Our Training Team

Catherine Conner has been a mediation and collaborative practice trainer since 2004. She is a frequent presenter at collaborative conferences and family law workshops. She authored Collaborative Practice Materials with Steven Neustadter and Margaret Anderson. Catherine Conner’s private practice focuses on family law alternate dispute resolution, including mediation, collaborative practice, and private judging. She graduated from the UC Berkeley School of Law, Boalt Hall in 1982 and is a founding partner of Conner, Lawrence, Rodney, Olhiser & Barrett, LLP. In 1992, Catherine became a Certified Family Law Specialist.  She has been honored as the recipient of the Rex Sater Award for Excellence in Family Law, the Eureka award by Collaborative Practice California and was the 2018 honoree for Careers of Distinction.  She was on the Board of Directors of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals from 2007-2014 and served as the President in 2013.

Gary J. Friedman has been practicing law as a mediator with Mediation Law Offices in Mill Valley, California since 1976, integrating mediative principles into the practice of law and the resolution of legal disputes. Co-founder of the Center for Understanding in Conflict (formerly the Center for Mediation in Law), he has been teaching mediation since 1980. Prior to his work as a mediator, he practiced law as a trial lawyer with Friedman and Friedman in Bridgeport, Connecticut. After several years as an advocate, he sought a new approach to resolving disputes through increasing the participation of the parties in the resolution of their differences. At that time, he and his colleague, Jack Himmelstein, began to develop the Understanding-based model that is now practiced extensively in the United States and Europe. As one of the first lawyer mediators and a primary force in the current mediation movement, he has used this model to complete over one thousand mediations in the last two decades He has mediated numerous two-party and multi-party disputes in the commercial and non-profit realms, in the area of intellectual property, real estate, corporate, personnel, partnership formations and dissolutions, and family law.

Katherine Eisold Miller is an attorney practicing mediation and collaborative practice in Westchester County, NY. She has been practicing family law since 1987, first as a litigator and now exclusively outside the court system. She has taught family law at the White Institute and NYU as well as with the Center and lectures regularly on mediation and collaborative practice. She is a Board member of the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals.

Melanie Rowen, our Board President, is a mediator and conflict coach who believes in the power of understanding-based conflict resolution to transform our world. She frequently trains individuals and groups on effective communication in conflict situations and on creating inclusive environments, particularly around gender, sexual orientation, and disability. Melanie previously litigated civil rights cases, including marriage equality, employment discrimination, issues involving transgender and gender non-conforming youth and their families, and issues facing LGBTQ+ elders, at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and served on the Board of Directors of the Transgender Law Center.

Earlier in her career, Melanie worked in business litigation at Latham & Watkins LLP, and for many years, she was the Associate Director for Public Interest Programs at UC Berkeley School of Law. Melanie currently works in attorney professional development at the Bay Area offices of a large law firm, and is a member of the Board of Directors for the National Association for Law Placement.

Teacher Training Program

Ivan Alter is an attorney and mediator with offices in Westchester County, New York, and New York City. Practicing law since 1993, Ivan traded in an early career spent litigating complex commercial matters and high-conflict matrimonial cases in favor of a more rewarding practice using the understanding-based model.

Ivan left the courtroom for good twenty years ago and today empowers his clients to design satisfying resolutions to their conflicts through mediation and collaborative law. He is a graduate of Brandeis University (B.A.), Brooklyn Law School (J.D.), and Columbia University (M.S.). Having participated in countless training programs and symposia, Ivan currently serves on the board of directors for the Center for Understanding in Conflict and the New York Association of Collaborative Professionals.

Danillo Alves is an IT Executive with over 23 years of experience in the computer software industry and has worked in different management positions for Latin America in recent years. He is a seasoned leader passionate about ensuring the perfect experience for his team and customers, and his journey truly exemplifies a broad, exciting, and global career. He has accumulated over the years international and intercultural experience by delivering services, leading teams, negotiating with customers in different countries, and completing short assignments and a fellowship in Germany.

In 2021, Danillo joined the SAP Ombuds Office as Ombudsperson for the Americas. Following his passion since 2015, he has also worked as an Internal Coach for individuals and teams, following his Erickson International Certified Coach qualification. He has already supported the Ombusoffice in the past years as Conflict Counselor. After completing mediation training at the Center, he joined the Business Mediator group.

Helen Chen is a mediator, trainer, and conflict coach specializing in workplace conflicts, with a lifelong passion for improving workplaces. In her prior position at the Labor Occupational Health Program at the University of California, Berkeley, Helen trained employers and employees in various industries on improving working conditions. As a former employment attorney at Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, she represented employees in workers’ compensation, occupational health and safety, and retaliation matters.

Helen also mediates in civil harassment court, supporting work colleagues, landlords and tenants, neighbors, businesses and consumers, and family members in making mutually beneficial decisions together. Located in the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a graduate of Stanford Law School (J.D.), University of California, Berkeley (M.S.), and Stanford University (B.S.). Helen has received mediation training through the Center for Understanding in Conflict, the Northern California Mediation Center, and Stanford Law School.

Antoinette Delruelle has been a mediator since 2009 and an attorney since 1994. Before starting the Mediation Project at the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG) in 2013, she represented survivors of domestic violence in divorces and family cases for eighteen years and has taught mediation to legal services attorneys and NYS court staff and mediates divorces, parenting, and child permanency cases for New York City’s five borough courts.

Antoinette was president of the Family and Divorce Mediation Council of Greater New York from 2014 to 2016 and is on the Center for Understanding in Conflict board. She is a member of the statewide ADR Advisory Committee formed by former Chief Judge DiFiore in April 2018 to give recommendations on how to increase the use of ADR in the NYS court system.


Mario Dotti has been a full-time mediator and neutral since 2003, working with national and international mediation providers, such as CAM – Camera Arbitrale di Milano, CEDR, Organismo di Conciliazione Forense di Milano, ECDR – European Center for Dispute Resolution, and other private providers. Focus areas include commercial contracts, intellectual property, patents, banking contracts; family, insurance, and real estate disputes; and probate and will. Mario is also an accredited teacher/trainer in mediation by the Italian Ministry of Justice and has been a guest lecturer at the University of Milan-Bicocca on conflict management, mediation, and negotiation.

Sharon B. Eckstein is an attorney with over 20 years of mediation and conflict resolution experience with a focus on disputes involving those who have had prior relationships or who maintain ongoing contact – employment, workplace, and family matters, including divorce and custody as well as adult family and elder law issues, business partnerships and dissolutions, organizational boards, nonprofits, condo/HOA matters, and community land use disputes. She also works with Eckstein Conflict Resolution Services and offers mediation, facilitation, conflict coaching, and training in various contexts.

Sharon is a National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) board member and a volunteer mediator with the Philadelphia Eviction Diversion Program and the Philadelphia Police Advisory Commission Community-Police Mediation Program. Sharon received her juris doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She was a summa cum laude graduate of Queens College of the City University of New York, a Belle Zeller scholar, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Nathalie Herren is a mediator active in Switzerland and Canada, providing mediation services globally. She is the founder and CEO of Armonibre, offering mediation, training, and advice in conflict management. Nathalie mainly works in commercial mediation, the workplace, and general mediation. She practices in English, Spanish, French, and German.

Nathalie studied International Relations at The Graduate Institute Geneva, Business Administration at HEC Montréal, and European Master in Mediation at IUKB Sion. She has more than 20 years of experience in human security in Europe, North, and South America. She is a sworn mediator to the State of Geneva and is accredited by Switzerland’s Swiss Chamber of Commercial Mediation (SCCM). Nathalie is also certified by the Swiss Federation of Mediators (FSM), ADR-ODR International Civil/Commercial Mediator, and International Mediation Institute (IMI). Her greatest strength is accompanying people to think “out of the box” in times of conflict and change, focusing on communicating authentically.

Caitlin Meredith, MPH, MA, is a mediator, coach and conflict skills trainer who works with individuals, organizations and families navigating transitions and conflict. Her curiosity about conflict led to 13 years with Doctors Without Borders in war zones in sub-Saharan Africa, and then to consulting in the criminal justice system. After working in the aftermath of big conflicts, she decided to learn more about preventing and working through disagreements through courageous conversations. This curiosity led her to the Center for Understanding in Conflict. In addition to her private practice, Caitlin volunteers her time as a mediator for community and court-based mediation programs in Colorado and California. She also teaches Core Mediation and Negotiation classes at the Monterey College of Law and co-hosts a podcast about women’s financial literacy. In all of her endeavors, Caitlin finds honest, clear and vulnerable communication to be the key ingredient for creating meaningful connections in our lives. Also, humor.

Michelle Exline Minovi, Esq. is a highly skilled divorce and family mediator with 14+ years family law experience. As Managing Attorney at the legal services non-profit Ayuda in Washington, D.C., Michelle represented low-income and Spanish-speaking immigrant clients in complex matrimonial cases in the context of domestic violence. As a mediator, Michelle values the process as well as the outcome. Michelle is on the roster of mediation panels for matrimonial Supreme Court in Kings, New York, and Queens counties as well as the borough-wide custody and visitation mediation panel. Michelle sits on the board of the Family and Divorce Mediation Council of Greater New York and is a member of the New York State Council on Divorce Mediation. Michelle speaks functional Spanish. Michelle volunteers at the New York Legal Assistance Group and the Legal Services of New York as a mediator and as a consulting attorney. Michelle will be teaching a mediation clinic at the Brooklyn Law School beginning January 2024.

Hansa Patel is an attorney, mediator, and teacher.  As an attorney, Hansa zealously advocated for abused and neglected children or defended their parents’ rights in the San Francisco juvenile dependency court for fourteen years.  Hansa is passionate about serving the underprivileged community.  Feeling depleted by the court system, Hansa explored new ways to empower her clients to resolve conflict.  Mediation empowers Hansa’s clients to choose how they want to engage with conflict, co-create resolutions, and even transform a relationship.  In the USA, Canada, and Africa, Hansa teaches mediation, including integrating mindfulness skills into conflict resolution.  Hansa wants her clients to have the same tools she cultivates in her children:  a mindful approach to resolving challenges in life.

Carsten Pöschl, SAP’s Global Ombudsperson, and his team are the first port of call for the company’s 110,000 employees when it comes to the confidential handling of work-related complaints and conflict situations. Before he became Global Ombudsperson, Carsten spent several years at SAP working in strategic HR roles and, before that, led international teams in the areas of Sales and Consulting. Carsten Pöschl is a qualified conflict resolution expert, mediator, coach, and mindfulness trainer with more than 15 years of management experience. His original studies include degrees in Industrial Engineering and Business Administration from the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany, the Royal Institute of Technology and the Stockholm School of Economics in Stockholm, Sweden.

Our Training Partners

Stacey Shuster, Ph.D. is a psychologist-mediator in full-time private practice in San Francisco. Trained as a couple, family and child therapist, she has worked at the AIDS Family Project in San Francisco and taught Family Therapy at a number of local graduate programs, including the Department of Psychiatry at California Pacific Medical Center. She is a trained mediator and collaborative coach, and helps separating and divorcing families as a co-parent counselor. Most recently, she has enjoyed working together with attorneys in co-mediation.

Stacey has presented at a number of national professional conferences on issues related to same-sex divorce and co-parenting challenges, as well as on Integrative Mediation.

Eric Butler, founder of Talking Peace and leader in the field of Restorative Justice, believes in the power of relationship building as a healing practice. An educator and activist, Eric’s ability to overcome life’s hurdles propels him to make a difference in the lives of young people across the U.S. and beyond.

Eric began his career as a domestic violence counselor in New Orleans. After surviving Hurricane Katrina and relocating to Oakland, California, Eric successfully facilitated Grief Circles in response to homicide and extreme violence in area schools as a part of Catholic Charities’ crisis response program. He also worked as a lead mediator with Youth Uprising, where he mediated conflicts on the ground in Oakland neighborhoods and schools. Eric is recognized for his impactful restorative justice work with youth in West Oakland as the School Coordinator at Bunche High School with Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth (RJOY). He went on to found the “Talking Peace” model of Restorative Justice, a set of practices and philosophy aimed at building relationships through shared values. National publications like the New York Times and YES! Magazine, and the film, CIRCLES, document Eric’s pioneering and transformational approach, which hinges on the tremendous power of a single conversation.

Chris Fortin is a Soto Zen teacher and a licensed MFT psychotherapist and Spiritual Counselor. She began practicing Buddhism in 1976 while living at the San Francisco Zen Center. After many years of practice she received Dharma Transmission from Zoketsu Norman Fischer of Everyday Zen, in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. She began her private counseling practice in 1985, integrating psychotherapy and spirituality.

Chris established Dharma Heart Zen to share the path of wholehearted living and awakening with others (www.dharmaheartzen.com). She leads the Dharma Heart Zen Sangha in Cotati and the Woman’s Lotus Sangha in Sebastopol. She practices and teaches in the Everyday Zen community. She is guiding teacher of Sky Island Zen in Tuscon Arizona, and leads retreats and workshops throughout the country. She is the co- founder of Veterans PATH (formerly Honoring the Path of the Warrior), offering retreats and meditation and mindfulness practices for returning veterans.

Norman Fischer is a poet, author, Zen Buddhist priest and former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center. As founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation (www.everydayzen.org), his work with meditation practice has taken him into many corners of contemporary American life including the arts, education, hospice training, education, and lawyering as a spiritual path. Recently, he began offering meditation training to engineers at Google. Norman has worked with the Center for Understanding in Conflict on inquiries that focus on bringing the calmness and insight of meditation practice directly into conflict situations. Norman has written 29 books. His latest books are Untitled Series: Life As It is and The World Could Be Otherwise: Imagination and the Bodhisattva Path.

Natalia Lopez-Whitaker is a Family Law Mediator/Attorney with offices in San Francisco and Oakland. She is a bi-racial woman: Mexican and German; first woman in her family to attend a four year University; and first attorney in her family. She sits on the CUC Board of Trustees.  She is focused on advocating for a more racially diverse community of Family Law practitioners (Attorneys, Mediators, and Mental Health Professionals) who will create and implement a new way to resolve conflict.

Lacey Wilson is the Programs Coordinator at SEEDS Community Resolution Center. She worked for seven years as an educator then transitioned to the legal profession in legal support positions at Camille King Collaborative Law & Mediation and Disability Rights California, respectively. She believes at the core of change is solid relationship building and has a serious passion for restorative practices, particularly within marginalized communities, education, and law. In addition to her work at SEEDS, Lacey serves as a Board Member and as one of six team members delivering an intensive racial and cultural conflict training program with CUC.

Born and raised in the Austin, Texas area, Lacey made her way to the Bay in August 2015. She’s a published author and spends her free time working on creative writing and DIY projects or in the company of friends over coffee, boba tea, good food, or a hike in the redwoods! Lacey studied Special Education at Texas State University and received her mediation certifications at SEEDS and the Center for Understanding in Conflict in 2016.  As a lifelong learner, she is continuously seeking out communities willing to have courageous conversations around cultural awareness and social change.