Center for Conflict Studies Knowledge as Action, Action as Change
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Participant Profiles

2016 Summer Peacebuilding Program Participants

Alexia Muhire

Alexia Muhire

When someone asks me where I am from I always feel the need to tell my whole story as it pertains a lot to my identity. I was born in Belgium, moved to Rwanda and lived there for 7 years, then relocated to Madagascar where I lived for most of my life. I was then fortunate enough to attend the United World College-Atlantic in Wales, which provided an opportunity to interact with students from many cultures. As a 3rd cultural kid I have learned to see things from different perspectives and even question my own beliefs. The peace-building program is going to be useful to building experience and skills to my interest in social development. My interest in social development stems from the occurrence of the Rwandan genocide that inspired me to learn how an economy can recover after hardship. Another event that sparked my passion for social development was my extended essay research where I examined the deforestation of rosewood in Madagascar, and the correlation with socioeconomic impact. Ultimately, I authored a recommendation for strategies moving forward to preserve environmental, local, and economic interest. I’ve continued this work at Skidmore College, where I have selected to study economics, specifically systems that impact developing countries.

Christina Brook

Christina Brook

I am originally from Kaitaia, New Zealand, but have spent the last few years of my life in BC, Canada and now, in VT, USA. I grew up in a predominantly Maori community with my mother and seven siblings, before being adopted by another caring family. I was then offered a scholarship to attend Pearson College (UWC) in Canada which changed my life forever. This unique sequence of events has inspired my interest to pursue a career in politics and law to ensure the rights and prosperity of my people, and indigenous people around the world. I currently study International Politics & Economics, with minors in Anthropology and Privilege & Poverty at Middlebury College. Outside of academia, you can find me with my dance crew, on a rugby or soccer field, singing, or cooking with friends. In the future, I hope to work with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, whilst continuing to encourage cultural-heritage learning in western education through my NGO project, Maui & the Movement. Until then, I look forward to much more traveling (as I plan to head to Oxford University next semester, then explore Europe, and Cameroon in 2017), and many more adventures to come.

Clare Margason

Clare Margason

I was born and raised in Seattle, and have spent most of my life on the West Coast. I attended Portland State University where I studied music and international studies, and am now living in Monterey, California. I recently completed my first year in the masters of public administration program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS). Before beginning graduate school I spent six years working with the international community – two years as a case manager and social worker with the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) in Portland, one year as a curriculum developer for a primary education project with the International Youth Foundation in Tanzania, and three years working on alternative education projects that ranged from organic gardening to sport-for-development programming with Sustainable Laos Education Initiatives (SLEI) in Lao P.D.R. I am passionate about social justice and dream of working on youth-focused projects that improve access and equity to and within the world’s health and education systems. I think the field of peace studies and conflict resolution is incredibly important and believe everyone can benefit from studying it, regardless of career or life path. I am very excited for the opportunity to enhance my knowledge and experience in this field and look forward to being part of SPP.​

Endi Mato

Endi Mato

I was born and raised in a small town in Albania, next to the border with Macedonia. I grew up living in both countries and cultures until I moved to Bosnia and Hercegovina when I was 16 to attend the United World College in Mostar. Over my two years there, I volunteered at a refugee camp and an orphanage, worked with local activist networks to co-found the first Gender and Sexuality Group in Mostar, as well as led the World Cinema Club and served as a Peer Supporter. While hitchhiking across borders and making guerrilla art on war ruins, I rediscovered a culture so similar yet different from mine, but most importantly, I learnt how to live with people from all over the world. One of the most remarkable moments of our discoveries was visiting the dark, cold underground galleries of Yugoslav war art, locked under the ruins of Sarajevo for decades. Now, I’m following my undergraduate studies in Politics, Economics and International Relations at Smith College, while debating in tournaments across the country with the American Parliamentary Debate Association and being a senator for the Smith Government Association.

Fernanda Honesko

Fernanda Honesko

I was born and raised in Brasília, Brazil. I graduated in International Relations from CEUB in the second semester of 2015. In my fifth semester of International Relations, I started working at CONARE-National Committee for Refugees. Initially, I have to admit that I was excited that I was going to study all the cases; as a book lover, I imagined them as books with thrilling contents. When I started to work on the cases, I listened to their stories and saw them, the thrill suddenly went away, and they stopped being stories in papers to become real people with real problems. In the future, I hope to be working in the UNHCR-United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as a consultant, a job that not only involves helping refugees and asylum-seekers, but also developing projects of cooperation between countries in different fields, helping countries and institutions come up with good solutions for different problems. While working at CONARE I realized that most refugees were from Africa, and so I ended up developing a great interest in the continent, which led to my final research paper in college about the Rwandan Genocide and the inaction of the International Community.

Kailas Kokare

Kailas Kokare

I grew up in a rural village in India and I am currently studying at Wartburg College in the United States. I have one brother and one sister. I come from a shepherd community and my parents are farmers. After my primary school, I studied and lived in a boarding school because there were no schools in my village. After my 10th grade I was selected to attend United World College of Adriatic, Italy (UWC). I am currently studying Philosophy, International Relations, and Peace and Justice Studies. I am also Resident Assistant (RA) and involved in multiple student organizations. I am a member of Wartburg Cross Country and Track & Field Team. I like to write poems, travel, enjoy local foods, watch movies, and run. One of the most important experience that had impacted on my life is spending 2 years at UWC Adriatic, Italy. I am interested in world politics, peace & justice, conflict resolution, and intercultural/ interfaith dialogue. The UWC experience changed my view to look at the world. I became very positive and a supporter of the diversity that our world has to offer. Most importantly, I learnt that despite the globalization and rise of radical extremism the world community can live together peacefully by creating environment that teaches to respect diversity and human dignity. As a future career, I want to work with United Nations on conflict resolution.

Katie Hutchens

Katie Hutchens

I grew up along the shores of the Puget Sound in Seattle, Washington. My parents and grandparents provided an active environment for my two brothers, sister, and myself, with frequent outdoor adventures. Despite these special experiences in the Pacific Northwest, I was always intrigued by other countries and cultures, and could not wait to get my first passport. This prompted me to attend St. Edward’s University, in Austin, Texas, graduating with a B.A. in International Studies, and included a year-long exchange in Canada. As a young adult, I had the opportunity to live in Abu Dhabi for four years, arriving just before the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and leaving after start of the war in Iraq. The political events of that time reignited my interest in Conflict Resolution, and International/Intercultural Communications. I’ve lived and worked in the U.K. for the past nine years, and plan to graduate with a M.A. in Communication and Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University in December 2016. I am especially grateful for time spent with the peace practitioners and former combatants in Northern Ireland, as part of Gonzaga’s Peacebuilding through Dialogue study abroad program. It’s my hope that the MIIS SPP will augment my understanding of how peace is sought, brokered, maintained, and how reconciliation and forgiveness fit into the equation.

Kim Lensen

Kim Lensen

I grew up in the Netherlands, and finished high school at the UWC in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Attending a UWC is the best thing that happened to me yet, as it opened up a completely new world for me. It gave me the opportunity to experience the beauty of this diverse world. I learned to appreciate and love this diverse world. I changed in ways I never imagined were possible, and it allowed me to be fully prepared for studying international relations and political science in the US. This gave me the skills to combine loving diversity with truly understanding the sociopolitical aspects of the world we all live in. This has made me enthusiastic to learn more, and it drives me on a daily basis. I love to travel, read, cook, and am always up for an adventure; I love my family and friends, and I hope to share this love for the world with others. Lastly, some clichés I truly believe in: do onto others as you would have them do onto you, one must never go a day without laughing, and be the change you wish to see in this world.

Kwabena Sarfo Panin

Kwabena Sarfo-Panin

My name is Kwabena Sarfo-Panin, with the letter “e” in the first name being a silent one. Or you could just call me Kobi. I was born in Botswana, lived in Swaziland, come from Ghana but currently based in the U.S. I just recently graduated as a Religion major from Earlham College, and I’m intensely curious about how religion can function in the Global South to spur economic development and promote the public good. My baccalaureate and commencement services showed me that there is a beauty and energy when people unite around an organizing principle: in this case, the celebration of students, in others, religious issues for example. Thus, I am interested in thinking more concretely about the role activism plays and could play in the fight to achieve social justice in certain communities. I hope the SPP program provides clarity as to the shape of my future academic trajectory. Currently, I am thinking about a Masters program in either Religion or Development Studies, or better yet, a program that allows me to combine key elements from both! Additionally, I hope SPP can illustrate the professional networks available to people interested in working in the Development industry. Outside of academia, I love playing soccer and reading

Luigi Mendez

Luigi Mendez

I am a first year Ph.D. student in Political Science at UNC, Chapel Hill. I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, a city that has deeply influenced me both personally and academically. Growing up in Caracas introduced me to political and social dilemmas that have remained with me ever since—social polarization, staggering levels of violence, and volatile economic conditions. This, in part, inspired me to study political science, and to become interested in topics such as democratization and authoritarianism, populism, and criminal violence. When I was 17, I moved to Pune, India, to study at the Mahindra UWC, where I lived and learned with a uniquely diverse group of students. After UWC, I studied at Colorado College (CC), which provided several exciting opportunities to explore my academic interests. At CC, I participated in faculty-student research on city sustainability; studied for a semester abroad at SOAS, University of London; travelled to rural Costa Rica to explore the socioeconomic and environmental effects of globalization; and even participated in a theater workshop on “the Art of Insurgency” in Serbia. To the SPP, I bring a perspective grounded in democracy, multiculturalism, development, and environmentalism, and many stories to share with my peers about my life, research, and interests.

Duong Tran

Duong Tran

I go by Sunny and I am a native of Hatinh, Vietnam. When I was in grade 11, I was lucky to receive full scholarship to attend Pearson College UWC. During the time there, I had a life changing experience to live and work with dynamic young people from around the world. After graduating from UWC, I took a gap year travelling and working with NGOs such as Mercy Relief (Singapore), Human Development Foundation Mercy Center (Thailand), and SOS Children Villages (Vietnam). Most recently, I spent winter break volunteering at Living Positive Mlolongo- a non-profit organization in Mlolongo, Kenya. With previous experience about international healthcare and education projects, I hope to share my skills with other participants. Besides, I am currently double majoring in Business Administration & Management, and Studio Art at Skidmore College. Caring about education, gender equality, and humanity, I have been an active member of Women In Business club. Besides, I enjoy creating different kinds of art form such as painting, drawing, print making, and photography.