Before coming to SIPA, I had my sights set on a course that would allow me to not only learn in the classroom, but that also had a fieldwork component that would enable me to fulfill the internship requirement in a meaningful way. I originally wanted to be a part of the International Conflict Resolution Practicum, but after sitting in on Professor Zachary Metz’s information session about “Applied Peacebuilding” during orientation week, I was convinced that this was the course I wanted to take. At the end of fall semester my first year, I applied for the course and fortunately was accepted.
“Peacebuilding” has many different definitions, but is generally seen as the gray area between conflict resolution and economic development (with some overlap). It covers nearly all sectors and levels, from individual dialogue, to helping create stronger institutions, to health, education, and everything in between. The breath of “peacebuilding” makes it quite a confusing topic, but through learning from Professor Metz’s decades of peacebuilding experience, this murky subject eventually began to take shape. We learned the different methods of analysis, how to find the root cause of complex issues, as well as how to create and use many of the development field’s most popular tools–logical frameworks, theories of change, and situational analyses. This seminar course culminated in a project designed by each student (or team) that would be implemented during the summer based on the desires of their clients. Some of these projects included gender analyses in Timor-Leste, media training for journalists in Myanmar, counter-radicalization research in the Maldives, environmental education in the Mekong, as well as conflict analyses in Jordan and Cameroon. This course was also unlike any other SIPA course because we examined the impact that we (as interveners and as individuals) would have on our surroundings, as well as the impact that our surroundings would have on us.
The greatest lesson I learned from that course comes from Professor Metz most often used quote: “don’t just do something, stand there.” This pearl of wisdom not only applies to work in the field but life as a student as well. SIPA is a whirlwind in every sense of the word so the importance of not only “doing something” but “standing there” and assessing the impact of your actions as well as your own personal state of being cannot be overstated. The knowledge you gain from this class not only makes you a better student but gives you the tools to examine yourself so that you can become a better person overall.