Gail Ervin, Human Science

Photograph of Gail Ervin

Gail Ervin

Human Science Student

Gail Erwin's life is the kind of busy that doesn't stop. She can't, if she's going to meet her goal of helping global culture commit to the peaceful resolution of environmental conflict by 2020.

A former president of the Environmental Council of Sacramento, she now runs her own environment and public policy mediation firm. "We've brought federal and state agency folks into a one-day, slam dunk mediation with Chevron to hash out a habitat plan; conducted a several year process with community groups to design roadway improvements, and facilitated a state-wide AIDS consortium," she explains.

She has a master's degree in her field, and going back to school doesn't have to be on the agenda: she doesn't need a PhD to do what she does in California.

But she dreams big.

"A few years ago I started getting more involved internationally – I became co-chair for the Association for Conflict Resolution, and the US representative to the World Mediation Forum's steering community, and I started giving presentations in Argentina – and you do need a PhD to be effective internationally. It will make a difference," she says.

The trouble with going back to graduate school was that "I just don't have the kind of life where you can sit in the classroom every day," she says. "So I was very interested in Saybrook's program – not only because I could fit it to my life, but because they have a program in Social Transformation, and I believe that the best conflict resolution helps a fundamental transformation occur in its participants. So there's a philosophical alignment with Saybrook: I got very excited reading the curriculum."

So she enrolled, and will be the first to admit that it's been challenging.

"The last year my business quadrupled, my father died, I had a new granddaughter born, and my daughter's getting married – it's been an insane year, so staying on track with coursework hasn't been easy," she says. "But the fact that I can disappear for a while and still get my course work done and keep up really helps, and I've had tremendous support from the faculty, and I've felt recharged every time I've gone to a residential conference."

It's also been worth it – not just the education she needs, but also the education she wants.

"Being able to talk to the professor, redesign the course to what I'm actually doing professionally, makes a huge difference," she says. "Right now I'm starting to do work in India, so I was able to design a course to cover how one finds out what's going on in my field in an unfamiliar country. It completely covers what I need to do in my professional life, and I've found out about new resources that have been incredibly helpful."