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

2015 Summer Peacebuilding Program Participants

Abhinav Khanal

Abhinav Khanal

I am a freelance activist and entrepreneur from Kathmandu, Nepal. Having attended a United World College, I have had the opportunity to live and learn with dynamic young people from around the world, which has shaped my perspective on various issues. I am pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science as a Davis Scholar at Earlham College, where I also served as the Co-President of the Student Government. Leadership is a defining factor of my personality, which has assisted me to work on development and leadership initiatives around the world. Most recently, I helped establish a self-sustaining fish farm in rural Nepal to generate employment for local families. I have also conducted leadership training for youth in Costa Rica, Canada and Nepal. For this work as an entrepreneur and socially responsible leader, I was awarded the Resolution Fellowship at the Clinton Global Initiative University Conference. I have worked as a Dayitwa Fellow under the mentorship of Nepali Parliamentarian, Honorable Gagan Thapa, conducting research and organizing dialogues on the sustainable development of Kathmandu city. I am also the coordinator for a blog called Bhumigat, where I write regularly on socio-economic and political situation of Nepal.

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Alex Brandes

Alex Brandes

I grew up in a small town in Nebraska with two older sisters. Traveling and learning languages are life-long interests of mine. I attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where I earned a BA in French and a Master of Community & Regional Planning. I am currently studying public administration at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. Prior to arriving at MIIS in January 2015, I served two years in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic as a health extension volunteer. Working in my Dominican community on human rights promotion was an impactful experience. I lived on the Dominican/Haitian border which is at the forefront of tensions between the two countries. Training a group of community leaders to be human rights promoters and learning the stories of families without any documentation pushed me to pursue a career in human rights and social justice.

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Ana Leticia

Ana Leticia De León

I grew up in Veracruz, Mexico and I currently live and study in the United States. I am an avid writer and a serious coffee fanatic. What do I write about? Many things, but my interests fall heavily in thinking about borders, gender, economic and political refugees, digestion and Hip-Hop. While a student at Earlham my work concentrated on prisoners, hunger strikes, body politics and transnational women of color solidarity. On a level of praxis, I have worked with a reconciliation center, immigrant rights organizations and with a refugee resettlement agency in Indianapolis. A recent meaningful experience I had was to be invited to speak at an interfaith Meeting for Worship where I got the opportunity to reflect on the legacy of the women of my family. I spoke about them as important role models and the way in which their politics influence my work and future aspirations. To me, it was the perfect way to close my undergrad education at Earlham College, to have a chance to bow in gratitude to the women that built the path I walk today.

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Danny Pavitt

Danny Pavitt

I was born in Southern California and my family immediately moved to England, where we owned and operated The Labouring Man, a small pub in a rural village. After 12 years of hard work, my family decided to return to the States and I completed high school in Temecula, California, and then attended UC San Diego for my undergraduate degree in communication. Immediately after, I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer on the small island of BoaVista in Cape Verde as a 7th grade English teacher. This experience, as it is for many, was the most formative time in my life as it opened my eyes to the possibilities this world has to offer, and sparked an interest in the international sphere that I previously didn’t possess. I was lucky enough to travel through 15 different African countries directly after my service, and upon my return to San Diego, I worked at a restaurant and managed to spend a large part of a year in Argentina, Colombia, and Ecuador before I started the spring semester at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

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Emebet Tessema

Emebet Tessema

I was born and raised in the small city of Harar in Ethiopia. When I was twelve, I competed for a scholarship to attend Waterford Kamhlaba UWCSA, in Swaziland. When I first arrived at Waterford I was in the same class as a refugee student from Burundi, and a student from an underprivileged area in Zimbabwe. Our cultural exchange helped me gain a greater understanding of the value of diversity. After succeeding in my seven-year stay in Swaziland, I was able to get a scholarship to continue my studies in the United States. I am now an economics major with a great interest in economic development in Africa. I am passionate about socioeconomic topics such as economic development, gender equality, and globalization. In the fall of 2014, I wrote an empirical paper about how empowering women would promote economic growth, and gradually lead to sustainable development. In the fall of 2015, I am studying abroad at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, to gain greater understating about African development. Having lived in Ethiopia, South Africa, Swaziland, France, and currently in the United States, I have had the privilege of gaining an international education.

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Hashem Amireh

Hashem Amireh

I am a third year international undergraduate student at the University of Florida and I come from Jordan. I am majoring in Economics and International Studies with a Middle East concentration. I grew up in Jordan and started studying in New Mexico at the age of 16 at UWC-USA, an international school founded to promote global peace and a sustainable future. At my university, I work as a Resident Assistant and am an active member of several student organizations including UF Model United Nations, Pride Student Union and Amnesty International. In addition, I am an aviation enthusiast and a self-proclaimed computer geek. During my two years at UWC, I saw how students’ prejudices faded over time and became increasingly interested in how prejudices are formed and the role they play in war and conflict. At SPP, I hope to learn more about how prejudice plays a role in the bigger picture of different types of conflict and how to deal with prejudice at a grassroots level but also how policy makers and international organizations can deal with it.

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Jana Foxe

Jana Foxe

I am a rising senior attending Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island. I was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland before moving to Norway to attend UWC Red Cross Nordic to study the IB Diploma. A Davis Scholar, I am a candidate for an A.B. (Hons) degree in International and Comparative Politics. My primary academic interests include the impacts of social crises on the political makeup of states, post-conflict reconciliation and transitional justice in post-conflict regimes and new democracies. I intend to write my senior thesis on the effects of austerity policies on party stability in Ireland, Greece and Portugal. For the past two years, I have worked in Brown's Swearer Center for Public Service as a coordinator for Housing Opportunities for People Everywhere (HOPE), an organization that empowers students to work to end homelessness in Rhode Island, which has been an extremely eye-opening and impactful experience. From this, I have forged meaningful relationships with some of the most vulnerable members of our community, and have learned a great deal about the stark economic inequalities in American society, which has changed my perspectives in a number of ways. My interests include cooking, running, cycling and reading. I also enjoy spending time backpacking.

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Julmar Carcedo

Julmar Carcedo

I am from Davao, Philippines. Growing up in Mindanao, I never got a chance to see what is beyond my island, so I relished postcards my uncle sent from abroad, watched foreign movies, and read plenty of used books. I study International Relations at Brown University and am involved in a variety of organizations. At a young age, I learned to value peace and economic development. Unlike Rhode Island, Mindanao is filled with conflict between Christians and Muslims and poverty is everywhere. I can still remember when my mother and I went to take out a loan and rebels fired their guns into the bank to kill a woman. Because our region was extremely undeveloped and lacked opportunities, people became utterly desperate that they could be paid to kill someone. I was three but I can still hear the gunshots in my sleep. When my mom and I were in the safe room, I knew I had to do something. The sound of the gunshots, ironically, became a blessing in disguise. It became a gentle reminder of my heartfelt commitment to serve others – to ensure that no harmful incidents will happen to my mom, to all moms, and to people surrounded by conflict so that no more happy days will be ruined.

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Katrina Lewis

Katrina Lewis

I received my Bachelor of Interior Architecture in 1998 and Master of Regional and Community Planning in 2001 from Kansas State University. I have taught design studios at the college level since 1998: at Kansas State University in the Department of Interior Architecture and Product Design, at Chongqing Jinazhu University in the People’s Republic of China for one year, in Afghanistan at Kabul University for two summers, and in Bangladesh at the Asian University for Women for one year. My scholarly interests include: teaching methodology, especially in the beginning design student; international educational experiences, cultural exchanges, and study abroad; and the intersection between design and social justice. My creative outlets include travel, reading, and photography.

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Maja Torlo

Maja Torlo

I am a child of the post-Yugoslavian era of the Balkans. At the age of three, my parents divorced and I was raised by a single mother. However, I never suffered from it. She gave me a childhood full of warmth, happiness and kindness. My mother’s commitment to my sisters and me had awoken a desire to follow in her footsteps towards higher education. Hence, I enrolled in a ‘preparatory’ school for students that wanted to pursue a university degree. After two years, I became enchanted with the mission of the United World College in Mostar, which I attended until my graduation. Afterwards, I was able to enroll into Lake Forest College with a full scholarship. I realized I wished to attend a study abroad program in the Middle East because I wanted the opportunity to experience the occurrences of the area as they unfolded. As soon as I met my politics professor, Dr. Omar Rafai, I became enchanted with his class, the material we were learning and his brilliance in transferring that knowledge. Moreover, as a Palestinian-Jordanian, his ability to remain just and composed, despite everything that had happened to his country, simply fascinated and inspired me. His close mentorship and support allowed me to contain my emotions better and become a more composed critical thinker, as my ideas of justice sometimes made me too committed to supporting my own case without regarding why others have placed themselves in opposition of that view.

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Miranda Salinas

Miranda Salinas

I just completed my first year of grad school at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. I am pursuing my masters in International Policy focusing on human security while also pursuing a conflict resolution certificate. I decided to return to school after working some years for a nonprofit that serves mentally ill homeless adults. I recently visited the island of Mindanao in the Philippines for a course through the Center for Conflict Studies, researching the challenges to peacebuilding in this region. This amazing experience further increased my interest in the field of conflict resolution and peace studies. I decided to attend the Summer Peacebuilding Program to supplement my knowledge of the discipline and acquire hands-on experience with conflict assessment and transformation.

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Paolina Siquera-Koo

Paolina Siquera-Koo

I am a second-year student at Scripps College and an alumna of Li Po Chun UWC. I consider Hong Kong to be my hometown, and my family heritage is Chinese, American, and Brazilian. Academically, I have always been drawn to the study of history, psychology, and religious studies. These are the three main approaches to learning from which I am enthusiastic about studying humanity, ranging from the individual to the cumulative, societal level. Because of my scholastic pursuits in the field of Humanities, and my identity as a global citizen, I am keenly interested in the politics and groundwork of peacekeeping. My approach to peacebuilding begins with the individual, and glides downstream into the ocean of Community. I am very inspired by the Buddhist saying, "To bring peace to the earth, strive to make your own life peaceful." It is with this wisdom in Mind and Spirit that I engage passionately in the study of alternative and esoteric healthcare theories and practices during my free time. I believe that when Health and vitality flow through the Spirit to the Body, the simple Wholeness of wellbeing Peace results.

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Rida Abu Rass

Rida Abu Rass

My family is originally from Tayibe, a Palestinian town in Israel. Seeking better career and educational opportunities, my family took the unconventional step of moving to Tel Aviv, where I grew up. One specific experience that had a tremendous impact on me is Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995 during a pro-peace rally that I attended with my father. After the assassination, I became increasingly interested in Israeli-Palestinian affairs. I spent the last two years of high school in Norway, as a part of the United World Colleges program, and I proceeded to do my BA at Brandeis University with majors in Philosophy and International & Global Studies. I am now doing my MA at Brandeis as well, in Global Studies. I am primarily interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, religious history, and political Islam, and I am currently writing my thesis on linking secularization theory with postmodernity.

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Rima Nathan

Rima Nathan

I am from Daytona Beach, Florida and was raised by a musician and a meteorologist. I enjoy staying active through running, rock climbing, and participating in my collegiate circus. I am currently an undergraduate at the Florida State University majoring in international affairs and political science with a minor in French. My research has focused on variations in sexual violence within different civil conflicts around the world. Other involvements during my college career include teaching an undergraduate research colloquium for incoming students, pursuing a directed individual study on feminist movements in the Balkan region, doing internship work coding data for National Human Rights Institutions, volunteering for Amnesty International through their Citizen-Media Evidence Partnership doing video verification on human rights abuses, and coordinating the human trafficking awareness initiatives on campus through student organizations. My most life-changing experience was studying abroad in Croatia and Bosnia this past summer.  As my first international experience, I gained an interest in different cultures around the world and what makes each of them unique. Through pursuing study in conflict analysis I hope to understand how identities in institutional systems in different cultures can increase or decrease chances of conflict.

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Sri Saahitya Uppalapati

Sri Saahitya Uppalapati

I am from Hyderabad, India and I go Whitman College in Washington. I am planning to major in Environmental Studies and Biology and minor in Politics. I completed my high school education from United World College Mahindra College India and my time at UWCMC taught me the value of diversity, peace and togetherness . One of the most significant experiences of my life was my internship last summer. I worked with a United Nations-funded project that aimed to alleviate poverty in the hill districts of Uttarakhand, India. It taught me a whole lot about power, privilege and unequal participation in policy making. Moreover, coming from a state that has witnessed a whole lot of violence over the last couple of decades, I had to know and understand peace and conflict resolutions better.

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Sofie Pedersen

Sofie Pedersen

I am currently an international student at Macalester College in Minnesota, where I am double majoring in Political Science and International Studies with a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. I spent most of my time growing up in Stockholm, Sweden, but having a Danish mother and a Finish father means that me and my two younger sibling have and still do spend a lot of time in Denmark and Finland. I consequently, especially after spending two years at Red Cross Nordic United World College in Norway, define myself more like a Nordic-hybrid than anything else. Most of my interests are related to the outdoors and I am always down for a climb in the mountains or a skiing trip through a frosty landscape. Most of my professional experience has been through internships in the humanitarian sector, such as through the Swedish Red Cross and other NGOs working with refugees and immigration in Minnesota. These commitments recently turned into a deep interest in peace and conflict studies and transitional justice. This gave me the opportunity to work with the Coalition for the International Criminal Court in The Hague last fall which has had a lasting impact on me.

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Srabasti Sarker

Srabasti Sarker

I have spent my childhood in Bangladesh. My family consists of my parents and a younger brother. I have specialized in songs written by Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore – a Bengali poet and love singing. In addition to singing, my interests include reading novels, watching movies/documentaries, campaigning, getting actively involved in campus organizations, etc. I have completed my primary and middle school education in Bangladesh. I have completed my secondary education in United World College of the Atlantic in Wales, United Kingdom where I earned my International Baccalaureate Diploma. Currently, I am pursuing my Bachelors in Government (Political Science) and Economics in Smith College, Massachusetts. Besides that, I am currently working as a House Community Advisor – liaison between the student body and the Residence Life staff - at Smith College. Moreover, I will be serving as the president of EKTA – the South Asian Association of Smith College - for the academic year 2015-2016. If I were to talk about a specific past experience that had an impact on me, I would talk about the fundraiser that we – the members of EKTA – organized to raise funds for the construction 141 schools in Pakistan in collaboration with the 141 Schools organization in Pakistan.

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