspects of both Rotary and leadership in general. We just want to be sure that they have all the information and skills they need to succeed as leaders.”.

Susan’s rich and varied portfolio.

However, now Susan’s experience as a District trainer has come to an end. Her term  expired this past June, and her position is now filled by someone else. As of July 1, 2022, she accepted an advisory role as Assistant Governor for Area 10. Notably, “Briefly, I will be making sure that the 4 clubs I am responsible for have all the resources they need, that they are executing on their goals and that conversations are held when issues arise”, she explains.

Moreover, she is also involved with Rotary through its Peace Fellowship Program, an initiative aimed at developing the capacity of peace professionals from all over the world by covering the overall expenses of sustaining a degree programme on peace and development issues. In such a context, Susan assists applicants and peace fellows as a mentor, making sure that all the processes run smoothly. Generally speaking, my direct involvement with mediation is minimal” Susan declares, “my role is focused on education, pointing out to people that mediation might be one of the solutions they can draw on to resolve their issues”.

The journey with MBBI and the vision forward. 

Susan has been part of MBBI only for a short time and is actively participating in the MBBI Rotary working group. “Through MBBI, I am hoping to enrich my skill set and learn more about conflict resolution so that I can bring this knowledge back via coaching and training”, she tells. As said, she was driven and introduced to the organization by her strong desire to take part into changing the conflict-propelling paradigm dominating our societies, replacing violence and haste with open conversations and empathetic listening. “What is increasingly happening in the United States, with the enhanced polarisation and fragmentation at the political and social levels, is that people tend to avoid conflict, they are leaning towards not listening and erecting walls between each other” Susan says, “while we should use dialogue more, we should listen to each other more and try to be more empathetic to get through and resolve these conflicts”.

Susan demonstrates to be ready to stand for such a change both in America and more globally, and she is highly confident on the mission and work of organizations such as Rotary and MBBI. Drawing from her LinkedIn presentation quote: “Let’s reimagine what’s next and let’s get to work!”.

Written by Matteo Piovacari: MBBI Writer