In its fourth year, the Summer Peacebuilding Program is a three-week long intensive training program designed to bridge the theory and practice of building peace in societies that are emerging from conflict, violence, or war.
Participants learn from a variety of experienced professionals and faculty and work in groups on a final project that is based on real-world programs with mentors. This year participants worked in groups on projects related to peace building and conflict resolution in Mindanao, the Philippines, Mosul (in Iraq), and Morocco, and presented their work on the last day of the program. After their presentations, they received constructive feedback from their mentors from Catholic Relief Services, Partners Global and the Compliance Advisor Ombudsman Office of the World Bank.
The Summer Peacebuilding Program is organized by the Center for Conflict Studies and led by its founding director and Middlebury Institute faculty member Dr. Pushpa Iyer. Participants explore theories and practice through sessions on such topics as refugees and displacement, locally led peacebuilding in praxis, trauma healing, gender, reconciliation, environment, development, media and arts for peace, the many forms of accounting for the past, and interpretation in conflict zones. The program also includes site visits, including to the Salinas Valley State Prison and the correctional training facility in Soledad. The group also met with city authorities and law enforcement in Salinas. The second week was residential in the Mt. Madonna Conference Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains. “It was very valuable for me to hear the perspectives from people in the field and learn how many options there are for people interested in peacebuilding as a profession,” shares Michael Robinson MAIPD ’19, who says he knew he wanted to participate in the program after taking Professor Iyer’s “Introduction to Conflict Resolution” course and her winter term course in Gujarat, India.
This year marks the fourth time Dr. Robert Groelsema of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has worked with students in the Summer Peacebuilding Program as a mentor. He says the he greatly values the relationship has with the Institute, including the multiple alumni who have become his close colleagues over the years. “On a personal level, I get very energized by the working with these students and always end up learning from them. I feel that working with Professor Iyer on this program adds value to myself, as a professional, and keeps life interesting. And of course, you can’t beat Monterey!”
“I always enjoy putting together the Summer Peacebuilding Program,” shares Iyer. “The design of our program is unique and the program provides a great opportunity for our participants to learn from scholars and practitioners in the field. The diversity of voices, experiences, personalities all meshing together during the three weeks invariably produces some incredible noise that I hope will continue to reverberate in the minds of our participants and the spaces in which they will operate. This year, I had a very good group of students who were very committed and serious about their careers and their role in peacebuilding. It brought me a lot of satisfaction.”
Human rights activist, poet, former Black Panther and political prisoner Ericka Huggins gave an inspirational and interactive keynote address to kick off the Middlebury Institute’s Center for Conflict Studies fourth annual conference.