Alumna Spotlight: Amy Gordon ’08


What kinds of negotiation-related activities did you pursue at HLS?

I took every class I could—Negotiation Workshop, Dispute Systems Design, International Negotiation, served as co-Chair of the Harvard Negotiators, and was a teaching assistant in the Spring Negotiation Workshop. My clinical project with HNMCP was designing a dispute resolution system to address the harmful downriver effects in Cambodia of a dam built in Vietnam. I worked with the Consensus Building Institute and also with Mercy Corps to develop a dispute resolution system addressing land disputes. I later interned with Mercy Corps in Sri Lanka, writing an evaluation of the Humanitarian Negotiation with Non-State Actors Training Program.

What were the most important skills you learned through your negotiation training and how have they been useful?

Communication skills, such as active listening. And the value of preparation, of thinking through the interests behind the positions. When I spoke with the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Personnel Office about where I wanted to be stationed for my first post, I did a lot of preparation and focused on the interests behind my choices.  As a result, I was given my first choice.

I also learned the importance of always putting yourself in the other person’s shoes, thinking about issues from different perspectives. This has been of tremendous help in the Army, where you have people from different backgrounds, education and skill levels, interests and religions, all working together in an intense environment

What are your plans after your tour of duty ends?

After serving in Iraq I will return to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii with the 25th Infantry Division Headquarters. I will continue my work in the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate. At the moment I am focusing on administrative law but will likely be rotated to a new position when we return to Hawaii. My commitment to the Army ends in July 2013. At this point I am undecided about whether I will remain in the Army after my initial term ends.

How have you put your negotiation skills into action?

I used a lot of negotiation skills while working as a Legal Assistance attorney for my first four months in JAG, primarily to help me communicate with and assist soldiers needing help. I attended the Rule of Law course at the JAG school in preparation for deployment. We talked a lot about conflict resolution and traditional methods of dispute resolution in Iraq and Afghanistan and I was able to contribute to the discussion and provide ideas for projects and resources. I also use these skills on a daily basis with people both inside and outside of my office and I am hoping to conduct a basic negotiation training. I am confident that whatever I do in the future, these skills will be helpful.

Gordon received her BA in Political Science, with a concentration in international relations, from Stanford University and subsequently taught English in a public elementary school in southern Costa Rica, where she also worked at a tour company. She received a Masters in International Law and Human Rights from U.N. University for Peace in Costa Rica and worked as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Samoa. She received her JD from Harvard Law School in 2008. She joined the Army in July 2009 and was deployed to Iraq in February 2011.
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