Some of the 2021 graduates and their supporters from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding's Celebration of Blessings hosted online Saturday, May 8, as part of Eastern Mennonite University's Commencement celebrations. CJP's Class of 2021 includes 25 graduates, including two of the first to earn CJP's newest degree, the MA in Transformational Leadership. (Courtesy of CJP)

The call to CJP’s 2021 grads: ‘The world needs each and every one of you and everything you learned’

At the end of one journey and the beginning of another, Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding hosted its annual Celebration of Blessings for the 2021 graduates on Saturday, May 8. For the second consecutive year, the event was virtual.

Graduates were also offered the opportunity to participate in an in-person Commencement walk on Saturday, May 1. EMU’s official Commencement ceremony was online Sunday, May 9. [Both ceremonies can be viewed at EMU’s Commencement webpage.]

The 25 graduates join nearly 700 alumni from 78 countries.  They represent 14 states and three countries.

Paul Reeser had worked in peacebuilding in Georgia for more than 10 years, and came to CJP driven more by curiosity than anything else, he said. Here, he found friends and grew friendships that challenged and excited his whole being, he told the gathering during a time of graduate’s sharing. “The irony is that curiosity is that which befriends and reveals love in all its beauty. It is through questions we enter each other’s lives, through learning that we love most fully, through wonder we imagine our future together,” he said. “I have no challenge or ‘I leave you with this…’ Only that I am glad our curiosity led us to share this part of our stories together. For surely the love that we have experienced together bends the arc of our universal story toward justice and peace.”

Two graduates represent the first to finish CJP’s newest degree, the MA in Transformational Leadership. Both are already experienced professionals in conflict transformation. Makayla Fulmer is a case manager and Department of Justice accredited representative at the nonprofit NewBridges Immigrant Resource Center, specializing in immigration law. Sidney Morgan is the founder and executive director of Red Sea Road Consulting. She is a nationally recognized facilitator, mediator, speaker, and consultant specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion work, restorative justice practices, and conflict transformation.

Fifteen graduates now hold an MA in Conflict Transformation. Two have an MA in Restorative Justice. Two earned an interdisciplinary master’s degree with an emphasis in conflict transformation (13 options for customization are available based on student interest and EMU’s special niche programs). Four others earned graduate certificates.

Executive Director Jayne Docherty named this group of graduates as uniquely prepared to create and drive change. “The world is at a great turning point… our calling to peace and justice work is not about mitigating the harms of existing systems but about birthing a new world. And based on what you have done in the past few years, you are well prepared for that labor.”

Among the qualities of this graduating class, Docherty named flexibility, adaptability, strength, generosity and openness to innovation. This group embraced technology and the importance of sustaining relationships while tending to personal responsibilities and “continuing to study, reflect, grow, and develop your personal calling in the work of birthing a more just and less violent world.”

She continued:

In less than a year, we witnessed the murder of George Floyd and waited with breath held for the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin. 

We watched a violent attack on the US Capitol and we are still grappling with the consequences of deeply rooted divisions in our communities and the nation and the world. 

We are facing a reckoning with the forces of white supremacy and the long-tail of the consequences of colonialism, domination, and the violent extraction of wealth from people and the planet.

You all took on hard conversations and community organizing. You embraced the reflective, personal work we must all engage in right now if we are going to replace racist domination systems with the beloved community to which we aspire.

The pandemic exposed the breadth and depth of the deadly inequality that humans have created in a world of abundance, where there is more than enough for every single person to be housed, fed, cared for, educated, and supported in their flourishing. 

There is no question that the world needs each and every one of you and everything you learned (and everything you taught others) while you were at CJP. We are so proud to count you all as members of the CJP global community.

2021 Graduates

MA in Conflict Transformation

  • Lindsay Acker, Buffalo, New York
  • Rabab Hammoodi Hasan, Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • David Heiliger, Columbia, Maryland
  • James Herman, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Sophia Hutchison, Traverse City, Michigan
  • Marisabel Kubiak, Poolesville, Maryland
  • Nicole Litwiller, Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Jacob Mack-Boll, Whitesburg, Kentucky
  • Robin McLamb, Roanoke, Virginia
  • Helen Momoh, Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Olivia Paul, Bainet, Haiti
  • Emily Powell, Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Timothy Rasmussen, Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Angela Walker, Amity, Oregon
  • Aminata Wallet Mohamed, Bamako, Mali

Graduate Certificate in Conflict Transformation

  • Corinne Gunter, Noblesville, Indiana
  • Zachary Johnson, East Boston, Massachusetts
  • Eric Paul, Holualoa, Hawaii

MA in Restorative Justice

  • Margaret Rake, Sherman, Texas
  • Paul Reeser, Tucker, Georgia

Graduate Certificate in Restorative Justice

  • Ilinisa Hendrickson, Berkeley, California

MA in Transformational Leadership

  • Makayla Fulmer, Harrisonburg, Virginia
  • Sidney Morgan, Vancouver, Washington

MA in Interdisciplinary Studies with a conflict transformation focus

  • Jamie Jackson, Grottoes, Virginia
  • Lindy Magness, Harrisonburg, Virginia