UPEACERS in Action

UPEACERS IN ACTION: INTERVIEW WITH MARCO CASTRO

MA in RESPONSIBLE MANAGEMENT AND SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, 2011

ACCADEMIC COORDINATOR, ASSOCIATE COLLEGES OF THE MIDWEST

 Tell us a bit about yourself, your past and current occupations…

Currently, I am working with the Associate Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) as Academic Coordinator for two Study Abroad Programs in Costa Rica. “Community Engagement in Public Health, Education, & the Environment” and “Field Research in the Environment, Social Sciences, & Humanities”. I am a liaison between faculty, communities, academic advisors and public and private academic institutions for the effectiveness and enjoyment of both courses. ACM is a consortium of more than 14 US Colleges with run study abroad programs in many different countries around the world. I am also responsible for the ACM Scholarship Program for Costa Rican students in coordination with the International Affairs Office at Universidad de Costa Rica and the Modern Languages School. 

Before coming to UPEACE, I was Executive Director of Reto Juvenil Internacional (RJI).  RJI is a local NGO part of a Youth International Alliance formed by Canada, Australia and Guyana. Through voluntarism, students’ service learning and social programs, RJI promotes the leadership of youth by supporting initiatives that contribute to improving the quality of life in rural and urban communities in Central America as well as the Caribbean.

By then I was also part of different international events such as the Global Youth Alliance meetings (Sidney, Toronto, George Town, Managua); a Costa Rica delegate for the World Youth Forum in Barcelona; and the Ford Motor International Fellowship for Community Leaders in New York; among others.   

Networking is overall the greatest strength of UPEACE. Therefore, and being my actual work related with academic matters as well as with community outreach, UPEACE staff, faculty and students has been extremely helpful. I also have classmates around the world with which I am constantly sharing information and resources on how to improve our work. More directly, I am currently taking an “International Diploma in Sustainable Education” hosted by the Earth Charter-UPEACE. Thanks to being an alumnus I was able to apply to a partial scholarship. This diploma will help me a lot in my actual work. 

Thanks to my experience at UPEACE we are including little by little more topics on matters such as sustainability, climate change, social responsibility, cultural appreciation and social inclusion in our classes. So, it has been very exciting to see how well these topics have been received by our college students.

At a personal level, I am happy to have started my third book of short stories that will hopefully be ready very soon.

Why should someone choose UPEACE to make their Masters?

To see the benefits of studying at UPEACE you really need to see beyond the academics.  But please do not take me wrong, the academic component is demanding and it will definitely challenge you in many ways. However, to have the opportunity to participate and to be exposed in to a high culturally diverse community, will be an insightful process. More and more, universities are trying to reinforce “global competences” among their students. At UPEACE that is a given thing.

After 5 years from graduating from UPEACE, I am more and more convinced that a committed, sensitive and collaborative UPEACER is needed at any place, at any field, and at any moment. I truly believe that education for sustainable development and peace can be a transformative experience itself. During and after your experience at UPEACE, you will revisit your world vision and your inner values many times.In that process, you will build strong relationships with your classmates and wonderful connections. As a result, you will expand and redefine your vision, your values and your cultural sensitivity with the company of a greater community of UPEACERS around the world. Then, a warm network will become an excellent asset not only for your professional life but also for your soul.


UPEACERS IN ACTION: INTERVIEW WITH AYTEN BIRHANE

MA in Peace Education, 2008

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER, ETHIOPIA

What are your current responsibilities?

I am the Executive Director of the Peace and Development Center (PDC). Before assuming the current position, I worked as a Lecturer, Project Manager and Peace Project Officer at different institutions and organizations. I am also the co-founder of New Abyssinia College (NAC) and served there as College Dean and General Manager. 
 
What is the purpose of your organization?
The objectives of the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network Project are: to build the capacity of University students to competently engage in dialogue and increase their dialogue skills, to contribute to a healthy and open climate at the selected Universities and to create cohesive, engaged and diverse student communities through dialogue and help create a multicultural environment where students valid human claims known and respected.
 
What is the contribution of the organization to societies?
I lead the implementation of The SDCN Project in Ethiopia and other projects of the organization.  The project has been selected as one of the successful projects that effectively promote interfaith through dialogue in Ethiopia. In the panel discussion held at Howard University Washington DC, during the Fifth Annual President's of the United States of America Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge gathering from September 6-11, 2015.
 
The project has been implemented for 5 years in three universities in Ethiopia. In the dialogue, a total of 5,400 students participated. The result of the evaluation of the project indicated that the project/dialogue brought the necessary behavior and attitude change that leads to the desired action of respecting 'others' valid human claims.

 

 

UPEACERS IN ACTION: INTERVIEW WITH JAIME POSA

MA in Environment, Development and Peace, 2014

COUNTRY COORDINATOR, VAYANDO, COSTA RICA

 

What are your current responsibilities?

I work to bring visibility to small-scale and community-oriented micro-entrepreneurs in Costa Rica who would like to preserve their traditional livelihoods or meaningful trades through my position as a Country Coordinator for the innovative social enterprise, VAYANDO. As an organization, we connect curious travelers to micro-entrepreneurs in a responsible travel model focused on creating social good.

What are you most excited about right now?

I graduated in 2014 from the Environment, Development and Peace program, more specifically focusing on Sustainable Food Systems. Through the guidance of intelligent, passionate and inspiring professors, stimulating class discussions and hands-on fieldwork, I continue my research in this field with a new level of confidence and curiosity.

My life after UPEACE can best be described as my life before UPEACE, tweaked with a new and profound sense of liberation. Nothing necessarily changed about the realities of the world, except the lens with which I viewed them. The confusion and chaos I felt about a society and social norms that I had trouble relating to had once held me back, and now I use those feelings of dissonance to catapult me forward, to dig deeper and to stay awake to what is needed in today’s world. I have learned that those feelings are my catalyst for change.

Before UPEACE I thought I had to choose between writing and teaching, living in the USA and living in Central America, being straight or being gay, and so on, limiting myself to one box or another, as I had been previously asked to do. Now I realize that I can do and be and am a little bit of all of those things. This realization has manifested in work where I am able to use my strengths and my passions to contribute to the wellbeing of myself, others and the planet. For this reason, I choose to use the word ‘work’ over ‘job’ to describe how I use my time to make a meaningful living. Money is just one by-product of the energy that is exchanged in my work and it is my intention to give more weight to the development of relationships, trust, respect and love that are the driving force in what I do.

How has the UPEACE network helped you in your work?

Along with a few other friends and UPEACE graduates, I also work to encourage community building by facilitating cross-cultural and cross-generational spaces for storytelling, sharing and exchange. Most of these workshops, activities and gatherings take place in the community of El Rodeo, the heart of the University for Peace. Manifestations of these exchanges have included United Communities Festivals, conversation classes, older adult storytelling workshops, cooking classes, art and music therapies and whatever else organically arises within our local neighborhood and expands global community.

I was born within the USA, in a small community in New York, and since then have lived in many places and corners of the world that are now part of my ever-growing community called home. I am re-shaping my concept of citizenship to be one that is grounded in a deep sense of belonging to our Earth and loyalty to what unites us as humanity. I believe reinforcing this concept of citizenship will help me hold myself more accountable for my actions and responsibilities in contributing to a more peaceful world.

Why should someone choose UPEACE if they are interested in conflict resolution and peacebuilding?

UPEACE is a place that brings together unique individuals with diverse backgrounds and gives us the opportunity to connect in an intimate way. At UPEACE we learn to face our fears; we are given the opportunity to ask questions and to explore. It is here that I became humbled to my own ignorance and learned how to effectively listen and communicate with others, in order to grow in a way that served both my peers and me. I am grateful to UPEACE for shining light on the skills needed for conflict resolution and peace building, where I could practice both inside and outside of the classroom. Choose UPEACE if you want to meet the people who will join you on your journey… our journey- those who you will turn to at any time in the future when you need someone to hold you up, when it feels like everything is trying to hold you back.

 

 

UPEACERS IN ACTION: INTERVIEW WITH NICK MARTIN

MA in Peace Education, 2006

FOUNDER & CEO, TECHCHANGE, USA

Nick Martin


What are your current responsibilities?

In 2010 I founded TechChange, a social enterprise based in Washington D.C. that specializes in building online certificate courses for individuals and organizations working in international development, peacebuilding, and humanitarian response. Over the past five years, we’ve trained over 5,000 alumni from over 120 countries and 1,300 organizations in topics like how to use a 3D printer for social good or how to use a mobile phone for public health delivery.

TechChange has also designed and delivered hundreds of custom online courses for various organizations like the UN Foundation, UNICEF, USAID, the US State Department, Ashoka, the World Bank, and more. See some of our projects. Our team has grown to 20 people and includes an in-house animation studio, a team of computer programmers, an instructional design & education division. The TechChanage model for online learning in social change has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Economist, and Fast Company. Along the way I’ve also been fortunate to win a few awards and fellowships from PopTech, the Society for International Development, the International Youth Foundation, and the Ariane de Rothschild Foundation.

What are you most excited about right now?

This fall, we'll be launching our first ever diploma track in technology for monitoring and evaluation. The diploma track will allow participants to take several of our online certificate courses consecutively and gain access to a variety of other features and support services.  Our goal is to provide a strong supplement to graduate programs that is based in portfolio and technical skills-building for as low cost as possible.We’re including a number of features like a capstone project, 1-on-1 mentorship, live simulations, and a strong job placement component with organizations doing innovative work in the peacebuilding, international development and humanitarian fields.

How has your experience at UPEACE contributed to helping you to face these challenges and generate solutions?

UPEACE has been (and still is) so important for me in my journey. I had an unforgettable year on campus in the peace education program with 12 other students. I learned a tremendous amount not only in the classroom, but over lunchtime conversations, on field trips to local schools and organizations, and by living in Ciudad Colon!  After graduating in June 2006, I got an internship in the Peace Education department and eventually helped to open a US-based office for UPEACE in Washington D.C. called UPEACE/US. While there, I worked on activities like student recruitment and fundraising. I also started a peace education program in local elementary schools called DCPEACE. Along the way, I had the privilege of working with two other amazing UPEACE alums - Stephanie Gliege ‘04 who founded the organization and Rebecca Harned ‘05, who served as my co-director for three years. This experience taught me so much about how to run an educational institution, how to market for courses, how to build community and I’ve been able to apply those lessons to my work at TechChange.

How has the UPEACE network helped you in your work?

In so many ways:

•My co-founder at TechChange was Dominic Kiraly, UPEACE ‘04. We met through mutual UPEACE connections.

•Our first project at TechChange with the US Institute of Peace (USIP) came through relationships made at UPEACE.

•UPEACE professors Amr Abdalla, Mohit Mukherjee, Eliana Carvalho, have all been phenomenal mentors over the past 10 years. I really could not have asked for better role models  in starting TechChange.

•Thanks to UPEACE, I have now have hundreds of lifelong friends and colleagues spread around the world who are doing such inspirational things.

Which have been the greatest challenges that you have faced professionally/personally in the areas of conflict resolution, peace and/or meditation?

There are certainly many challenges to building a social enterprise: how to build the right team of individuals who share the same values, how to stay true to the social mission while ensuring we meet our revenue targets, how to deliver high quality educational content over the internet to people who aren’t used to using computers or who don’t have a strong internet connection. etc.

The challenges also evolve at each stage of our journey - after five years we’re no longer worrying about survival, we’re worried about growing in the most effective way possible.

I’m hoping more alums and recent UPEACE grads check out TechChange and get in touch. We’d love to collaborate with your organizations in building custom online courses. If you’re looking for a job, we have lots of openings year round.

 

Nick Martin

Founder & CEO, TechChange

M 240 505 2324 | www.techchange.org | @ncmart