Expanded online degree programs attract largest class in the history of EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding

Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding welcomed thirty graduate students from around the United States and across the world to their first full semester in master’s degree or graduate certificate programs.

After making our courses available online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, CJP experienced a surge of applicants and opted to leave the application process open until August 10. The result is one of the largest and most diverse groups of new students in the history of the program, according to CJP’s executive director Jayne Docherty.

“These students have chosen to embrace all of the challenges of the moment: the overturning of traditional educational systems, the movement for racial and social justice unleashed by repeated acts of violence and harassment against our Black and Brown neighbors, and the ravages of unsustainable inequality,” Docherty said. “These opportunities, inspiring to some and unsettling to others, require leaders who can center justice, peace, and trauma-informed responses to unfolding events. We are galvanized by what our new students have already done and grateful they have joined us for shared learning.”   

CJP offers graduate degrees in conflict transformation, restorative justice and transformational leadership, as well as several graduate certificates. Learn more. 

Meet CJP’s new graduate students

Listing in this article is voluntary; the list does not include all first-year students.

Drick Boyd is professor emeritus in urban and interdisciplinary studies of Eastern University, from which he retired in September 2019. He has been a lifelong social justice activist, currently with the Faith-in Action Philadelphia affiliate (POWER) working on educational justice issues. He is a member of Let’s Circle Up, a restorative justice program in SCI Phoenix, a maximum-security prison in Pennsylvania, and The Restorative City program of the Metropolitan Christian Council of Philadelphia. The burning question he brings to his studies is: “How can restorative justice principles and methods be used effectively in under-resourced urban communities dealing with structural racism, economic insecurity, and domestic/community violence which cause ongoing and collective trauma?” Graduate Certificate in Restorative Justice

Gabby Bradshaw is a graduate of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where she found a passion for understanding diverse cultures and empowering marginalized populations while studying English and pre-law. Upon graduation, Gabby served as a graduation coach for the School District of Palm Beach County with AmeriCorps State & National. Gabby’s work aiding at-risk junior and senior high school students inspired a second year of national service with Lake Effect Leaders AmeriCorps VISTA Project in Meadville, Pennsylvania. She has since taken roles as coordinator and project director. Throughout these grassroots and service-oriented experiences, she became passionate about understanding the intersection of poverty, trauma, and the U.S. criminal justice system. Gabby hopes to work towards creating a system that values rehabilitation and restoration instead of punitive measures. MA in Restorative Justice

Corey Chandler, a Shenandoah Valley native, earned an undergraduate degree in sociology with a political science minor over 13 years of school, work and real-world life experiences. Locally, he works with the Institute of Reform and Solutions for criminal justice reform, which most recently partnered with the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding to host a Community Criminal Justice Days to inform the community about justice disparities and issues. He is particularly interested in LGBTQ+ social justice issues, criminal justice reform and capitalism-democracy socio-political and economic hegemony.  MA in Restorative Justice

Hyojin Chang was born and raised in Daegu, South Korea. She was a middle and high school English teacher, finding great joy in teaching and growing. During that time, she met restorative justice and practices through a teacher’s workshop. Later she joined an RJ organization and is now working as a restorative justice practitioner and researcher. MA in Conflict Transformation

Simelwe Dlova, of the Eastern Cape in South Africa, has been working in network operations in Goshen, Indiana. She graduated from Goshen College in 2017 with a BA in Informatics with Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies. Her interest in conflict transformation comes from growing up as a young girl and becoming a woman in the culture and society that has historically swept trauma experienced by girls and women under the rug with no tools put in place to process that. MA in Conflict Transformation

Jackie Durant directs a non-profit organization that implements restorative justice programs in schools, probation and higher education in California. She sees inner healing for all stakeholders of injustice as part of the offering of implementing true justice and views the need for healing childhood trauma as the primary vehicle for reducing recidivism. Jackie has a passion for society to see the incarcerated population through a restorative lens, as she believes all humans should be treated with dignity. MA in Restorative Justice

Yolanda Emedi is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo currently residing in South Africa. She holds a Bachelor of Theology degree from the Evangelical Seminary of Southern Africa and a Law degree from the University of Kwazulu-Natal South Africa. Yolanda was raised in a cross-cultural environment. She travelled to and lived in different parts of the African continent, as her parents served as missionaries in Central, East, and West Africa. Yolanda is passionate about social justice and it is her desire to see it implemented in small communities, societies, countries and the world at large. MA in Restorative Justice

Fabiana Espinal is a native of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and a 2018 graduate of EMU with a liberal arts degree with a minor in psychology. During her senior year internship, Fabiana worked on finding ways to reform university policies regarding the Title IX process. She compiled research on the possible ways harassment, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct on campus could be addressed with a restorative justice approach to meet the needs of survivors and minimize harm. Fabiana used restorative practices to engage in conversations with different members of the student body about the need to incorporate comprehensive sexual education into the college-learning environment. In the fall of 2018, Fabiana helped to coordinate a training for students, faculty, and staff, to help increase knowledge on restorative practices.She is also enrolled in the MA in Counseling program at EMU and is an intern at the Harrisonburg Free Clinic, where she provides counseling in Spanish and English.  Graduate Certificate in Restorative Justice

Christine Evans has worked for over 15 years as a public interest attorney, with a focus on gender rights and child protection, both in the United States and internationally. In addition to direct legal services and policy work, she also teaches as an adjunct professor at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. From 2014-19, Christine worked with Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, most recently as the senior director of programs, providing strategic oversight of their legal, policy, prevention, and communications departments and spearheading the organization’s victims’ rights advocacy work. Due to this work, she now seeks to be part of the movement to create alternatives to the criminal justice system, focused on the healing of survivors of interpersonal harm and their communities. Before joining CAASE in 2014, Christine worked as a visiting assistant clinical professor at Northwestern law school; legal counsel for human rights organization International Justice Mission in Chennai, India, and Lusaka, Zambia; child’s attorney with the Cook County Office of the Public Guardian; and youth protection supervisor for Rotary International. Christine holds a JD and LLM-International Human Rights from Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and a BS in journalism from Boston University. Graduate Certificate in Restorative Justice

Kaelan Gilman resides in the traditional homeland of the Coast Salish people, otherwise known as western Washington state. She has volunteered as a peacekeeper for civil disobedience actions in her community, and at non-violent communication workshops in Washington state prisons. She designed her own interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree on critical discourse and civic engagement, encompassing studies in sociology, political science, communication, and critical pedagogy. She was fortunate enough to have been exposed to the activist and theorist Grace Lee Boggs in her formative years, and as a result, is passionate about creating community-powered alternatives to existing social structures and institutions. MA in Conflict Transformation  

Crisol González García is a mediator and circle practitioner in a community school. She lives with her husband, Gerardo Reimer, in Cuauhtémoc city, state of Chihuahua, Mexico. The valley is a community where Tarahumara, Mestizo and Russian Mennonite cultures live together. After graduating with a law degree from Autonomous Chihuahua University in 2011, she looked for new approaches to conflict where she could see reconciliation and peacebuilding results outside the courthouse. She wants to learn how culture and language define the way we deal with conflict, to understand how peace and justice can be built and address conflict in an intercultural community, and to build peace in the violent context of Mexico. She is interested in the wisdom and power kids have to generate change and in learning how to share creatively with them about peace and conflict transformation.  MA in Transformational Leadership

Yassmine Hawchar is a Fulbright Scholar from Lebanon. She has been living in Florida. She has volunteered in an NGO in Lebanon that works on empowering youth. Her professional and personal life experiences have contributed meaningfully to the field that she is passionate about the most: social justice and human rights. MA in Restorative Justice 


Ilinisa Hendrickson lives in Berkeley, California, where she is a parent to three as well as a long-term, dedicated refugee foster parent to many, in a community of activist parents. Trained in public health research, Ilinisa has moved to focus her work on participatory action research and participatory evaluation at the intersection of public health and social services. She strongly believes in working to heal harm through connection and transformative justice. She is currently working to expand alternatives to the criminal injustice system for persons involved in domestic violence and human trafficking in the San Francisco Bay Area. Graduate Certificate in Restorative Justice 

Jessica James is passionate about disability justice and learning new ways to transform sexual violence, heal generational and religious trauma, and divest from carceral feminism. Her previous justice work included AmeriCorps, victim advocacy, prevention education, fair trade women’s cooperatives, democratic schools and cooperative education, trafficking prevention, homebirth midwifery, food deserts and local agricultural systems. Inevitably, violence against women and children was present in each context. Jessica currently serves as night and weekend chaplain for Ohio’s Hospice of Dayton, as well as assistant minister to Circles of Spirit—a new start-up Unitarian Universalist re-entry ministry tending to spiritual and relational well-being of women returning to society after incarceration. She earned her M.Div. from Andover Newton Theological School. Jessica has also been a military spouse for 20 years. She lives in Dayton, Ohio, with her husband and their four children. MA in Restorative Justice

Sam Larson has spent the majority of his career advocating for and empowering young adults, and is making a transition from church ministry into social work. He is currently is spearheading a project with the local community service board to create a program that will assist young adults in Northwestern Virginia who are aging out of children’s services (foster care, alternative education programs, children’s psychiatry, reentry programs) and help them transition to independent living or continued adult services. He received his BA in theology from Moody Bible Institute in 2013 and spent the next several years serving the West Michigan community as a youth pastor. MA in Conflict Transformation

Alicia Maldonado-Zahra is a restorative justice practitioner at the Center for Community Justice in Elkhart, Indiana. She is a native of Florida and a graduate of EMU. Her dream is to own a non-profit organization consisting of a garden, food truck, and community center. MA in Transformational Leadership

Lucie Martinot-Lagarde, a native of France, has been challenged by this question since her early teens: “How can people live together again after a conflict?” This has been the main driver for her studies in history and humanities, politics and theology, and for her career at the French National Ombudsman Office. Since 2011, she is a committed member of the Chemin Neuf Community, an international Roman Catholic community with an ecumenical vocation and a focus on reconciliation and unity. She has been ministering to young people as a spiritual companion. Life in community, always in cross-cultural contexts, has given her a sense of team-spirit, adaptability and humor. MA in Conflict Transformation  

Katie Mulembe works with Catholic Volunteer Network (CVN), a national association of faith-based volunteer programs, in Washington DC. A Cleveland native, she earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies with a focus on human rights and international development from the University of Dayton. After graduation, Katie volunteered for three years with the Franciscan Mission Service in Zambia, Africa, working in a variety of ministries supporting communities impacted by HIV/AIDS. While spending more than a decade with CVN, she has taken on many different responsibilities but the work that brought her the most fulfillment has been racial justice and diversity efforts to address issues of privilege and power that arise in full-time volunteer and mission programs. MA in Transformational Leadership

Luke Mullet earned a degree in mathematics at EMU and now works as an admissions counselor at EMU. As a cisgender heterosexual white male, Luke feels an imperative to learn, process, and change behavior in how he supports harmful systems and harms other living beings. He hopes to use the tools he learns at CJP to make EMU a more inclusive and equitable space. Luke also has two other identities: composer and storyteller. Luke has written music for many multi-media projects including several documentaries about MJ Sharp ‘05, murdered while working for the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2017, and for the Peacebuilder podcast series. MA in Transformational Leadership 

Acher Niyonizigiye, of Burundi, is a professor and pastor. He holds degrees in linguistics and literature, theology and leadership, and a master’s degree in Biblical studies The history of his country is heavy with mass gross crimes, and the trauma that came out of that tragic history has been leading to repeated explosions of violence. Political mechanisms put in place to restore unity have failed to mend the nation. Political hostility and violence still prevail. Acher hopes to learn more about how concepts of justice and peacebuilding can help to end to the cycle of political violence and help the country embark on a better trajectory. MA in Transformational Leadership

Amber Oda grew up in rural Indiana and graduated from college in California. Amber began volunteering at Jubilee Partners, a Christian intentional community in rural Georgia dedicated to welcoming refugees. After several years working alongside refugee communities and survivors of domestic violence, Amber moved to Uganda where she has spent the last six years working with refugees and survivors of human trafficking. MA in Conflict Transformation 

Sam Pearl is an advisor to first-generation college students through an education nonprofit located in Boston, Massachusetts. Originally from Chicago, Sam graduated from Middlebury College in February 2019 with a bachelor’s in psychology and education. While in college, Sam studied education and social change in Chile and found a passion for restorative justice, which led her to intern, volunteer, and eventually serve on the board of directors at a local court diversion program. After graduating, she worked as a bike mechanic and then led a cross-country cycling trip before moving to Boston. Graduate Certificate in Restorative Justice

Jessica Pope works for the National Park Service at Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa. While working at her prior duty-station, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, she participated in a Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience training, which brought her to further studies at EMU. Her focus and interest in peace and justice is exploring how national parks can become places where people can engage in dialogues about our difficult history as a nation and begin the process of reflecting and healing. Prior to beginning this work in 2010, she worked in various capacities in public health, first as a lobbyist and advocate for the American Heart Association and then later managing direct care programs in HIV/AIDS and sexual assault response (victim services and medical forensic examinations). MA in Transformational Leadership

Iman Shabazz is “before anything else, is a Sun, Elder Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Baba to many Watoto of the Family and Communities to which he belongs.” He is the founder and CEO of Maximum Impact, LLC, through which he seeks to transform the criminal justice process towards community-centered methods of resolving conflict and reducing harm. Iman has been a community activist and organizer in Richmond, Virginia, since his early high school years. He has served various community-based organizations working to alleviate the suffering of oppressed persons globally. Whether he is seen as a Pan African thought leader, restorative justice practitioner, activist, actor, emcee, dancer or poet, he seeks to use his talent and experience as a tool for liberation and healing. It is Iman’s desire to build a free and just world for all humanity. MA in Transformational Leadership

Conner Suddick is a restorative justice practitioner, researcher in training, and a student of transformative justice and prison abolition. He is passionate about not only dismantling our punitive and carceral systems, but being in community with people to build new ways of being rooted in healing, accountability, transformation, and collective liberation. This past year, Conner served as a Promise Fellow in Minnesota facilitating community peacebuilding circles with middle schoolers and the Lead Research Fellow and youth justice circle facilitator for the Envisioning Queer Justice Collaborative. He has also served as a Social Justice Teaching Apprentice, and worked at an LGBTQ+ Community Centre in Northern Ireland while studying at the International Conflict Research Institute. Conner holds a BA. in social justice with highest honors from Hamline University. He is deeply connected to the Great Lakes Region, with most of his family living in Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.    MA in Restorative Justice

Article first published 9/16/2020