The Pursuit of Education

Louisa Garbo first pursued her undergraduate degree in Fine Arts, working as a practicing artist before obtaining a Master’s in City Planning at the University of Manitoba, Canada. She claimed to have always enjoyed a creative and innovative mind, and “breaking boundaries”, thus leading her to a career outside her home country. A recent graduate, Louisa became a city planner in Bisbee, Arizona, U.S.A., a small mining town that was affectionately known as “the wild, wild west”. Since then, Louisa moved around the Phoenix metro and worked in two other local jurisdictions. Recalling her first working experience, she states that “land-use planning can actually be quite volatile”. People are passionate about their properties and there exists much controversy over how their land can be developed.

In order to understand these types of conflicts better, Louisa attended law school at William Howard Taft University. Her Juris Doctor Law degree opened the doors to a future in mediation. She began her training at the Arizona Attorney General Office and was appointed by the Maricopa County Justice as a mediator. She claims, “I was able to help people to move on and resolve conflict”. This was meaningful to her as mediation didn’t produce a “win-lose” outcome, rather conflicts were explored and resolved peacefully by both sides. She later received training at the Arizona Supreme Court and was subsequently appointed to head the planning department for a municipal government. She continued to study the effects of mediation in her second Master’s degree in Negotiation, Conflict Resolution, and Peacebuilding from California State University. Her newly obtained degree allowed her to mitigate conflict in land-use planning as Louisa claimed she dealt with “a lot of competing interests between development growth and environment protection”.

Surprisingly, her schooling did not halt after the achievement of a Bachelor’s, two Masters’, and a Law degree. Louisa decided to go back to school to pursue a Ph.D. in Mediation and Conflict Resolution from Euclid University, a treaty university with the United Nations. Her current dissertation focuses on water conflict for indigenous communities in Canada. Mediation drives her analysis and cultural understanding. She claims we must, “respect their traditional practice and respect their rights of self-governance, but most importantly, learn from their traditional belief and practices to live sustainably with nature”. Her dissertation will hopefully encourage governments to work alongside indigenous communities. While working on her dissertation, Louisa also works for the provincial government in land use planning and community development for the Gulf Islands in British Columbia. Her job will focus on Canada’s commitment to reconciliation and cooperation with First Nations, the original inhabitants on the island.

The Accent of Emotional Intelligence

Although Louisa’s mediation experience in land-use planning within the local government was centered on economic growth and strategic policy planning, her diverse exposure allowed her to recognize the soft side of action planning, the side that “swore to protect communities and the environment”. With this aspect of mediation, she highlights the importance of interpersonal conscientiousness and reconciliation. According to Louisa, mediators bring emotional intelligence and the equal importance of soft dialogue to the definitive policies that ensue. Furthermore, the mediation process offers the opposing parties the “power of negotiating”.

Although there exists a stigma surrounding the importance of emotional intelligence in bureaucratic positions, as a prior Director of Community Development, Louisa puts great emphasis on the need to understand how one is perceived in contradicting situations. “I need to understand how I come across and how can I be effective to inspire change, rather than to dictate change”.

MBBI Involvement

Louisa, with her extensive history in mediation, became a member and an appointed “Special Envoy 2019” of the World Mediation Organization, located in Berlin, Germany. One of the members of this organization was also a member of MBBI which inspired Louisa to join as a member in 2019.

She quickly came on board, sitting in and listening to meetings with the Canada Chapter of MBBI. Louisa then began to participate in the international forum and the Sustainable Development Goals Action Group. Within the organization, she uses her land-use skills and conflict resolution background to not only progress environmental development goals, but to also examine how we can achieve these goals in an effective manner. Using both mediation and development planning, the two interconnect to create plausible and sustainable outcomes. Within MBBI, Louisa professes, “I just want to be a meaningful, contributing member. I just want to do something”.

That Profound Moment

When asked about her most meaningful experience Louisa proclaimed, “the moment I felt my calling was pretty profound”. She had walked out of a court case, which she had been mediating. As she watched the litigants walking to the court receptionist to cancel the court case, she realized, “I had this numbness in my throat, that’s when I felt the impact of mediation in helping conflicting parties to close that chapter and move forward”.

Not only is Louisa an academic, artist, mediator, planner, and director, she is also a certified Pilates instructor. She wishes to promote wellness, particularly for women, as she found women tend to focus on their families before taking care of themselves. Despite her diverse involvement, Louisa works hard to balance life by practicing arts and playing her cello. She sternly believes in retaining this balance. Louisa closes the conversation affirming that “No matter what challenges life gives you, if you persevere, and most importantly, turn to your friends and community as your resource, you can get through that”.

Article by Emily Shultis, MBBI Writer