The Master of Science in Conflict Analysis and Resolution

The Master of Science in Conflict Analysis and Resolution

The Master of Science in Conflict Analysis and Resolution is a program that offers a comprehensive study of a wide variety of conflict types and prepares students for research and intervention that can mitigate, resolve, and potentially prevent negative relations between parties. In this program, students analyze the root causes and defining characteristics of conflicts and explore the wide-ranging consequences for those parties engaged and engulfed in hostilities. Conflicts are examined at all levels – interpersonal, intragroup, intergroup, and international with the assumption that there are common dynamics across levels of analysis. Much of the analysis centers on discovering common patterns of interaction among various conflict parties and developing models for the evolution of conflicts. However, detailed case studies reveal that each conflict has its unique characteristics and that the actions of the involved parties are somewhat unpredictable. 

Along with learning about patterns of conflict and their resolution, students will learn a set of practices that seek to address the sources of hostility, and seek to alter negative patterns of interaction between the parties. A defining characteristic of the MS program is the integration of theory, research and practice. A major lesson practitioners have learned is the centrality of knowledge put into practice—that is, knowing how best to implement such practices with conflict parties in the moment of engagement. Such knowledge reflects acquired skills, practical experience, and awareness of the strengths and weakness of the different modes of practice.

Conflict analysis and resolution has its origins in a wide range of disciplines, including political science, anthropology, public policy, law, social-psychology, sociology, communications, and religion. The field also has developed its own theories, practices, and research findings, which are reflected in this curriculum. 

Graduates of the M.S. program work in a variety of settings where conflict resolution is useful, such as businesses, unions, government agencies, religious groups, court systems, educational institutions, community centers, international relief and development organizations, conflict resolution consulting firms, and in situations where interest groups are in conflict with current and emergent public policy. The Masters of Science also prepares students for doctoral study in both conflict analysis and resolution, as well as related fields.

Printable MS Requirements Flyer

Printable MS Plan of Study Form

Printable S-CAR MS Student Handbook

MS Admissions Information

S-CAR Honor Code Pledge Form

Degree Requirements

A total of 41 credit-hour units are required: 15 credits are required core courses, 20 credits are electives and, six integrative credits (students can choose from a defined list). The choice of electives can vary significantly according to each student's individual goals or needs. Therefore, each student should develop a Plan of Study that should be discussed once each semester with his/her advisor and updated as appropriate.

Time Limit
Masters degree students have six years from the time of first enrollment as a degree-seeking student to complete their degrees. Individual masters programs may have stricter time limits, which are published in this catalog. International students attending in F-1 or J-1 status also have more restrictive time limits; contact the Office of International Programs and Services for information. Students who are given permission to re-enroll following an absence from Mason may not count the six-year time limit as beginning on the date of re-enrollment. Students who will not meet published time limits because of circumstances beyond their control may petition for an extension. Failure to meet the time limits or to secure approval of an extension request may result in termination from the program.

Required Courses
Students take 15 credits of required course work. The semester in which courses are generally offered is indicated in parentheses.

CONF 501 (fall, spring, summer) Introduction to Conflict Analysis and Resolution (should be taken in the student's first semester at S-CAR)
CONF 610 (fall, spring, occasionally summer) Philosophy and Methods of Conflict Research
CONF 620 (fall or spring) Reflective Practice in Interpersonal-Multiparty Conflicts
CONF 601 (fall, spring, occasionally summer) Theories of Conflict and Conflict Resolution
CONF 642 (fall or spring) Integration of Theory and Practice (should be taken in the student's last semester at S-CAR)

Elective Courses
Students must complete 20 credits of relevant elective course work.  Elective courses are S-CAR courses that are at the 600 and 700 level (other than the required courses listed above).  CONF 695, CONF 795, CONF 697, and appropriate graduate courses from other GMU departments or Consortium Universities may also apply as electives*.

*S-CAR students are limited to a max of 6 credits of non-S-CAR elective coursework to be counted towards the MS degree requirements (another GMU department, a course through the Consortium, a course from another university). Certificate classes count as S-CAR coursework and can be taken towards elective credit degree requirements.

Integrative Courses
Students must complete six credits (two courses) of integrative work, choosing one of the following integration options:

1. CONF 690 Practicum in Conflict Analysis and Resolution (6 credits) or
2. CONF 694 Internship (3 credits or 6 credits) or 3 credits of CONF 694 and 3 credits of CONF 795 or
                 For more information about the Internship click here 
3. CONF 799 Masters Thesis (3 credits in fall and 3 credits in spring) or a combination of 1 credit of CONF 797 (thesis proposal) and 5 credits of CONF 799.  
                 For more information about the Master's Thesis click here

MS Advising Guidelines

Core Courses (Required Courses)

CONF 501: To be taken in the first term of enrollment (offered fall, spring and summer).
CONF 601: Can be taken during any term of enrollment (offered fall, spring and sometimes the summer).
CONF 610: Can be taken during any term of enrollment, preferrably before starting a thesis (offered fall, spring and sometimes the summer).
CONF 620: Can be taken during any term of enrollment but should be taken prior to internship or APT (offered fall and spring).
CONF 642: To be taken in the last term of enrollment (offerend fall, spring and sometimes the summer).

Elective Courses

Elective courses are S-CAR courses that are at the 600 and 700 level (other than the required courses listed above). CONF 695, CONF 795, CONF 697, and appropriate graduate courses from other GMU departments or Consortium Universities may also apply as electives, with a limit of 6 credits of non-S-CAR elective coursework to be counted towards the MS degree requirements (another GMU department, a course through the Consortium, a course from another university). Certificate classes count as S-CAR coursework and can be taken towards elective credit degree requirements.

CONF 697/897-Directed Reading


Under special circumstances, students may arrange to take a Directed Reading (Independent Study) course, either numbered CONF 697 (for MS students) or 897 (for PhD). These can be arranged because:
1. A required course is not due to be scheduled for at least two semesters, thus unreasonably delaying graduation.
2. A student wishes to work with a particular member of the faculty on a specific topic not normally offered as part of their S-CAR program.
In such cases, the student may ask the professor responsible for that required course to substitute a "directed reading" course (CONF 697 or CONF 897) and cover the material independently. This route obviously should be used only in the instance of unavoidable hardship to the student (e.g. student leaving the area or major family illness); it is not intended as an alternative way of passing through the program. This courtesy can only be extended if it does not overburden faculty and prevent the smooth running of the program.


Step 1: The student should initially approach the faculty member to obtain approval for a Directed Reading course and to discuss and agree upon the nature and contents of the proposed course. Registration information is listed below.
Step 2:  An outline of the agreed course topic, together with a basic bibliography, should be written down after this initial discussion and deposited in the student's file, copies also being kept by the student, faculty member and MS or PhD Program Director. At this initial stage, details of expected course work, notes on readings, exercises to be carried out and method of grading should be agreed according to the wishes and working styles of student and faculty involved.
Step 3:  Regular meetings should be scheduled and records kept of the student's performance during the course. It is suggested that at least six meetings take place after the initial planning meeting, although this can be varied when appropriate.
Step 4:  If it is agreed that all or any substantial part of the final grade for a Directed Reading course is to be based upon a final paper, the topic should be approved at least four weeks before the last day of classes and handed in no later than the first day of Exam Week, to facilitate grading.
Step 5:  Incomplete grades will not be granted for Directed Reading courses, except in the case of a medical emergency.


Registration for CONF 697 or 897 is completed using the Individual Section Form found on the Registrar web site under Forms. The form should be submitted after the student has confirmed with a faculty member to oversee their directed reading. Confirmation should be sent by email to the Graduate Student Services Director. This form should be signed by the S-CAR MS Program Director and the S-CAR Dean and then forwarded to the Registrar’s office by fax to 703-993-4032 or via campus mail to MS 3D1.

Consortium Courses

George Mason University is a member of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area. The other schools included in the Consortium are:

- American University - Catholic University
- Gallaudet University - George Washington University
- Georgetown University - Howard University
- Joint Military Intelligence College - Marymount University
- National Defense University - Southeastern University
- Trinity College - University of the District of Columbia
- University of Maryland in College Park.

Graduate students are eligible to enroll in courses through the consortium on a space available basis.
Graduate students must be currently enrolled, in good academic standing, and in degree-seeking status.
Students seeking to enroll in a Consortium course must obtain a Consortium Registration Packet from the
Office of the Registrar, x 3-2439. Packets can also be obtained at the S-CAR office. The Registration form
requires approval by the student’s advisor, S-CAR MS or PHD program director, and S-CAR’s dean. Signed
forms are then turned in to the Registrar’s office. Approved consortium registration requests must be
received in the Consortium office no later than two weeks prior to the beginning of the semester at
George Mason University.

The following rules govern:
o One course per semester through the Consortium may be taken.
o Such a course cannot be taken through the Consortium if it is offered at GMU during the
same semester.
o Such a course cannot be a joint program between GMU and another institution. Courses
offered off-campus at George Washington University and American University are not
open to Consortium registration.
o Such a course cannot be "audited."
o Courses resulting in "Satisfactory/No Credit" status may not be taken.

Registration in consortium courses is not guaranteed. Consortium registrations are on a space available
basis. Registration is often not confirmed until very close to the beginning of the semester.
Consortium courses are recorded as residential credit on the student's GMU transcript and can be taken in
addition to the six hours permitted as transfer credit. Such courses can be applied only to elective
requirements. Students may only register for six credits of consortium credit during their GMU career.
S-CAR students may only take a total maximum of 6 credits of electives from outside of the S-CAR
program, including courses in other Mason departments, consortium courses, and transfer courses from other universities.

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