Former Diplomat Discovers Star

August 11th, 2014


Angela Dickey (standing, sixth from right, in pale shirt) and Jay Wittmeyer (back row, in sunglasses) were two of 36 men and women from 11 countries who gathered at EMU during SPI 2014 to exchange insights regarding Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience. STAR is a program developed at EMU in response to the attacks on U.S. sites on September 11, 2001. Some of these STAR consultants spoke about the importance of STAR to their work and lives in a two-minute video visible at Photo by Michael Sheeler 

Angela R. Dickey spent 25 years promoting the policies of the United States while working for the U.S. Department of State in Washington DC and in a number of countries from Canada to Vietnam. Now, the former diplomat hopes that her studies at EMU’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) will mark the beginning of a new career promoting policies of peace around the world.

Dickey, who retired from the foreign service at age 56, believes that the best years of her career are ahead. While serving her last assignment before retirement at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington D.C., she attended a session of Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience (STAR) led by EMU staffers Elaine Zook Barge and Vernon Jantzi. The training immediately resonated with her – she had witnessed the lasting impact of traumatic wars and natural disasters on individuals and communities.

Dickey next found her way to STAR’s home base at EMU and enrolled in two of SPI’s four sessions in 2014, with plans to take two more SPI courses in 2015. “I put my toe in and liked it. Now I am fully submerging myself in the EMU experience,” she says. She intends to earn a graduate certificate in conflict transformation while working to become a fully qualified STAR trainer.

An experienced diplomat who has been stationed in Canada, Mauritania, Yemen, Laos, and Vietnam, Dickey also studied in France and Tunisia. She has first-hand work experience in a number of other countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia.

Dickey looks forward to taking her classroom experience and applying it in the field. Later this summer she will be landing for the third time in Uganda, where she will work with African Union (AU) peacekeepers who are heading for Somalia.

“The [AU] peacekeepers are in a very difficult position because they have weapons, but their mandate is to protect civilians,” she told EMU News Service. “I don’t know weapons, but I do know how to work with people and how to help others deal with people.”

Dickey will focus on helping the AU peacekeepers to interact sensitively with the local populations by providing contextual information, including the historical and socioeconomic roots of the Somali conflict. She will also help them to understand United Nations standards for the protection of civilians. She said her work will be informed by the lens of dialogue and community-building gained during her time at SPI.

“The EMU method is something that helps you to be at peace with yourself so that you can model that to other people,” she said. “A lot of people have two responses to conflict: rush into it or avoid it. But there are other, more productive ways to deal with it. I want to be one of the people who engages with and deals with conflict in a collaborative way.”

In the future, Dickey sees herself returning regularly to Harrisonburg, Virginia, for EMU courses and conferences. “As a mature adult, I have found something new and exciting to engage me. I am hoping to take more classes and come back to train. I get a really good feeling when I come here. I know it’s the right place when I feel it in my gut.”  David Yoder

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