Center for Conflict Studies Knowledge as Action, Action as Change

2014 Peacebuilder Fellow Profiles


Allison Collender
Peacebuilder Fellow to West Bank (and Israel)

I am a first year masters student in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University.  I am from Alexandria, Virginia, located 20 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. Growing up in D.C. allowed me to become involved with politics from an early age, and taught me how to be an activist fighting f or positive change around the globe. In May 2013, I graduated from Christopher Newport University (CNU) with a degree in Sociology with a concentration in Anthropology. During my time at CNU I was able to get involved in archaeological digs at a Civil War fort in Alexandria, Virginia, and in Belize on ancient Mayan ruins.

In March 2012, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Israel and Palestine to gain a first-hand look at the conflict. We met with people from all sides of the conflict – from Israeli settlers to representatives from the Palestinian Liberation Organization. When we returned from our trip, we spent weeks preparing for, and engaging in debates. We had to research our party’s viewpoints and try to come to a peace agreement, which was both incredibly difficult and exciting. After the class ended, I went from wanting to become an archaeologist to wanting a career that would allow me to work in areas of conflict, specifically in the Middle East.

I heard about the Peacebuilder’s Fellowship through a professor from CNU, and I immediately became excited about the idea of going to any of the four countries, especially the West Bank. I am beyond excited to go back to the land that changed my life, and to have the opportunity to immerse myself in the Palestinian culture


Janine Joyce
Peacebuilder Fellow to Burma (Myanmar)

I am a doctoral candidate at the National Center of Peace and Conflict Studies, Aotearoa New Zealand. My thesis topic is on whether there was such a phenomena as spiritual brother-sisterhood and if so, whether such spirituality could be practical. I have gathered narratives from Sahaj Marg Raja yoga meditation practitioners (forty different countries and cultures represented) and indigenous Maori people from Aotearoa New Zealand. Participants were able to define this relational and transcendent phenomena. They shared the natural and practical ways that such an embodied spirituality manifested in community relationships, protocols and conflict resolution.

I was born on the West Coast of the South island of Aotearoa New Zealand and spent most of my childhood in small rural communities. All of my earliest memories involve being outside in nature, playing with my brother and sister. My heart loves the wide open spaces of the water and skies that this island, Te wai pounamu (South island) is cradled between.

I am motivated to become a Center for Conflict Studies Peacebuilder Fellow because I have the capacity to act as storyteller; listening and sharing that which others hold as precious. I think that it is as we understand each other that we become more motivated to create change and work for peace in our world. For me, peace is relational and it is as we communicate and share, that we begin to mobilize ourselves, to use our resources in service to the other.  Some may be moved by our stories to help redirect resources, some may pray and use their minds more peacefully in their own communities, perhaps others may use their talents to continue to design simple water harvesting units. I don't really know. But what I do know is that many human beings have a great heart and when we feel a need we can mobilize to find creative solutions.


Ainhoa Martinez
Peacebuilder Fellow to Mexico

At the age of 5, I participated in a UNICEF campaign on children's rights. It consisted of voting for our favorite right and I had no doubts on which one I would pick: right to equality and non discrimination. It is one of my favorite memories and it may illustrate my attitude towards life. Now, 19 years later, I entered Law School, been to China to study Human Rights Law, worked for Amnesty International and MANAB (an NGO in India) ... and most important of all, I have lived unique experiences and met good friends everywhere. I still have a long way to go in my career, but I could not have reached where I am at the age of 24 without the unconditional support of my beloved family and friends.

I am from the Basque Country, which is located in the north of Spain. This together with working for Amnesty International in this region has given me the opportunity to learn to work in team, plan awareness campaigns, gain good communication and organizational skills and make visible to the general public Human Rights violation cases.

Nowadays, water is almost a luxury and I would like to make my contribution to the world in this field because it should be a primary good of equal access. In fact, my hometown (Vitoria- Gasteiz) was awarded as the European Green Capital in 2012, so I am a proud and conscious citizen.

Making visible and giving voice to certain cases would contribute to my training and in the future I will be proud to develop my labor in the field of International Law and Human Rights, knowing that I have started my career with the Peacebuilders Fellowship.


Lukas Matzkows
Peacebuilder Fellow to West Bank (and Israel)

I am currently in the last term of my masters program in Peace and Conflict Studies. The program is a joint program by the University of Kent and the University of Marburg in Germany, where I live at the moment. Before that I finished my undergraduate degree in political science and economics. My research interests are broad, ranging from relative deprivation and greed theory to mediation in conflict. However, lately I focused on the connections between environment, resources and conflict. I am a born and raised Berliner, but my curiosity for new places and new cultures has led me to many different places in the world, for traveling or studying. Over the course of my studies I have lived in New Zealand, Latvia and England and I am now happy to have the opportunity to get to know the people and the culture of Palestine better.

All my stays abroad have been very important experiences for me, but the one that still stands out after almost ten years is my time in New Zealand. My host family was Maori and my host dad was the chief of the local tribe. It was my first contact with a completely new culture that taught me so much and influences me to this day.

The Israeli - Palestinian conflict has been at the center of my interest for many years now, both academically and personally. The conflict is one of the longest protracted conflicts, that shaped the whole region for more than half a century. Coming from a background and a family in which environmental issues always played a big role, the possibility of looking at water conflicts in particular is a great chance for me.

Phoenix McLaughlin

Peacebuilder Fellow to Ethiopia
I am currently a senior at Colorado College studying international political economy with minors in music and India studies. I grew up in Norway, Maine, a small town in the foothills of the White Mountains. Coming from a place where there were far more trees than people gave me an appreciation for the environment at a young age, I like to think. When I initially headed out for college I planned on being an environmental engineer, but before long I found myself more interested in the political and economic sides of things. I switched my major, but retained the environmental thread through my coursework and work experience.

That work experience has taken me to a number of places, from the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, D.C., to the International Water Resources Association in Montpellier, France, to my school’s own Sustainability Office. It was while working at the Environmental Law Institute that I was first exposed to the topic of conflict and the environment, and I found myself fascinated by the subject. Soon after interning there, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in the field.

The power of individual stories is something I look forward to exploring. The act of turning knowledge into action can be a difficult one, and the presence of a personal narrative can often make the difference. I hope that utilizing this outlook while in Ethiopia will help take my research beyond academic discovery and towards catalyzing storytelling. Traveling to Ethiopia to study water conflict will be my first true field work on the subject, and to say I am excited is an understatement; I’ve been hoping to find something like this for the past two years.


Katie Petit
Peacebuilder Fellow to Ethiopia

I grew up in the Texas Hill Country with my mom, my little brother, my grandparents and 7 acres. In college I discovered Peace Studies and began to involve myself in a variety of social issues, focusing on homeless rights and refugee resettlement.  My sophomore year I co-founded an annual community program called Food For Thought, hosting community meals with a usual attendance of over 200 people.  The goal of these events was to inspire interaction between all sectors of society (students, professors, homeless, low-income, city-council members, businessmen and women).

I studied a semester in Stellenbosch, South Africa, where I received a Certificate in Community Engagement for my practicum work in community development using participatory action research.  This complimented my Peace Studies major from Whitworth University, and grew my commitment to community based solutions and activism.

I currently study International Peace Studies at the UN mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. My studies at UPeace have focused on the importance of grassroots and local movements in solving conflicts and bringing about peace. I have focused on the need to listen to stakeholders in communities,  amplifying their voices and solutions in the conflicts they are involved in. My thesis work is about community based solutions to insurgencies and terrorist acts.

I am a firm believer in Center for Conflict Studies' mission of giving voice to the voiceless and see it as an essential part of our work in the peace field. I look forward to hearing the stories in Ethiopia surrounding water conflicts and learning from all the people I meet.

Jessica Sanchez
Peacebuilder Fellow to Mexico

I hail from Southern California, a first generation Mexican-American, born to immigrant parents from Jalisco, Mexico. I graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from U.C.L.A. in 2008, and received a J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2013. I am currently a Fulbright Grantee in Distrito Federal, Mexico, conducting research on the country’s 2011 constitutional reforms as they pertain to human rights. I am specifically focusing on the Mexican Supreme Court’s interpretation of these reforms in the case of Rosendo Radilla, an Inter-American Court judgement against Mexico for human rights violations.

Having crossed the U.S. - Mexico border countless times since I was a child, I call both countries home, as each instilled invaluable life lessons in me. As such, I grew up watchful of the disparities on both sides of the border. This led me to pursue a career in public interest law and human rights, with the goal of using my skills as tools for the improvement of civil society in both countries. As a Fulbright, I began my journey in fulfillment of this goal. Given the opportunity to direct a web-based human rights organization in D.F., I have been fortunate enough to work with human rights experts and attorneys in creating tools for Mexicans from all walks of life to learn about their human rights and the systems established to protect them.

My interest in becoming a Peacebuilder Fellow arose from wishing to expand my knowledge of human rights issues in Mexico. Having gained substantial experience in the legal and civil culture of Mexico’s capital, I very much look forward to delving into a specific topic and giving water rights stakeholders a voice.

Namsai Wongsaeree
Peacebuilder Fellow to Burma (Myanmar0
I am an international student from Thailand currently pursuing a masters’ candidate in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where I am concentrating on International Security and International Conflict Resolution and Negotiation.

Witnessing the international cooperation on a grand scale while contributing as a Tsunami rescue volunteer in 2004, and spending one year as an exchange student in the United States, I became interested in the international affairs. I majored my undergraduate study in Political Science and International at Thammasat University, Thailand. During my study, I volunteered at the Senior Center in Ohio and interned at the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Shanghai. After graduation, I worked as an English news reporter, an international school coordinator, a translator, and a language tutor.

I became interested in the Peacebuilders Fellowship because of its goal to “Give voice to the voiceless”, which I strongly agree with. I am a strong believer in the power of storytelling. I believe that everyone is entitled to the freedom of expression, the right to know the truths, and the right to share their versions of truths, which will, hopefully, contribute to further understanding and actions. I am very interested in working with local people in conflict zones to gather first-hand information and then to publish their stories. By learning more about conflicts and the people’s versions of conflicts, I hope to be able to empower the people while at the same time conduct comprehensive conflict analyses. Moreover, water conflict is a fundamental dispute in the world that deserves more attention and research.

Amy Clark
Peacebuilder Fellow to Mexico (Short-Term)

I am currently performing work as outreach coordinator for a human rights activist, author and filmmaker, in addition to independently working on infrastructure development opportunities and other problem solving linkages for a small village off of the Caribbean Coast of Colombia.

I was raised in a small community in Colorado, in an environment deeply influenced by world war and economic depression. My graduation from secondary, college and post-graduate schools, I attribute to the opportunities afforded to me by the tireless work of a family whose education was limited to that acquired in the School of Hard Knocks. Subsequent to receiving my Juris Doctorate, I practiced as a litigator with a medium sized law firm in Denver, Colorado, where I became a shareholder, director, and gender anomaly.

Following receipt of a Certificate of Conflict Resolution Studies from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in May of 2013, I traveled as a field team member to Colombia, conducting interviews, performing analyses, and assessing resource bases, in collaboration with a local NGO and community members to study environmental conflicts.

“Civilization has been a permanent dialogue between human beings and water.” This observation by Paolo Lugari, underscores my childhood, legal, academic, and recent Colombian experience. To witness and collect the myriad of perspectives on this singular, yet overarching, element of conflict, and to act as the conduit for those whose stories should be told, I saw as a propitious opportunity to use my advocacy skills on behalf of those who may not otherwise have a voice.