Charlotte Bellm interned at the Fund for Peace in Washington D.C., where she worked on their Nigeria Peacebuilding Map, the 2015 Fragile State Index and a Special Report on the increase of female suicide bombers used by Boko Haram. (Photos by Andrew Strack and Joaquin Sosa)

Center for Justice and Peacebuilding graduate students present spring semester 2016 practicum projects

Students in Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding‘s practice-oriented graduate program in conflict transformation culminate their coursework in one of three options. The organizational practicum requires a 2-4 month commitment. A second option is the research-based practicum, which results in production of an article, book, exhibit or other project. A third option allows full-time CJP students to write a thesis. Students must make a presentation to the CJP community about their project.

The following students received their master’s degree in conflict transformation on Sunday, April 1. Read more about CJP’s graduation ceremony here.

Charlotte Bellm (Cuxhaven, Germany) interned at the Fund for Peace in Washington D.C., where she worked on their Nigeria Peacebuilding Map, the 2015 Fragile State Index and a Special Report on the increase of female suicide bombers used by Boko Haram.

Jeff Combe (Salt Lake City, Utah) completed his practicum in Cape Town, South Africa, with Sonke Gender Justice, and the Children’s Rights and Positive Parenting (CRPP) Team.  The CRPP team has been implementing the MenCare campaign which engages men, women, and families through advocacy, media campaigns and workshops. While Jeff was originally hoping to help facilitate the workshops, his practicum was spent interviewing past participants of the program gathering stories of significant change. He also helped coordinate a campaign for a father running 1800km to raise awareness about engaged fatherhood.

Daniel Foxvog presents his practicum research.

Julio Reyes Flores (Callao, Lima, Peru; Catholic University, Peru) was a staff member of the Teen Center, a department of the Latin American Youth Center, an NGO in Washington D.C. Among other responsibilities, he developed curriculum and co-facilitated a conflict resolution program in a multicultural environment, with youth from Central America, Africa and the U.S.

Daniel Foxvog (Elkhart, Indiana; Goshen College) served with Virginia Mennonite Conference and a non-denominational congregation. He addressed questions such as: How can historic peace churches address divisions and destructive conflicts within their own communities? What challenges do peacebuilders face when working in conflict avoidant cultures? How can faith communities move toward reconciliation when they are struggling with the traumatic legacy of church divisions? Title: Unity in diversity: Navigating conflict and theological differences in congregations through dialogue and capacity building.

Jodie Geddes (Brooklyn, New York; Guilford College) worked with Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, led by Fania Davis, in California. RJOY works in Oakland schools and with the juvenile justice system. Jodie participated in several activities, including facilitating circle processes for youth and for re-entry men. She also represented the organization at local community governance meetings and was with Davis on a trip to Virginia to discuss RJOY’s participation in a national truth and reconciliation process.

Mikhala Lantz-Simmons (Kansas City, Missouri; McGill University) worked on the creation of a trauma-informed pilot program for the Summer Peacebuilding Institute to offer more focused resources for students experiencing trauma. She also worked with Professor Jayne Docherty to create “A Genealogy of Ideas,” a forthcoming series of multimedia e-journals, which highlight the intellectual forbearers that have influenced CJP and the broader field of justice and peacebuilding.

Bob May (Bergton, Va., Eastern Mennonite Seminary, M.Div. ‘15) studied refugee resettlement and integration in Harrisonburg. This work included (1) a summary of the core resettlement service work provided by Church World Service Refugee Resettlement Office, (2) research findings in sectors indicative of refugee integration, and (3) identification of opportunities to improve local refugee integration.

Jacques Mushagasha (Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo; Bukavu College of Education) introduced restorative justice concepts to the Congolese community of Harrisonburg through a workshop. He also wrote and published a booklet about RJ in French. Approximately 140 Congolese refugees live in Harrisonburg. His project was based on the theory of change that if community members discover another paradigm of justice that focuses on healing and the repair of broken relationships, they would be more likely to use the talking-piece and other concepts of restorative justice to resolve their conflicts.

Ahmed with Greg
Ahmed Tarik, of Iraq, speaks with fellow graduate student Gregory Winship after completing his practicum presentation.

Andrew Nussbaum (Harrisonburg, Va., XX) is site coordinator of after-school programs at Thomas Harrison Middle School in the Harrisonburg City Schools. Andrew explored the concept that after-school programs can more explicitly function as both positive education and sites of peacebuilding. Title: There IS no Peacebuilding HERE?!

Aaron Oda (Auburn, Indiana; Greenville College) explored how creative arts-based approaches to conflict can foster self-expression, healing and positive engagement between communities of diverse ethnic and religious identities while working with People in Need – an INGO based in Yangon, Myanmar. He investigated questions such as, “What are the opportunities and challenges when using arts-based approaches in Myanmar and in the peacebuilding field?” and “Can the arts serve as a nexus between the generate qualities of power and love?” He used the medium of documentary film, both as a tool of research, and as audio-visual praxis.

Yoonseo Park (Seoul, Korea; Hallym University) worked with the Korean Peacebuilding Institute and affiliated groups to develop a restorative justice-focused conflict transformation curriculum for local schools, deepened connections with international partners in China and Japan, and laid the foundation for use of this curriculum and connections in a North East Asia Youth Peace Camp, scheduled for fall 2016. Title: A New History for North East Asia through Youth Education (Restorative Justice and Historical Harms Curriculum Development and Implementation in South Korea and Northeast Asia)

Bex Simmerman (Hixson, Tennessee; Asbury University) explored interfaith dynamics in Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley, working in conjunction with EMU’s Center for Interfaith Engagement. Her research project began to understand the local origins of Islamophobia, but then the focus and needs shifted towards a general analysis of interfaith dynamics in Harrisonburg, including outlining the concerns and perspectives of different faith communities, initial identification of connectors and the strategic networks that work towards interfaith peace in Harrisonburg.

Ahmed Tarik (Baghdad, Iraq; Goucher College) was a research intern with Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division. This provided a “front seat” view of the most pressing issues involving abuse of the most fundamental human rights in the MENA region. about how peacebuilding theory, conflict resolution, and human rights can all intersect in mitigating conflict and transforming violent systems.

Elizabeth Valverde-Bartlett (Quito, Ecuador; University of Nebraska, Omaha) works at the Center for Mediation, Peace, and Resolution of Conflicts (CEMPROC) in Quito, Ecuador with children in a public school and with Colombian refugees through the Mennonite Central Committee.