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Student Profiles

Shirley Gabriella Achieng’

Shirley Achieng image 2020

Shirley Gabriella Achieng’ is a New Zealand Commonwealth scholarship student, currently pursuing a PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago- National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. Her background is in Political Science and International Relations- Diplomacy & Foreign Policy. She is interested in Counter Terrorism Studies and her current research focuses on counter-terrorism in Kenya.

In Kenya, Shirley worked with the legislative arm of the Nairobi County Government, responsible for formulation of laws aimed at regulating the conduct of activities in the County and provision of oversight functions. Shirley has experience in policy scrutiny and consideration of Statutory Instruments.

Shirley is passionate about peace and security research and is keen on contributing to the discourse of counter-terrorism and its role on national security policy development.

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Anna Burgin

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Anna completed a Masters in Peace and Conflict studies in 2016-2017 at the University of Otago, in the process interning with WISCOMP, a women's peacebuilding organisation in New Delhi, India. Prior to, and in between study, Anna has worked in the not for profit and social service sector in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom, with a particular focus on managing volunteers, youth development, and program development.

Her current research is examining the host community within refugee resettlement, looking through the lens of volunteers and their capacity for everyday peacebuilding and the inherent tensions present in helping-receiving relationships amid structural violence inherited from colonisation. The research will examine the experiences of volunteers - their role/s, contributions, encounters and the challenges they experience as 'hosts' in Aotearoa New Zealand. It will explore the impact of the New Zealand resettlement strategy from the ground up by focusing on the diverse experiences of volunteers in the context of Ōtepoti Dunedin, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Her research is informed by her experiences of volunteering, volunteer management, third sector reform, and working with volunteers and asylum seekers and former refugees in Australia. Her other research interests include peace education, gender based violence, and Aotearoa New Zealand peace traditions.

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J.M. Inton-Campbell

Having served in the United States Peace Corps (2012 – 2014, Morocco), I found myself asking several years ago whether international volunteering for development actually achieves what it aspires to do: build peace between nations through cooperative international exchange and friendship. My current research investigates how the intergroup contact experiences of international volunteers and host-community counterparts influences the attitudes and relationships between both of their wider communities. This builds upon my previous research in “Putting Peace Back Into the Peace Corps” (Journal of Peacebuilding and Development, 2019) and my master’s thesis, “Volunteering for Peace” (International Christian University, 2017). I earned my M.A. in Social and Public Policy from International Christian University in Mitaka, Japan in 2017 and my B.A. in Political Science and International Studies from University of Nebraska in Omaha, USA.

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Mino Cleverley

Details to come.

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Matt Fuller

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Matt Fuller began his PhD with the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in February 2020. Matt’s dissertation explores the nature of effective campaigns to ban weapons, the creation of weapons taboos, and the ongoing struggle to investigate the harm caused by Depleted Uranium, ultimately leading to the question “Why do some weapons get banned and others do not?”

Matt’s career has taken him in many directions. Born and raised in Virginia in the United States, he has been a Programme Assistant at the Corrymeela Peace and Reconciliation Centre in Northern Ireland, a video editor for the Democracy Development Programme in South Africa, and a Philosophy Lecturer at St. Philip’s College in San Antonio, Texas, USA. He has an MA in Ethics, Peace and Global Affairs from American University in Washington, DC. As a lecturer he presented and published on a diverse array of topics, such as the ethics of driverless cars, isiZulu poetry in Post-Apartheid South Africa, the level of confidence in the current Northern Irish peace process, and the creation of the Islamic State, the Irish Republican Army, and the Ulster Volunteer Force. His advisor is Dr. Richard Jackson.

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Sanjana Hattotuwa

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Sanjana’s research aims to look at how conversations are created, spread and engaged with within social media groupings, platforms and virtual collectives. By extension, the research will contribute to research on how distinctions made between what’s real (in the physical domains) and what’s not or just online (in virtual domains) breaks down in the face of Sri Lanka’s contemporary media landscape. Existing studies of networked and networking power (looking at how people interact in very large-scale in networks, and the power inherent in these networks) form the basis for Sanjana’s frames of analysis.

Since the Presidential Election in January 2015, significant socio-political and religious processes and events in Sri Lanka have been shaped – to a greater or lesser degree - by content generated, disseminated and engaged with on social media, in both the vernacular (Sinhala) and English. 2015’s Presidential Election is used as a starting point for the research for two key reasons. One, its historic nature, resulting in the election of a new Executive President who promised and initially provided a clear break from a decade of authoritarian, illiberal rule. Two, the degree to which social media facilitated the organisation of democratic dissent in the lead-up to the election, in a highly censorious context where all traditional media were tightly controlled by the incumbent government.

With emerging research indicating that violence and peace are increasingly constructed in or through digital platforms, the research is anchored to how at scale (in the aggregate of the records created, content produced and interactions made), the study of social media can provide deep, meaningful and relevant insights into democracy and its discontent, as well as peace and its drivers.
The research is anchored to three broad areas of inquiry and study:

  1. To what degree and in what ways does social media, operating in Sinhala and English, trigger, exacerbate violence and at other times, strengthen peace and democracy?
  2. How, and to what degree, is social media, in both Sinhala and English, used by actors aiming to bolster authoritarian governance in Sri Lanka and by actors seeking to resist authoritarianism and advocating for greater democratic accountability?
  3. How are these social media-driven perceptions impacting post-war socio-political relations in Sri Lanka?

Researching these areas of study will meaningfully and substantively contribute to on-going efforts by individuals and institutions in civil society to leverage the transformative power and potential of social media. The research questions emphasise the importance of content on or over social media in how the country sees and speaks to itself, today and into the future. Additionally, the research aims to show how and to what degree the influence of content on social media extends far beyond those who are directly part of and contribute to it, to those who do not have an active social media account.

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Maija Jespersen

Details to come.

Natasha Jolly

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I began my stint as a PhD Candidate at the NCPACS in April 2016. My research project involves looking into reconciliation in post conflict communities, through the use of restorative processes to deal with the aftermath of sexual and gender based violence. My interest in transitional justice, interpersonal relational repair and gender issues in conflict was born out of a work placement as a pro bono legal assistant at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague. I have trained as a lawyer, having joined the Bar in India in 2012. I also have Masters Degree specialisations in Public International Law and International Peace and Security from University College London and King’s College London specifically. I have had the opportunity to hone my skills in the human rights and humanitarian fields through internships at various domestic and international institutions.

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Hyukmin Kang

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As one of the blessed early-stage academics, I embarked on my PhD journey at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (NCPACS) on September, 2017. At the Centre, I focus on the dynamics between religious narrative and forgiveness in reconciliation processes. Borrowing theological discourses, as well as Dialogical Self Theory, I explore how religious individuals who are victimised by political or collective violence cope with their deep trauma and desires for vengeance when they meet religious calls for forgiveness.

Prior to my PhD research at NCPACS, I studied theology in South Korea and ecumenical studies in University of Bonn, Germany. After conducting my first Masters degree, I switched my academic field from theological studies to peace and conflict studies, pursuing my second masters at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. My two Masters theses are entitled “The Religious Factors in the Balkan Conflict since the 1990s" and “Transitional Justice and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland.”

Apart from my academic journey, I have experienced a variety of religious education and worked for various NGOs in different countries. Recently, I have been involved in a genocide research group and a legislation network for the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in South Korea.

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Kalika Kastein

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Kalika Kastein is an educator, peace advocate, and visual media specialist. She is the founder of the student-run peace association and online journal, Ad Pacem. Kalika is currently a Ph.D. student at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago and works remotely as a communications assistant in the Division for Prosperity at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research in Hiroshima. She also is a Girl Guides leader in Dunedin and volunteers with education-based peace initiatives in Hawai'i.

She is a certified teacher in Hawai'i, having earned her Master of Science in Education from Johns Hopkins University. Kalika holds a Master of Arts in Peace Studies from International Christian University in Japan which was funded by the Rotary Peace Fellowship. She also was a volunteer in the Peace Corps (Cameroon, 2011-2013), a Teach for America corps member, and was nominated as a Duke University Humanitarian Action Fellow.

Her writing has appeared in the national newspaper for the Federated States of Micronesia, the Kaselehlie Press, and has been featured in the St. Gallen Symposium’s annual selected essays. She received a best speaker award at the 2019 Jean-Pictet International Humanitarian Law Competition and placed in the semi-finalist round with her team at the 2018 national ICRC Moot Competition in Japan.

Kalika's research started in 2020, funded through the University of Otago Doctoral Scholarship, and focuses on understanding forms of silence among teaching staff within institutions of higher education.

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Rachel Laird

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Rachel began her PhD With the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in February 2018. Her dissertation centres on the question “can engaging other through dialogic encounters within an online environments enable conditions for positive peace?” She is exploring encounters with other in online spaces through dialogic practice and dialogue theory based on the work of Martin Buber and Paulo Freire. She is supervised by Dr. Katerina Standish, Dr. Heather Devere, and Dr. Rachel Rafferty.

Rachel’s 14 year career has spanned roles in international business development and operations, communications consultation, non-profit work related to youth programs, and community development work related to mental health and addictions. She has a MA in Human Security and Peacebuilding from Royal Roads University, British Columbia.

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Liesel Mitchell

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Liesel Mitchell is a part-time PhD candidate, with a research focus on nonviolent discipline in nonviolent campaigns and Positive Peace in post-nonviolent campaigns. She is interested in exploring how these two strands of research help inform each other using Integral Theory as a theoretical and methodological framework.

When Liesel is not working on her thesis, she works part-time remote research/consulting for an Auckland urban strategy studio. Liesel plans to finish her thesis in 2020.

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Obinna Nweke

Details to come.

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Samwel Oando

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Samwel commenced PhD studies at the NCPACS in 2019. He is a Kenyan national, with previous research experience of 15 years in Africa. Some of the research on which he has worked include being Research Coordinator for ‘Stop Violence Against Girls in School (SVAGS)’, [a project implemented by ActionAid in collaboration with the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA)]. He also developed a research project on ‘Youth Inclusion in Countering Violent Extremism’, implemented in the IGAD region, in partnership with the Organization for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA). It is from such projects that he managed to co-author several research articles (available online). His field practice on peacebuilding comprise working as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Peace and Development Network (PeaceNet), from where he also served as a member of the UWIANO Platform for Peace, in Kenya. Samwel has Master of Arts (MA) in ‘Gender Women and Development Studies’ from Egerton University. His future research interests cut across gender equality and equity; gender mainstreaming in peacebuilding; and on indigenous conflict transformation approaches to countering violent extremism.

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Alejandra Ortiz Ayala

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Alejandra Ortiz-Ayala is a PhD Student at the National Centre of Peace and Conflict studies working on the role of the state security sector on the perpetuation of political violence in post-conflict contexts.
She holds a Master and Bachelor degree in Political Science with minors in Comparative Politics and Political Theory. Before she starts her PhD journey, she spent some years in Colombia, where she worked as a Lecturer, Research and Consultant for national and international organizations.

Her current academic research interest incorporates three research areas, with the overall goal of preventing violence. First, she has studied the role of the security sector in peace processes, including transitional justice, state-building and post-war violence, mainly in Latin America. Second, she has analyzed the influence of ideology on armed groups behaviour and their relationship with civilians. Third, she was involved in research projects related to reconciliation between victims and perpetrators, and social and political reintegration of ex-combatants from non-state armed groups.
She has also been interested in topics related to public opinion and political behaviour.

Finally, in her research experience, she uses mixed-methods – including lab-in-the-field experiments, survey experiments, surveys and interviews.

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Hussain Raissi

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Hussain came to New Zealand from France, but he is originally from Afghanistan. He graduated from Sociology Department BA program, Kabul University in 2010. Between the years 2011-2012, he worked as cultural mediator in Abu-Dhabi, Emirates United Arabs with NATO forces. In Afghanistan between the years 2012-2014, he was responsible for the Media Library (Mediatheque) of the French Institute of Afghanistan. After obtaining a scholarship from the French government, he moved to France in August 2014. He earned a Master Degree in Sociological Studies and Diagnosis from the University of Bordeaux, France in 2016. From November 2016 until February 2019, Hussain worked with the different organizations and associations to assist Afghans and Iranian refugees and asylum seekers in their processes of integration and settlement into French society.

He began his PhD journey at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in April 2019. Hussain is conducting his PhD research through the Rei Foundation scholarship. He is exploring the impact of religiosity, ethnicity, life satisfaction and discrimination on the social capital and ultimately the sense of belonging of Muslim youth immigrants and refugees here in New Zealand. His interest in studying the sense of belonging of Muslim youth immigrants and refugees, comes from his own experience working with Afghan immigrants and refugees in France. In his PhD, he is interested in studying the sense of belonging of Muslim youth immigrants and refugees through their social capital (bonding, bridging and social links). In the research, the social capital of participants predicts their feeling of belonging that could be a national sense of belonging, ethnic-religion community belonging or a combination of both. To achieve this, he will apply a mixed method of qualitative and quantitative approach.

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Jeremy Simons

Jeremy Simons is a trainer, consultant, and researcher with expertise in Conflict Transformation (CT), Restorative Justice (RJ), Appreciative Inquiry (AI), and accompanying Indigenous Peoples (IP) in peacebuilding advocacy.

Born and raised in the Philippines, Jeremy earned a BA in International Affairs (1997, Gordon College USA) and MA in Conflict Transformation (2002) from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University. Afterward completing his graduate studies, Jeremy, along with his family, lived in Denver (USA) for 7 years in an urban poor community, accompanying various organizations as a community organizer and restorative justice coordinator. Between 2004-08, in partnership with the local Victim-Offender Reconciliation Program, Denver Public Schools, and the advocacy organization Padres Unidos, he helped develop and implement the first large scale, urban, public school district restorative justice program in the United States.

In 2008 Jeremy returned to the Philippines as a development consultant and trainer, where he co-developed the Community-Based Restorative Justice Course at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute while working in monitoring and evaluation of the institute's resource-based conflict transformation program. Jeremy has supported asset-based community development programs among Lumad (IP) and Moro (Muslim) communities of Mindanao and has conducted RJ, CT, and AI training and workshops in various academic, organizational, religious, and community organizations across the Philippines. From 2014-16 he taught as adjunct faculty of conflict transformation at the Asian Theological Seminary in Quezon City, Philippines. Jeremy helped edit the publication "Moving Beyond: Towards Transitional Justice in the Bangsamoro" and has been published in various print and on-line media, in particular for the mindanews.com information service. He has presented at conferences in Japan (2014), Bangladesh (2015), and Otago (2017), and his doctoral research revolves around the elucidation of restorative leadership for transformative justice in the Asian and Mindanao context.

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Heather Tribe

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Heather comes from Waitākere, Tāmaki Makaurau. Upon completing her masters in the National Centre for Peace and Conflict studies in 2018 she returned home and spent the following year working in a food rescue charity (Fair Food – give us a like on Facebook or Instagram!) – directly combating food insecurity in her home community. She still works alongside the charity and returned to NCPACS to begin her PhD journey in May 2019. Her background has always been at the intersection of the environmental sciences and society, with particular concern for the impacts of climate change in the greater Pacific region. Her interest in food security has flourished through her work both in the food rescue charity in Waitākere and during her time working in community kitchens in the Calais refugee camps. Her PhD focuses on climate change induced food insecurity and the correlated increases in gender inequality and gendered violence.

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Chiara Venanzetti

Chiara has a BA in Psychological Science and Techniques and a MA degree in Clinical, Neuro, and Developmental Psychology from the Università degli studi di Milano-Bicocca, Italy. During her Master's programme, she was awarded with the Erasmus+ Scholarship to study at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and spent more than a year studying in Spain. Upon completion of her studies, she did a six-month professional internship as a research assistant at her Italian university, and then another six-month internship as a research assistant at Goldsmiths University of London.

With a strong interest in social and political psychology, Chiara has developed a passion for themes like racism, dehumanization, stereotypes, and social identity. In addition, her love of history and interest in II World War events (including rise and consolidation of Fascism, concentration camps, and dehumanizing political pamphlets) led her to take part in the project “Promemoria Auschwitz” and to sign up for an International Summer School about groups, conflicts and reconciliation.

Chiara joined the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies to do her PhD with a research project about social and political psychology. Her study investigates how racist political propaganda promoted by right-wing parties in Italy is undermining citizens' trust in the immigrant community, in the conviction that it is Europeans those who have the duty to analyze and understand why and how our white communities have historically implemented and continue imposing racist narratives to perpetrate and justify violence. As the Cameroonian author Leonora Miano once declared, "the victims of racism are racists people. And it is to them that you have to pose questions about it."

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David Whippy

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David is from Fiji and holds a Master’s Degree in Diplomacy and International Affairs from the School of Government, Development and International Affairs at the University of the South Pacific, Fiji. His undergraduate work is in Psychology and Intercultural Peacebuilding. David's research interests are in peace education, conflict transformation, peacebuilding through sports and peace ecology.

His dissertation is focused on Fiji, where he is studying the validity and practicality of a local model of peace education within the public school education system. His thesis is that education targeted at the younger generation, through curriculum and systematic amendments, would influence transformation at multiple levels in the creation of a sustainable culture of peace. This perspective was developed in his work in Fiji’s civil society around the areas of children’s rights, contributions of youth in governance, transitions to democracy and restorative justice.

David is currently on a tenure-track at Brigham Young University – Hawaii, teaching courses on transformative mediation, intercultural peacebuilding, NGOs and conflict transformation, peace education and peace ecology. He hopes that his work empowers students to embrace peacebuilding initiatives and be influencers of good towards the establishment of peace in their spaces of influence.

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