“Openness to possibility has been really important to me and my journey,” shared Katie Gingerich (BA, 2015), a Grebel alumna who founded The Ripple Effect Education (TREE) – a non-profit peace education organization, during her undergraduate studies. “Stepping out and starting this organization didn’t just happen overnight,” explained Katie. “Grebel’s opportunities are what made me who I am.”  

She spent her first year of university living in the Grebel residence and remained connected as an associate for the rest of her degree in Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS). She recounts that the PACS program is what brought her to Grebel, but the community is what made her stay. Whether it was “running around challenging roommates to random bets” or “taking in the late-night music in the Chapel,” Katie fondly reminisced about the memories she made on the Grebel campus. 

The start of Katie’s journey dates back to her early high school days, where her love of writing and storytelling inspired her dream of becoming a journalist. Her goals slowly changed as she became involved with her school’s social justice club and was invited to “think more broadly about the world and her place in it.” Exploring various kinds of peacebuilding opportunities in this club led Katie to wonder how she could use her storytelling skills in a way that could truly help make the world a better place. She focused on the question of how she could contribute to the world around her, and soon became fascinated with how to solve bigger global issues. This fascination and energy are what led to a major door opening in Katie’s journey, the pursuit of higher education in Peace and Conflict Studies.  

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“I was so keen during my undergrad, like how do I start practicing this?” said Katie about the new peacemaking skills she was learning. “I was itching to get started.”  To say that Katie was involved within the Grebel community would be an understatement – she got engaged very quickly. When she heard about the opportunity to coordinate Grebel’s Peace Camp, she jumped on it, as this was a great chance to apply her peacebuilding knowledge from class. This role helped shape the course of her career. 

Katie became actively involved in growing Peace Camp’s audience, travelling to schools and offering workshops to students and teachers, showcasing the camp’s mission and methods. In just the first summer, Katie introduced Peace Camp to 60 classrooms, and by the following summer, her work gained momentum when she doubled that number, visiting an astonishing 120 classrooms. “There was huge traction and excitement within schools about this,” Katie said, which led her to question if there was a way to fully integrate peace education into school systems in a sustainable way. This question became the main driving force behind Katie’s pursuit in her field, which led her to complete her undergraduate thesis on peace education in Ontario and the analysis of its curriculum. When she wasn’t caught up in these commitments as a student, Katie also found time to serve on Grebel’s Chapel Committee. 

Katie’s involvement in Peace Camp sparked the passion within her for peace education and allowed her to discover her niche – teaching conflict resolution in schools. In 2015, Katie founded and served as the Executive Director of The Ripple Effect Education (TREE), a charitable organization that offers children and youth conflict resolution and social justice-based learning.  Under Katie’s leadership, the organization conducted more than 1100 workshops with 8700 youth across Southern Ontario and provided resources to teachers and parents to develop peace education concepts in their classrooms and homes. “It was an incredible learning experience, with several transformational opportunities,” Katie recounted. “Some of my colleagues were surprised when they found out I was leaving my regular job to pursue TREE full-time,” Katie shared with a laugh. “But living in possibility, being open to opportunities, and willing to take a few risks is a part of who I am.”  

Katie’s involvement with Grebel continued as TREE was one of the first participants in Grebel's Centre for Peace Advancement Peace Incubator program. She saw the Centre build from the ground up into the dynamic space that it is today. “Working alongside other innovators and peacebuilders invited me to think about and open the scope of peacebuilding,” shared Katie.  

Today, Katie works as a Manager of National Program Operations at Shad Canada, a notable Canadian summer program for high school students. Katie said, however, that it took many years of learning about herself and developing skills before she was able to hold the position she does today – much of which she credits to her time at Grebel.  “I wouldn’t be who I am today without Grebel,” she said, emphasizing the openness to new possibilities and leadership qualities she gained during her days on campus.  

“Grebel professors are really cool people,” Katie said with a smile, as she offered advice to current students. “Be open to getting to know them. Be open to new people, be open to different opportunities,” she advised. “A lot of my journey has just been saying ‘yes’ to different opportunities that have come up and being willing to take some really, really scary risks,” – a powerful mindset born at Grebel, with the potential to carry her as far as she can dream.   

Katie's story is part of Grebel's 60 Stories for 60 Years project. Check out our 60 Stories page for more articles in this series. If you would like to nominate a Grebel alumnus to share about their experiences at Grebel, please submit a nomination form.

By Farhan Saeed 

Katie Gingerich graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Peace and Conflict Studies and Religious Studies, and she completed a Master of Education from Wilfrid Laurier University. Today, she is a skilled facilitator, mediator and designer, working as a Manager of National Program Operations at Shad Canada.