I have completed my first year as a graduate student! I am attending Arcadia University in Glenside, Pennsylvania for my Master’s degree in International Peace and Conflict Resolution, commonly referred to as IPCR. It has been a long year, well a long two academic semesters anyway. This past semester has been the busiest and most stressful I’ve encountered to date in all of my academic experience. But I made it through successfully!
I’ve tried to think of the ways in which graduate school is different from undergraduate. I have had some undergraduate classes that have been just a heavy in work or even more so than some of my graduate classes, so that is not what the difference it. I think the biggest difference is the amount of class discussions. In graduate school it is almost impossible to get away with not reading for class because everyone is expected to contribute to in-class discussions, sometimes lasting hours. I think once students reach this level of education that most want to do all the reading for class, but there are times it becomes extremely challenging due to the amount of reading assigned and time constraints. There simply are not enough hours in a day to spend an adequate amount of time on each class. Thus, one of the biggest lessons of graduate school is time management. Especially if you want to maintain any sort of personal life. However, the gain is worth the pain!
I want to highlight some of the great experiences I have had this past year:
International Day of Peace September 21, 2012
The IPCR department arranged a screening of the wonderful documentary I AM directed by Tom Shadyac with a discussion panel to celebrate the International Day of Peace. Commonly called, World Peace Day, was established in 1982 by the United Nations to encourage reflection on the everyday actions that people take in the effort to bring about world peace. I very much liked this documentary and strongly recommend it. Here is the trailer:
October – Field Study in Ireland/Northern Ireland
In mid-October I conducted a field study in Northern Ireland to learn about post-conflict reconciliation, an area in which all sides of this conflict need to improve upon. This trip was amazing. The island is stunningly beautiful. Northern Ireland, as I will discuss in a more detailed trip report in a later blog post, is still a very segregated society. The conflict runs deep throughout ever facet of society. Although the violence is significantly less than it was during the Troubles, it still remains- and is actually escalating again. In part, because post-conflict reconciliation has not been completely successful. I have since continued my studies of this conflict and increased my understanding quite a bit. I absolutely want to return to Northern Ireland.
November – Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities Workshop
I will explain this more in detail in a follow-up post. The Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) program is a 3-day trauma counseling course designed for post-conflict reconciliation between perpetrators and victims who survived the Rwandan genocide. I attended a 3-day training course that walks through the process of this counseling session and how it works to heal rifts between people. This model of group trauma counseling can be used outside of the Rwandan genocide framework by altering some of the content to make it suitable for other cases of reconciliation. This was a great experience for professional development and counseling skill-building.
January – Field Study in Costa Rica
In January, 2013 I traveled to Costa Rica on a field study about sustainable development and indigenous rights within the country. Dams are quite controversial worldwide. On one hand hydroelectricity is positive, on the other hand large dams can alter the environment. In the Boruca region of Buenos Aires, Costa Rica the building of a dam has led to questions of indigenous human rights due to the displacement of tribes and inundation of indigenous land if the dam is built. During my stay in the country I visited the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the United Nation’s University of Peace, the Boruca region, and various beaches and rainforest preserves. Costa Rica is an absolutely beautiful country. So far I have posted one other blog post on this trip, read here.
March 22, 2013 – George Mason University’s Graduate Student Research Conference
On March 22nd I presented a paper at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy Graduate Student Research Conference. The paper on nuclear energy and security was written for a class on international security that I took last fall semester. I had presented at two conferences as an undergraduate and this was my first as a graduate student. GMU’s Arlington campus is about a three and a half hour drive from my house so this was a pretty big deal for me. It worked out nicely that my sister and her family live nearby so I traveled the day before and stayed overnight at her house. Next time I travel to a conference it would be nice to encourage another classmate to present so we could coordinate our trip together. There was some interesting research presented, most of it was thesis or doctoral research. My experience gave me inspiration for the current project I am working on with the Project for Nuclear Awareness, an organization that I now have a fellowship with due to the executive director hearing me speak about my research for this conference.
April 27, 2013 – International Peace and Conflict Resolution Professional Exchange
Every year students graduating from Arcadia University’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) M.A. program present their thesis projects. This year an IPCR Professional Exchange was coordinated with the presentations in order to encourage a dialogue between students, those graduating and first year IPCR students, and professionals in the field of conflict resolution. There were several discussion panels throughout the day including professors and practitioners representing the U.N. and several non-profits. Panelists were asked to discuss various topics from peace and conflict resolution to counseling and violence in the media. Several panelists spent time discussing their career paths including four people who work for the United Nations in various incredibly interesting capacities. The U.N. was overwhelmingly represented, while many other careers that IPCR students may want besides that of professors and in the non-profit world were not represented. Nevertheless, it was beneficial for professional development to hear about the various paths taken to reach the significant careers that some people had (such as working directly with the American ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, or coordinating humanitarian aid in Syria. One panelist was a local judge). I look forward to next year’s professional exchange. Mainly because I will be presenting my thesis.
Spring Semester – American Friends Service Committee Internship
This semester I took an NGO management class which contained the element of an internship with the international NGO (non-governmental organization, commonly referred to as non-profit) working to support social justice programs, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) which is headquartered in Philadelphia. This was such a great opportunity. I worked with two other IPCR students on a policy evaluation project that looked at the effects of sanctions in general but also specifically in 3 countries in which AFSC works that has sanctions imposed on them- Cuba, Myanmar, and Zimbabwe. I was responsible for the Cuban case study. We researched a broad literature review of the effects of sanctions on states, civil societies, and NGOs. These same aspects were then researched for each case study. Our final report was close to 100 pages. Although the project wasn’t without complication, I am very happy with the final product. We presented our report to several people from AFSC, including their general secretary and other managers, on May 6, 2013.
IPCR Year 1 – Graduate Level Classes
- Introduction to Peace & Conflict Resolution – (violent conflict escalation and de-escalation, conflict assessment, field study in Northern Ireland, I wrote a paper on the Argentina/Chile Beagle Channel conflict and a paper on conflict assessment itself).
- Foundations of Conflict Analysis – (qualitative and quantitative research, annotative bibliography).
- International Health & Human Rights – (human rights legislation, public health, effects of war and violence, I wrote a research paper on water as a human right).
- Sustainable Development & Indigenous Rights – (development and its effects on indigenous peoples throughout history and modern times, I presented on the Kuna of Panama, field study to Costa Rica and wrote conflict assessment about El Diquis dam conflict).
- International Security – (theory of international security studies, I wrote a paper on nuclear energy and security which was presented at GMU’s Graduate Student Research Conference).
- NGO Management – (NGO management, fundraising, advocacy, program evaluation, semester-long internship with AFSC, and completed several NGO program evaluation case studies).
- Social Life of War: Political, Cultural, Identity Processes and Violent Conflict – (ethnography of war, black market/shadow economy, societal adaptations to war and survival, I presented on the militarization of Turkish society, I wrote an ethnographic content analysis about Russians portrayed as villains in American movies and how this represents current state politics).
- Conflict Resolution in Deeply Divided Societies – (theories of conflict management and state building, ethnic conflict, theories of violent conflict, justice and post-conflict reconciliation, I wrote a research paper on social identity theory and the U.S. intervention into the N. Ireland conflict in the 1990’s).
- Research Methods in Conflict Analysis & Peace Science – (applying both qualitative and/or quantitative research methods into research designs, initial thesis proposal method justification).
This summer I am keeping very busy. I have a fellowship with the Project for Nuclear Awareness, an internship counseling domestic violence victims, and two summer classes online through Michigan State University towards a certificate in homeland security (I will take the third class to complete the certificate in the fall). I plan on taking 3 courses next fall at Arcadia, two mediation classes and one on environmental security. I will also begin my thesis research which is (at this point) on the concept of environmental security and climate change adaptation within the United States.