PACS Beyond the Classroom

The Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) department at Grebel gives students a working knowledge of why conflict and violence occur, as well as the transformative power that conflict can hold. Through PACS, students have the opportunity to apply the skills and tools they learn in the classroom to conflicts occurring around the world, allowing them to test their abilities. This past year, many students took advantage of experiential learning opportunities, including Peace and Conflict Studies student Cassidy Wagler and Masters of Peace and Conflict Studies student Leanna Feltham.

Cassidy Wagler Cassidy Wagler had a life-changing experience while she applied the skills and values learned in PACS classes. Cassidy completed a PACS Internship through the Beyond Borders program. She lived in Ternopil, Ukraine for three months, volunteering at a local orphanage for girls with developmental disabilities. “Now, when talking about theories or tools in PACS courses,” Cassidy reflected, “I feel like I have a new lens from my experience abroad that I can use to be more of a critical thinker when it comes to dealing with challenging conflict and peace initiatives.” The internship also sparked her interest in serving those who have been marginalized by society because of perceived disabilities or differences. This interest led to her current co-op placement with L’Arche, an organization dedicated to creating support networks for those with intellectual disabilities.

Leanna FelthamLeanna Feltham also realized her goals while completing an internship locally. “I was struggling to pinpoint my ‘forte’ relevant to the field of peace and conflict studies. It wasn’t until I began my internship at Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support (MCRS) as a Client Support Caseworker that I found confidence in my abilities, and my academic and professional interests began to narrow,” she noted. One of the ways in which her MPACS studies aided her in this position was in giving her an understanding of the importance of civil society in the overall experience of refugee claimants. As well, the interpersonal communication skills she developed in the MPACS program helped her not only to connect and create  trusting relationships with clients, but also to emphasize the safety and support they had with MCRS. Building on her internship experience, Leanna plans to continue working with refugees in the future.

Both of these PACS students applied tools from the classroom in situations where they made a direct impact on those in need. Their experiences have helped inform the way they now learn and have impacted their goals for the future. PACS internships are truly an experience in learning beyond the classroom. They give students the opportunity to become educated about new issues, to collaborate with people to address those issues, and to realize their dreams.

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