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Student Profiles

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Marie Nissanka

Marie_standingMarie’s background in commerce, development studies, and knowledge management are complemented by her work experience in the areas of strategy development, policy and business analysis in the public and non-profit sectors. Marie has over seven years of work experience in the New Zealand public sector, as a policy, reporting and business analyst. Her work predominantly involved qualitative and quantitative data analysis, results-based monitoring, as well as output and outcome evaluation.

Marie has also worked extensively in the non-profit sector, by conducting research, measuring outcomes and strategic planning. Marie's main research interests are reducing educational inequalities, multicultural education, action research, organisational learning, knowledge management and evaluation methodologies. Marie’s Masters thesis investigated organisational learning in humanitarian organisations, while her PhD researches multiculturalism in the Citizenship Education curriculum in Sri Lanka.

Hafiza Yazdani

Hafiza YazdanyI recently joined the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies to learn more about peace and start a new journey towards a PhD in peace education.

I would like to investigate ethnic groups conflict in Afghanistan and its effect on the progress of the state peace and development processes. Ethnicity preference perception which has been challenging Afghanistan for decades, remains an obstacle to peace and an integrated society. The conflict among the ethnic groups is one of the critical reasons affecting the peace position and development progress in Afghanistan.

I would like to focus on common interests among the youth of different ethnic groups and attitudes to peace and an integrated society in Afghanistan future. I am eager to know how the youth of Afghanistan can contribute to peace and development.

I studied the Peace and Conflict Resolution Program MA Program in Austria, and graduated from Social Science, Sociology Department BA Program, Kabul Educational University, Afghanistan. Besides that I have worked in peace programs and projects since 2005 focusing on Gender and Women's Rights.

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Robbie Francis

Robbie 1Robbie Francis is a 26-year-old kiwi who lives with phocomelia syndrome, which means she was born without most of the bones in her lower legs. After major reconstructive surgery she now wears a prosthetic limb called Lucy Leg and lives knowing that her other leg may also need to be amputated one day.

Despite living with a disability, Robbie’s achievements have been recognised with prestigious awards, including a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to study a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution and Mediation at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel. 

More recently, Robbie returned from living in Mexico where she interned as a human rights monitor for Disability Rights International. Having witnessed first hand the appalling conditions that people with disabilities live in, Robbie decided she wanted to be an active part of the solution. In 2014 Robbie established The Lucy Foundation – an organisation that connects the dots between business, trade, employment, poverty and disability. The first Lucy project is based in southern Mexico and addresses the training, employment and human rights of indigenous persons with disabilities through organic coffee production.

Robbie is a part-time long-distance student at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago. She is in the first year of her PhD, focusing on human rights and the protection of people with disabilities during armed conflict.

Aidan Gnoth

AidanI’m a second year PhD student at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict studies. My research interests are on humanitarian intervention and peace operations and my doctoral project focuses on the ways in which academics seek to transform practice and theory in pursuit of a more positive and durable peace. I am particularly interested in how academics attempt to contest orthodox and mainstream approaches to peacebuilding which typically reify conflict promoting structural factors.

I finished my undergraduate studies (Politics with Honours) at Otago University in 2010 where my research dissertation focused on the interaction between regional organisations and the United Nations during peace operations in South Sudan and the Solomon Islands. In 2013 I completed my Masters thesis at Victoria University in Wellington (NZ) where I sought to understand how regional organisations (ASEAN, AU, and OAS) had interpreted the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ norm. During this time I worked as a course and tutor co-ordinator for several papers on security and International Relations and interned at the New Zealand Council for International Development. After completing my degree I worked as a political advisor in local government before moving back to Dunedin to undertake my Doctoral studies.

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Sanjana Hattotuwa

Sanjana is planning to undertake a study of online discourse in his home country, interrogating social media perceptions and use amongst a demographic between 18-34. He aims to contribute to an understanding of how current trends around the generation and dissemination of content inciting violence or hate can be transformed into nodes and networks of conflict transformation. Since 2002, Sanjana has explored and advocated the use of web, social and mobile technologies in Asia, Europe and the US to strengthen a Just Peace, human rights and democratic governance. He continues to use his experience and expertise in online advocacy as well as digital security to help strengthen civil society in austere contexts, helping others to record and tell inconvenient truths.

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Natasha Jolly

NatashaI 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. Currently, I am continuing my training as a conflict mediator and negotiator under the auspices of the NCPACS.

I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of this inspiring cohort of academics and especially to be supervised by Dr. Heather Devere and Prof. Kevin Clements. I look forward to seeing my academic and professional endeavours come to fruition, while contributing to the growth of NCPACS as a doctoral candidate.

Jolly, N.T. (2016). Review of Umbreit, M. & Armour, M. P. (2011), Restorative Justice Dialogue: An Essential Guide for Research and Practice. New York: Springer Publishing. In Internet Journal of Restorative Justice, November 2016, ISSN (online): 2056-2985.

Tonga Karena

TongaHe pūāwai au no runga i te tikanga, he rau rengarenga au no roto i te raukura ko taku raukura rā he manawanui ki te ao! (Te Whiti o Rongomai)

For the most part of my academic career I’ve been involved in teaching Te Reo Maori at various levels from developing honors papers in Te Reo as well as being part of community revitalisation of their own tribal dialect. The creative field of contemporary and traditional Maori music and composition of Maori forms of music has also been a passionate interest. Participating in the role of the maintenance of language, cultural norms, epistimologies and its literary expressions revealed the extent to which bridging the cultural divide is fraught with challenges. Moreover as an active tribal member of Taranaki Iwi, and my own papa kāinga at Parihaka the home of the peace movement established in 1866 revealed a legacy of peace and culture that has yet to be analysed witihin a peace studies framework.

The central foci of my doctoral thesis aims to draw upon the cultural legacies of Parihaka and to posit the ontological perspectives of the past and present within the social and academic context of peace studies. Unravelling these threads will generate the discursive formations that will be part of a normative and philosphical framework that can allow the Parihaka experience to be relived and potentially instutionalised in the current political settings of Aotearoa/NewZealand.

Hyukmin Kang

HyukminAs 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.

Rachel Laird

Rachel began her PhD With the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in February 2018. Her dissertation centers 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.

Alejandra Ortiz Ayala

Before joining the doctoral program in Peace and Conflict Studies at Otago University, Alejandra Ortiz-Ayala (PhD candidate National Centre of Peace and Conflict Studies, REI Foundation Fellow) participated in two projects in the Research Group in Human Rights, at El Rosario University in Colombia: “The impact of the armed conflict on the mentality of the Armed Forces: A proposal for reconciliation and the Security Sector Reform in the post-conflict in Colombia” and “Assessment of experimental model effectiveness for political and social reintegration of adults having combat experience within the Colombian armed conflict”. These projects take an interdisciplinary approach and study reconciliation and political reintegration processes in the Colombia post conflict scenario. It was conducted with an experimental field laboratory qualitative and quantitative research designed with neuroscientific tools. The project brought together engineers, linguists, psychologists and political scientists who seek to determine which protocols of rapprochement are the most effective to achieve reconciliation between combatants, victims and members of the Army. In addition to the conventional measurement of the outcomes of dialogue through surveys, it also included using cutting edge techniques from psychology and neuroscience. These incorporated computer-based Implicit Association Tests (IAT) as a strategy to measure bias and psychological threat responses. Some of these tools have been used by other researchers to measure unconscious biases against minorities and predisposition to violent behavior.

Alejandra has a B.A. and M.A. in Political Science at Los Andes University from Colombia. She has six years of experience working as an academic research and main lecturer in Bachelor and Master Degrees. During the past three years, she combined her academic experience with consulting projects in the Army Forces and the National Center for History Memory in Colombia. As a result, she participated in different projects financed by USAID, IOM, Swiss Embassy and Folke Bernadotte Academy-Sweden Government. These experiences inspire Alejandra´s dissertation research concentrations on the Army and Police and their role in the peace consolidation in Colombia to better understand how the legacies of the war, specifically the ideological bias, impact the way that Soldiers and Policeman define enemies and threats, and now because of the new scenario, they need to change these definitions and readdress their ideas about the justification of the use of violence and their preconceptions about security.

Specifically, she will conduct experimental surveys and deep interviews in Colombia in order to operationalize something that she will call War Mentality in the mindset of the soldiers and policeman and analyze potential scenarios in order to mitigate this war mentality.

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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 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.

Nick Tobia

Nick TobiaMy professional background is broadly in the field of human rights, and with specific engagements in peace issues related to insurgency, impunity crimes in counter-insurgency, armed conflict, internal displacement, and political settlements in the context of mediated intrastate peace processes. I have worked on these issues in the government, inter-government and non-government sectors, with recent posts in the ASEAN Secretariat and The Asia Foundation.

Prior to the PhD program in Otago, I earned my master's degrees in human rights at the University of Sydney (MA Human Rights and Democratisation) and Mahidol University (MA in Human Rights), through the European Union-USyd MHRD Asia-Pacific Scholarship. I also earned an MSc in Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala Universitet through the Rotary Peace Fellowship. I am a grantee under the Global Peace Index 2016 Ambassadorial Program of the Institute of Economics and Peace and Rotary International.

I am conducting my PhD research at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies through the REI Foundation scholarship. The subject of the research is on multiple non-state armed groups and intrastate peace processes, specifically on the challenges to broad inclusiveness in formal track negotiations.

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Adan Suazo

Adan SuazoAfter finishing my graduate studies at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University,Sweden, I returned to my hometown of Montreal to explore issues related to inclusion patterns in peace processes. During the last three years, my research has somewhat departed from the inclusion question, and has mainly focused on how environmental variables may be harnessed to increase the likelihood of peace in a conflict zone. This topic has led me to present my work in venues such as the Canadian Peace Research Association and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's Conference of Youth. I hold membership in the Canadian Peace Research Association, the Otago Energy Research Centre and the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre. For my doctoral degree at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, I am exploring how qualitative and quantitative asymmetries in freshwater access may result in the emergence of structural violence.

Here is a selected list of my publications:

Suazo, Adan E. et al., Avoiding catastrophes: seeking synergies among the public health, environmental protection, and human security sectors, The Lancet Global Health, Vol.4, October 2016, pp. 680-681.

Suazo, Adan E., An Exploration of Water Cooperation and Intra-State Violence, Insight on Conflict, June 2015.

Suazo, Adan E., Demystifying the Wars of the Future: The Past and Current State of Water Conflicts, Insight on Conflict, March 2015.

Suazo, Adan E., Revisiting Resource Redistribution in Conflicts over Water, ReliefWeb, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, October 2014.

Suazo, Adan E., Tools of Change: Long-Term Inclusion in Peace Processes, Fletcher Journal of Human Security, Boston (United States), May 2013, pp. 5-27.

Suazo, Adan E., Political Deadlock in Libya and Syria, Conflict Trends, African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes, Durban (South Africa), April 2013."

David Whippy

David WhippyDavid is from the islands of Fiji and began his PhD journey at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in August 2018. His dissertation is centered on peace education in Fiji as a non-violent means of addressing the reoccurring conflicts that have beset the country since Independence. By testing and applying different models of peace education to Fiji, David aims to develop a model of peace education that specifically caters to the island nation’s unique ethnic and cultural makeup. A secondary goal of the study is to prove the practicality of the conceptual ‘Fiji’ model being taught in the national educational curriculum system. He is supervised in his studies by Dr. Katerina Standish, Dr. Heather Devere and Dr. Rachel Rafferty.

David has a Bachelors Degree in Psychology from Brigham Young University-Hawaii and a Masters Degree from the University of the South Pacific in Diplomacy and International Affairs. He currently works as an Assistant Professor in the Intercultural Peacebuilding program at Brigham Young University-Hawaii. In this role, he teaches undergraduate classes on transformative mediation, NGOs and peacebuilding, peace education and peace ecology.

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Dody Wibowo

DodyDody Wibowo comes from Indonesia and holds a Master's Degree in Peace Education from the University for Peace, Costa Rica. He has worked in several institutions, namely Peace Brigades International, Save the Children, Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team, did consultancy work for UNICEF on peace education project in Aceh, and Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in Cambodia.

Prior to the PhD programme at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, Dody was working in Indonesia as a researcher at the Center for Security and Peace Studies, Gadjah Mada University, and as a teaching assistant at the Master’s Programme for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Gadjah Mada University, teaching Conflict Management and the Philosophy of Conflict Resolution.

Dody is conducting his PhD research through the Rei Foundation scholarship. The subject of his research is on the factors contributing to the school teachers' capacity in delivering peace education.

Anita Clarke

AnitaI grew up on Te Motu Kairangi/Miramar Peninsula, the baby of a large family of Irish, Lebanese and English descent. After proceeding through the local Catholic school system, I studied International Relations and Media Studies at Victoria University of Welllington, where I completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honours.

I was working for a media monitoring company in Melbourne when I applied for the Master of Peace and Conflict Studies degree at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. Originally, I had wanted to write my Masters dissertation about colonialism in Palestine, where I had recently travelled for the olive harvest, but I felt uncomfortable and suspicious about the way I was writing. I ended up exploring epistemology itself, specifically the violent functions of the distancing techniques that characterise traditional academic research and the nonviolent potential of autoethnography and literary narrative.

My current doctoral research focusses on the everyday culture of settler society in Aotearoa.