By Julia Smith, Rotary Peace Fellow
In 2008-09, I was lucky enough to be awarded a Rotary Peace Fellowship to complete my master’s degree at the University of Bradford. Five years later, I continue to build on that remarkable learning experience.
The University of Bradford is famous for its conflict resolution expertise and I took full advantage of this by taking courses on African Approaches to Conflict Resolution and Applied Conflict Resolution. I used skills and knowledge from both when, following the peace fellowship, I went to work in Sierra Leone. In particular, I remember mediating a dispute between blacksmiths and farmers in a rural village still recovering from civil war. By drawing on indigenous practices and negotiation skills we were able to reach an agreement that resulted in improved food production, as well as community harmony.
The peace fellowship includes an applied field experience component, and I was placed at the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division in South Africa. The research I conducted there informed my Master of Arts thesis and was published widely. From this formative experience I built networks and research expertise I continue to draw on. For example, I recently conduct research to inform a program that aims to enhance the ability of citizens in Sub-Saharan Africa to hold their governments to account for how they spend HIV/AIDS resources.
One of the greatest benefits of the peace fellowship is the opportunity to study with people from around the world. Peace Studies at the University of Bradford has a remarkably diverse student body, and the skills that are developed by learning from other perspectives and working with people from around the world cannot be underestimated – I use them everyday.
I am now trying, in my own small way, to pass on some of what I learned as a peace fellow. This fall I had the opportunity to teach a course similar to one I took at Bradford – the Politics of International Peacekeeping – at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, Canada. It’s inspiring to be able to pass on some of the remarkable learning I was lucky enough to benefit from as a Rotary Peace Fellow.