Conflict Resolution—On the Ground

Harrison Wedgeworth brings military and law enforcement background to studies in conflict resolution
An outdoor headshot of Harrison Wedgeworth in front of a green background

Harrison Wedgeworth F25 will be the first to admit that he resists theory. Now as a Clarke Fellow, a United States Department of State program which leads to a career in the Diplomatic Security Service, Wedgeworth studies conflict resolution theory with an eye attuned to the tactical level. 

In part, his inclination towards practice stems from his career prior to The Fletcher School. Wedgeworth applied to Fletcher on the deferred enrollment program, and during his two-year work period before beginning his studies in the MALD program, he worked as a case manager for the Department of Social Services and as a police officer in his home state of South Carolina. 

Now in his classes, he thinks about how likely theory is to be adopted and implemented on the ground.

“There are two questions I grapple with in conflict resolution. When I’m reading articles and theories, I can bring a very hands-on experience. I can say, ‘I don't know if this would work.’ The second question I like to ask is, ‘What is the goal we're setting? What are we working towards realistically, and is our goal obtainable? Why or why not?’” 

“Now, I have to back this up academically and empirically,” he added. “I still like to bring that anecdotal experience in. You see conflict every single day if you're a police officer or in the military. For me, it's a matter of recognizing that maybe conflict is inevitable, but are there ways we can either avoid getting there, or are there ways that we can resolve the matter more effectively?”

Understanding How Warfare is Conducted

Wedgeworth began honing his approach to conflict resolution through his time in the military, and he came to Fletcher so that he could learn about how to mitigate conflict.

“When we look at things academically, I know how they might work at a tactical or squad level. Studying international humanitarian law and the law of war, I know what I might do as a commander. Another student asked me, ‘What is the amount of international humanitarian law you receive as a soldier?’ None. You have a briefing with a JAG for about 30 minutes to an hour, they tell you what to do to the best of your ability, and then you need to go do the thing.”

“I try to bring that perspective when we talk about how warfare should be conducted; how is warfare conducted?” he added. He spoke about how on the battlefield technology and protocols are used and implemented by human beings. “That leads to complications, I would say. And I think in conflict, you see the same thing.”

A Fletcher Training for a Career in Foreign Service

For Wedgeworth, Fletcher was the first step he needed to take in order to advance in his career, and as a Clarke Fellow that path will lead him to the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). 

“My goal is to get into the foreign service. I want to represent my country overseas at the highest level I can. You don’t see a lot of diplomats from the Deep South, and that's a point of pride for me; it's a valuable perspective to bring into the international sphere,” Wedgeworth said. 

With these goals in mind, he applied for the U.S. State Department fellowships and was pleased to receive the Clarke Fellowship because of its particular scope. 

“For me, it’s a really good blend of diplomacy and law enforcement,” he said. “The job of DSS special agents is to make sure that the other diplomats get where they need to go safely; we protect the embassies and all their information. If things go bottom up, we make sure that we mitigate as much harm as possible. For me, that’s the perfect job that combines my previous experience.”

During his first summer on the fellowship, he posted to one of the eight directorates in Washington, D.C. and learned more about the requirements of the position.

“I think that was the perfect way to learn about this area where you offer protection and advancement of U.S. foreign policy, but you do it behind the scenes. It's the littlest, least known federal agency, I would say, with the widest reach in the entire world.”

“A lot of people in meetings didn't think that agents knew what was going on because they didn't think that they were all required to have master's degrees. But agents do have this background. There’s a perception that you're just the bodyguard, but you have a skill set that is much greater because you need to protect others and be aware of what's going on.”

Wedgeworth finds that learning from peers from around the world is “paramount” to building a successful career in the foreign service. His first semester at Fletcher has provided him with a theoretical backing to challenge his way of thinking as well as a space to bring his unique experience to challenge others’ perspectives. He pointed to International Humanitarian Law with Professor Tom Dannenbaum, where he’s learning about rules of engagement in conflicts at different moments in time. 

“I signed up for that class knowing I was going to have some moral and maybe personal strife with it—that’s good for me. I have to know that for my future occupation. You should be willing to challenge yourself not just academically but also morally.”

Read more about Fletcher’s international negotiation and conflict resolution field of study.