Yelena Gyulkhandanyan

Master of Peace and Conflict Studies

Yelena Gyulkhandanyan“My interest in peace building and conflict resolution began when I lived in Armenia. The country has a long history of conflict and war and insecurity. As a child, I was able to learn from the stories and experiences of family members. They talked of the devastating effects of war on society and the challenges and triumphs that can follow. These accounts, along with my own personal observations, left a big impression on me,” says Yelena Gyulkhandanyan, Master of Peace and Conflict Studies candidate. It’s no surprise that she chose MPACS after completing her undergraduate degree in International Development at the University of Toronto.

The program boasts a small classroom environment which enables participation, allowing students to represent different perspectives and learn from each other. “Having small classes that allow for discussion, analysis, and reflection, really enables students to find their voice and shape their ideas. The program provides students with a strong mix of theoretical and practical skills, with the internship option being a large draw for many.

Yelena’s focus has been on human rights and social justice. She is also interested in examining the role of conventional and social media in grassroots activism. “The program has a unique focus on the role of civil society in conflict resolution and peace-building.” She describes civil society as the voluntary sector of citizen association, outside of the government and market. “We analyze the various tools, strategies, and sources of power available to regular citizens, enabling them to contribute to peace-building and strengthening human rights in their society.”

And as for the future, Yelena hopes to work in the NGO sector performing research and policy analysis in the field of human rights. She also hopes to one day return to Armenia to contribute to grassroots peace-building and development initiatives.

January 2014 Megan Scarborough

University of Waterloo

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