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IPA Staff Spotlight: Associate Policy Scientist Fran Fletcher

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IPA Associate Policy Scientist Fran Fletcher credits her time working with IPA's Conflict Resolution Program as an excellent opportunity to expand and utilize her skill set to support Delaware towns, governments, and school boards.

After 18 years working with the Institute for Public Administration's Conflict Resolution Program, our colleague Frances "Fran" Fletcher is retiring. We sat down with Fran just before she retired to ask her about her public service work, her passion for working with students, and plans for the future.Q: How did you join the IPA family?A: "I have to give Kathy Murphy, director of the Conflict Resolution Program, credit for bringing me here. I had left full-time employment in the HR field in favor of trying to create my own business around mediation because I was so fascinated A) by the process and B) by people being empowered to solve issues that I wanted to spend my full time doing that. The local newspaper did a write-up on my work resolving conflict in neighborhoods because the town considered it to be successful. It was from that article that Kathy contacted me and said, "This is what we do. Would you be interested in coming in and talking about it?" We did, and I started out as kind of a limited-term researcher position, and then six months later they made me an offer that I couldn't refuse."Q: How has your role evolved and changed throughout the years?A: "One of the great things about being involved in IPA is that you have lots of opportunities to use your skills to support towns, agencies, governments, and school boards. My role always had a finger in lots of areas. A lot of it has been special-education driven as those projects have continued to grow over time, but it was just mediation initially, then it got into IEP facilitation, then it went on to conducting trainings."
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During her 18 years at IPA, Fran Fletcher played a pivotal role in the programming and offerings of the Conflict Resolution Program.

Q: IPA's mission is "serving the public good, shaping tomorrow's leaders." How has this become realized in the work you've done here?

A: "The work with grad and undergrad students has been an opportunity to expose students to a huge variety of project management and training. You try to match your activities with things that they're ideally interested in, but if they're not interested in it there's still that opportunity to expand their horizons. There are many other success stories where the students are concerned not only when it comes to our own hands-on work, but what we're able to instill with students, the experiences we're able to give them, and to see how that impacts them. Many of the students will leave saying, "Well, it was fun, or I liked it, but it's really not what I want or what I'm looking for," and then they will contact us six months, one, or two, or even more years later and say, "Oh, I learned so much from that experienced that I'm able to use today." I think that is probably the most rewarding part."

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Fran Fletcher is joined by Kathy Murphy in honoring the Delaware Department of Education's Exceptional Children Resources for outstanding leaderhip and contributions to collaborative dispute resolution in Delaware.

Q: What's your advice to those in the public administration field who are looking to make the most of their experience giving back and serving the public?

A: "I think certainly following your passion. I don't think that there's any person that I've worked with that hasn't had a passion for the work that IPA does and for the mission and the vision that we all hold close to our hearts. Always keeping sight of all pieces of life and don't just becoming work-centered."

Q: What are some of your fondest IPA moments or projects?

A: "In general, I can honestly say there's never been a project in IPA or specifically within the Conflict Resolution Program that I've been engaged in that I haven't loved doing, even the challenging ones. Challenging can be from a lot of different perspectives. It could be the personalities, the projects itself, or where it is within Delaware because we cover the entire state. But I think if I had to pick one category of work it would have to be the special education workbeing a facilitator of meetings between school personnel and parents regarding their children with special needs; as well as being a mediator; and then having the opportunity to go train educators, parents, and advocates on best practices of how to work collaboratively together has really fueled my soul."

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Fran poses for a photo with UD mascot Baby Blue and her IPA colleague Chris Kelly at a reception for the Consortium of University Public Service Organizations at Deer Park Tavern.

"I love that work and I will miss that piece of the work, but it's an honor to help people in conflict and try to help them get through it, to the other side, and to something that's agreeable for everyone. That kind of follows my passion for the things that I do in life. I've been a hospice volunteer for 27 years, and so helping people through difficult times by just being there and being a good listener. It's not necessarily problem-solving because they're not my problems. Special Education is not necessarily my problem, hospice care is not my problem, but to be there in support of others as they're trying to maneuver through all that comes with those scenarios has just been an honor for all of these years."

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Fran and the Conflict Resolution Program staff pose with a group of Basic Mediation Training graduates to celebrate their achievement.

Q: What do you like to do on a day without work or other responsibilities?A: "I would have to say three things fall into that category. The first one is waking up and having my coffee at the den window while watching the birds come to the feeders and counting how many different varieties enjoy the combination of suet and seed. That's how I envision starting every day. From that, certainly in good weatherI start working in the garden actually in January and end usually in November, so those months have different activities associated with them. The third thing is working out. I'm looking forward to just spreading everything out and that be my day, instead of just trying to piece everything together every single day and then trying to play catch-up on the weekend. There will be no more catch-up anymore. I don't want to have to prioritize. I guess the last thing that I would add would be my tendency to be a bird nerd in general and watching the peregrine falcons as they hatch their latest five eggs, and then being a watcher to see how they fledge."From all of us at IPA, we thank you, Fran, and wish you a happy retirement!About the Institute for Public AdministrationThe University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration (IPA) addresses the policy, planning, and management needs of its partners through the integration of applied research, professional development and the education of tomorrow's leaders.Article by Chris Kelley.
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