Meghan Auker Becker ’11, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Intern

Meghan Auker Becker '11, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Intern

The day I graduated from Swarthmore, I had no idea what my future would look like.  I held in my hands a diploma and a plane ticket, but no solid plans as to what to do with either.  Now, six months later, I am at a place in my life I never would have predicted but one that I nonetheless have come to love.


Directly following graduation, I decided to trek off to Europe with nothing but a backpack and a Eurail pass (cliche, I know, but well worth the effort).  After three months of traveling across the continent and seeing so many beautiful countries and places, I moved to San Diego where I had been awarded a fellowship at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.  There I, along with three other interns, followed the news from about a dozen foreign countries and wrote and published a weekly update where we informed our readers about conflict zones, peace efforts, and social justice events that had happened in our assigned countries the week before.  We were also each assigned an individual project to work on, so throughout the fall I also worked on mapping peacebuilding efforts worldwide to better understand the resources, approaches, and projects implemented in this emerging field.


While these daily assignments kept us busy, perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the internship was being involved with the different programs, symposiums, and conferences IPJ sponsored.  During the first half of the term, we were able to meet and collaborate with Women PeaceMakers and PeaceWriters – international leaders who are invited to San Diego to share their stories and exchange ideas and approaches to peacemaking and social justice. This year, we were honored to meet the first woman Prime Minister of Haiti, a lawyer for Dalat rights in India, a doctor and relief organizer in Iraq, and (maybe, just maybe) the next President of Kenya.  We also worked on the “Women, Media, and Revolution” public forum where journalists, filmmakers and social media citizen activists discussed the role of women in conflict and how they are using their voices against ongoing political and cultural violence, and most recently presented a lecture by Katherine Sikkink on how human rights prosecutions are changing world politics.


The IPJ is part of the University of San Diego’s graduate school of Peace Studies, so in addition to our work, we were also able to audit classes, attend lectures, and meet with faculty and professors throughout the semester.  It was a great way to transition out of full-time academic life: we were able to stay involved and engaged in academic topics and issues, but weren’t required to do homework or take final exams!


I was lucky in that I was able to directly use my degree in Peace and Conflict Studies for my work at the Institute for Peace and Justice (see – they even sound similar!).  Having a firm grasp on history and a clear understanding of theories and practices was completely beneficial in the general sense, and more specific things like having access to the Nonviolent Action database and a connection at the Swat-founded Genocide Prevention Network helped me with my journal articles and peacebuiling research.


My first six months as a college graduate have been such an adventure and working at the IPJ has been a great experience.  While I’m not sure what the next six months hold or where this work will take me, I couldn’t be more excited to find out.


Appreciation for Dean Rafael Zapata

by Lee Smithey

This afternoon, I attended a remarkable (and tasty and musical) reception in appreciation of Dean Rafael Zapata, who will be taking up a new position as Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Vice President at Providence College. Those who spoke shared Dean Zapata’s personal warmth, his deep intellectualism, his love and concern for students, and his relentless commitment to social justice and diversity. It really was moving, especially the spoken word tributes by students and Prof. Kai Campbell.

Dean Zapata, from the Peace and Conflict Studies program, we wish you all success in your new position at a very fortunate institution! You will be missed, but I am already committing myself to think of you as our friend at another college. We still have much to learn from you.

Islam: Reform and Revival

From our friends at Haverford:  A one-day symposium on “Islam: Reform and Revival.”

This will be an opportunity to share in the reflections of four distinguished participants in current debates about the nature of Islam (sponsored  by the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship and the Distinguished Visitor’s Committee). On Thursday, 8 December, in Stokes 106, Abdulkarim Soroush, MohsenKadivar, Ali Mirsepassi, and Mahoud Sadri will be on campus sharing their thoughts and inviting our reflections on contemporary reform in Islam.

  • Professor Soroush has been visiting with us at Haverford this semester;
  • Professor Kadivar is a distinguished Iranian “cleric” and philosopher, who studied with Grand Ayatollah Montazeri in Qum and received his Ph.D. in Islamic Philosophy and Theology  from Tarbiat Modarres University in Tehran.
  • Ali Mirsepassi is Professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Sociology at NYU, and Mahoud Sadri is Professor of Sociology at Texas Woman’s University.

The symposium begins at 9:30 and ends at 4:30 with a break for lunch in the CPCG Cafe.

Download a poster here.

Contact: Prof. Mark Gould

Listen to Prof. George Lakey on #Occupy

Prof. George LakeyIn case you missed Peace and Conflict Studies Prof. George Lakey’s interview about the Occupy movement on Radio Times today, you can listen at the bottom of this post or on the Radio Times site.

Summary From Radio Times:

Occupy protesters were evicted in Philadelphia and Los Angeles overnight. We’ll get an update on the latest news of the confrontations between protesters and police and we’ll take stock of the Occupy movement, what it’s done and failed to do, how it fits into U.S. political mainstream and social movement history, and how it doesn’t, and the messages the campaign has sought to project vs. the message we in the media have conveyed vs. the messages received by the public at large. Joining us in studio is GEORGE LAKEY, longtime nonviolence activist, founder of Training for Change and research associate at Swarthmore College’s Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility. And we’ll also hear from WILL MARSHALL, president and founder of the Progressive Policy Institute, a leading intellectual of the American centrist left and a critic of the Occupy movement. And finally, we’ll hear from MATTATHIAS SCHWARTZ, a writer whose examination of the roots and dynamics of the Occupy movement, “Pre-Occupied,” was published in this week’s The New Yorker.

Peace and Conflict Studies Professor George Lakey on Radio Times on #Occupy November 30, 2011