Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) produces diverse, interdisciplinary alumni that have the skill set to work all over the world, in a multitude of fields and industries.
Expand each of the tabs to read a short profile of some of our alumni and the different paths they have chosen.
Business and Private Sector
Samantha Estoesta - Communications and Government Relations, Tech Firm
Samantha is contributing to the field of social justice through her job in a tech firm and slam poetry. Having completed her MA in Intercultural Communication at Royal Roads University, she is now performing her slam poetry professionally as well as working in government relations and communications in a tech firm. The purpose of her slam poetry is to vocalize multiracial identity through spoken word. Through her role in the tech firm, Samantha works to promote females in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. This involves meeting with MPs and MPPs as well as promoting the Curiosity program to high school students. In both her slam poetry and working at the firm, Samantha credits PACS with teaching her many important lessons.
A few specific courses particularly resonated with Samantha. These include Intercultural Methods of Conflict Resolution, Peace in Perilous Times, and the research courses (PACS 401 and 402) which prepared her for graduate school and had a tight-knit group of students. She also appreciated the arts-based inquiry option available in most PACS courses. This enabled her to make documentaries, poems, stories, and other creative projects. This aspect of PACS allowed her to develop her passion for slam poetry.
Samantha also found that it allowed her to focus a PACS perspective on her interests. Her advice for future PACS students is not to feel obligated to be one “version” of PACS but rather to take any course and go broad. Connecting with professors is one of the highlights of the program which can open many doors.
Steven Jennings - Business Development Representative, Vidyard
Steven is the Business Development Representative, Enterprise at Vidyard. He identifies target customers in the Enterprise space, performs a high-level analysis of the current strategy, and identifies opportunities where Vidyard can create value.
This work is significant to Steven because it contributes to the technology start-up community that is growing in Kitchener. Steve says, “Life in the start-up space is always changing and the ability to adapt is key.”
Since Steven started with Vidyard, the company has more than doubled in size, and they plan to move into a new space in downtown Kitchener. He says, “Everyone in our company contributes to the success of Vidyard, and that's what makes every day exciting, we’re always working towards the next big thing!”
Emily Mininger - Marketing Coordinator, Ontario Teacher's Insurance Plan (OTIP)
Emily is a Marketing Coordinator at OTIP, where she writes blog content, deploys OTIP’s marketing e-communications, and assists in implementing marketing campaigns. This role helps Emily support teachers with products they need and build skills she can use to further her career in non-profit communications.
After graduating from PACS in 2014, Emily worked for two years as an Academic Advisor for the University of Waterloo Psychology department. During those years she also started a local group KW Peace, which brought together different peace and social justice groups in the Kitchener-Waterloo area for networking and collaboration.
After gravitating toward communications activities in her volunteer roles, Emily realized that she wanted to pursue a career in communications, so she went back to school to complete a one-year post-graduate certificate in Public Relations and Corporate Communications at Centennial College. Upon graduation, she worked for a year as a Communications Coordinator at CivicAction, a non-profit in downtown Toronto that tackles pressing urban issues in the GTA by working with people across sectors and backgrounds. Once that contract ended, Emily wanted to move back to Kitchener-Waterloo while building her marketing and communications skills and landing her current job at OTIP.
Catherine You - Consultant Sentinel Grants, Firetail
Catherine completed a PACS diploma in 2012 and her studies were the first step in her path to a career in social enterprise and international development. Upon completion of a Bachelor of Math at the University of Waterloo, Catherine started her career as an IT Risk Advisory Services Associate. However, she soon realized that she was looking for more: something more fulfilling and meaningful. Having taken a few courses in PACS during her undergrad, Catherine was drawn back to the University of Waterloo to pursue a Diploma in PACS.
Upon completion of her Diploma, Catherine moved to the UK to join a social enterprise leadership program called On Purpose. On Purpose is a one-year fellowship designed to develop leaders in the social enterprise sector. The program combines two placements with purpose-driven organizations and comprehensive training. One of her placements was with Social Enterprise UK, a membership body for social enterprises, whose goal is to grow the social enterprise movement. They do this through public awareness campaigns, robust research for the sector, and the development of social enterprise networks.
She now works at Firetail, a consulting firm for socially conscious organizations. At Firetail, Catherine works on the Agricultural, Learning, and Impacts Network initiative, which specializes in improving monitoring and evaluation in agricultural development programs. She’s currently working on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Sentinel Grant Program, measuring results against the foundation’s strategies. This involves providing technical support to 26 agricultural development grantees in South-East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Catherine helps organizations figure out what they need to measure, to show that they have made an impact and what they can learn from the data. She has had the opportunity to visit many of the projects she works with, including recent trips to Ghana and Uganda.
Kate Daley - Co-Founder, Smart Growth Waterloo Region
After getting involved in local transit politics in Waterloo, Kate and her colleagues started Smart Growth Waterloo Region to support and defend plans to combat the expansion of urban areas in Waterloo. A grassroots group working to coordinate community involvement and build consensus, Smart Growth lobbies local and provincial officials on policies that protect rural communities and farmland.
Inspired in part by connections between scholarship and practice that she saw modeled in the PACS program, Kate decided to connect her community advocacy with her work as a doctoral student in Political Science at York University. She is currently finishing her Ph.D. dissertation, examining the politics of growth management and the light rail transit project in Waterloo.
Kate finds the PACS program provided her with a chance to think in a structured way regarding how people address conflict differently. Courses like Christian Approaches to Peacemaking and Quest for Peace in Literature and Film helped her to think about different ways in which people deal with evidence. These classes helped her develop skills to see already-present problems and questions in a new light. This can be applied at a local and global level, and Kate is currently applying it in her study of how municipal politicians understand urban growth. She hopes to publish her dissertation work as a book that is accessible to members of the community, to help build public understanding of why politicians make the decisions that they do.
While there is a tendency to see one’s undergraduate degree as dictating what one pursues, Kate finds that this is not necessary or helpful. “There are many jobs that want broad, diverse skills,” she notes, “and so PACS is a far more applicable field of study than many other programs.
Katie Gingerich - Founder and Executive Director, The Ripple Effect Education
Katie works as the executive director of The Ripple Effect Education, a peace education organization that equips children, youth, and those who work with youth with the tools they need to transform conflict and seek justice. TREE programs bring interdisciplinary conflict resolution and social justice training to elementary classrooms, high school leadership teams, community youth groups, and camps in Ontario. Since 2016, TREE has facilitated over 600 workshops with nearly 5,000 young people.
Engaging the students is a huge part of Katie’s job and the success of TREE’s programs. Katie says “As young people, we often know the right answers when it comes to getting along with others, and rising against injustice, but we don’t put those answers into practice. In TREE programs, our goal is to give young people an opportunity to practice conflict transformation and advocacy through games, simulations, role-plays, and discussion.”
As an entrepreneur and a PACS graduate, Katie believes in the resources that are available on campus for students, as they have provided a path to develop her program and apply for funding. When it comes to TREE and peace education, Katie says, “In Waterloo, in an innovative ecosystem, we can apply innovation strategies in our work to build peace.”
Nina Bailey-Dick - Social Planning Associate, Region of Waterloo
When Nina Bailey-Dick began at the University of Waterloo (1992-1999) she knew that it was community development that interested her, and since the university did not offer this as a program, she chose to pursue a General Arts degree with a PACS option; taking courses that would prepare her for working in community development. Following her graduation, Nina joined the Christian Peacemaker Teams, an international organization that partners with nonviolent movements around the world and places teams at the invitation of local peacemaking communities that are confronting situations of lethal conflict. Nina spent a couple of weeks at a time living in New Brunswick with Burnt Church First Nation (Eskɨnuopitijk) a Mi'kmaq First Nation band government during the Burnt Church Crisis.
Shortly after, Nina returned to Waterloo Region to pursue a Masters in Community Psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University. After moving to Indiana for a year while her husband completed seminary, Nina began working for the Region of Waterloo as a Social Planning Associate supporting first Public Health and then Community Services with the Employment and Income Support Division. In this role Nina works behind the scenes to evaluate programs, to discuss and plan improvements, and to bring in client voices to ensure the programs are working for those who need them most.
|“I love the varied projects I get to do in my role. Right now I’m facilitating cultural shifts in the staff community, evaluating the clerical business practices with staff to find ways to make their work more efficient and meaningful, and collaborating with staff to create a data strategy for the division that will help us figure out how to measure if what we are doing is working.”|
This work however, has been part-time, leaving Nina 4 days a week to pursue other projects that she is wildly passionate about. In 2007 Nina and her father Wendell started ‘Bailey’s Local Foods’, a local food business with the aim of making it easier for urban families to easily access a wide variety of local foods. While this business began in Nina’s carport, she soon secured a business partner Rachael Ward and the company has since expanded and now works with over 80 farmers and producers to bring locally grown or produced foods to their members year round. Nina sold her share of ‘Bailey’s Local Foods’ in 2010, and began another project with her friend Leanne Baer: a community farm. Our Farm was born when Leanne and Nina and a few other community volunteers approached KW Habilitation about turning their 8-acre property of farmland into a farm that would connect people to the land, their food and each other. Our Farm was selected as a research site for Project SOIL, province-wide feasibility study funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF).
Nina’s passion for community development is not something that PACS gave her.
|“I chose PACS because I was already interested in it. I was talking about these issues since high school.”|
PACS offered the knowledge of the theoretical frameworks behind the desire for a healthier economy and thriving communities that Nina cared so much about. PACS helped Nina engage in conversations with others that then further fueled her passion to learn more.
Kara Bednarski - Africa Team Leader, Canadian Armed Forces
Kara has served in the Canadian military for 22 years. Her current position is the Africa Team Leader for the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command. Her work has taken her all over the world, from Bosnia to Afghanistan to the West Bank. Throughout her career, she has worked with artillery and air defense artillery, and more recently intelligence.
Kara believes that intelligence plays a significant role in the conflict. She says, “Intelligence and information are critical aspects of decision-making. Ignoring intelligence, or inventing information, can lead to catastrophic consequences.” At a strategic level, Kara explains, “Senior government and military officials need to have warning of conflicts so they can respond more efficiently.” That is the essence of what intelligence officers do. She works hard behind the scenes to make sure that the right people get the right information at the right time.
Kara firmly believes that there is no better education than experience. She thinks that it’s important to hear all points of view surrounding a conflict and to analyze the underlying issue. Kara asks questions like, “What are the grievances, human rights, or economic issues? What are the prevailing conditions regarding human insecurity that underpin the conflict?”
Only by exploring these different avenues of information can one truly get to the heart of the conflict, Kara explains. “Conflict resolution can only begin when these issues are acknowledged and addressed.”
Kathleen Cleland Moyer - Sector Capacity Specialist, Ontario Trillium Foundation
Kathleen Cleland Moyer has worked within the realm of conflict resolution since she was an undergraduate student at the University of Waterloo in the late 1970s. After graduating from Psychology with a PACS specialization and Drama minor in 1981, Kathleen began her career as coordinator for Canada’s first Victim Offender Reconciliation Program and eventually became Executive Director of Conflict Resolution Network Canada, a national organization affiliated with IPACS. At one point in her career, Kathleen felt compelled to work more with youth using a preventative approach to conflict and entered teaching as a Drama and French teacher, a role in which she was able to use her knowledge and passion for understanding and resolving conflict. Kathleen’s approach to teaching was emphasizing cooperation rather than competition, and focuses on students’ intentions and unsaid needs to help them get whatever support they needed to be successful.
Kathleen saw how powerful dramatic arts could be in the teaching and understanding of conflict and with her husband John Moyer (also a PACs graduate) she started a local theatre initiative called Backyard Theatre. As the chief playwright/director for Backyard Theatre, Kathleen uses theatre as a way to empower audiences to think critically about their lives and how they live together in a community. By day Kathleen works as a Sector Capacity specialist for the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
Michael Hunter - Government of Ontario, Public Service
Michael Hunter joined Peace and Conflict Studies as a mature student in 2004 to pursue an undergraduate degree, up until that point having not completed a degree during his professional career. Juggling full-time work and part-time studies through most of his degree, Michael took two years off from working to not only complete his undergraduate degree with PACS, but to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Peace in Costa Rica. Michael completed his Masters in Responsible Management and Sustainable Economic Development.
With a BA and an MA under his belt in addition to his background in IT and the insurance industry, Michael returned to Canada and began working on projects that gave him a break from PACS and allowed him time to think about what career he wanted to channel his education into. With passions involving both peace and business Michael toyed with the idea of developing a start-up that would aid non-profits and businesses in setting up partnerships that would benefit both partners. Through this process Michael soon learned that he was “not a captain of industry, but a lieutenant”, he found much more purpose in supporting others in their projects and knew he could be much more effective in that position.
Learning this lesson led Michael back to school to complete his Research Analyst Certificate at Humber College. Through this program Michael took an internship at Toronto Foundation, a charity that works to pool philanthropic dollars and facilitate charitable donations for maximum community impact through strategic granting, thought leadership and convening within the community. After a recommendation from someone working with Michael during his internship, Michael began his current position with the Government of Ontario in the realm of Public Service. In this position Michael works to develop a performance measurement framework for the Human Resources service development area.
|"The work that I’m doing now I can see relating to work I did in PACS. Part of what I do is trying to measure aspects that are difficult to measure. Within the HR community we are moving away from the idea that our interactions are transactional, and towards the idea that we provide advice. But how do we measure that?”|
Michael found himself asking that exact same question during a course in his PACS career where students worked to develop proposals for non-profits, and worked to develop ways of measuring aspects of their work that is not simple, measuring how their work changes the lives of people.
|“Having taken PACS courses, it colours the way I look at news stories and information. It affects the way I talk to people and the black and white ideas people have, putting a little colour in people’s lives and thoughts and to me that is one of the biggest pieces of being a peace advocate. If I can connect with and change 5% of the people I talk to, then that is great.”|
When asked about advice for future PACS students or soon-to-be PACS graduate Michael advised,
|“Don’t be quiet, engage people. That was one of the things I told my classmates in my 4th year course. I need you to use your voice so I can hear other opinions. If you want to be a voice for peace you have to use your voice.”|
Janessa Mann - Policy Analyst, Natural Resources Canada
Janessa works for Natural Resources Canada in Ottawa as a policy analyst in clean energy. She focuses on energy transition, economic and social development for Indigenous communities, international relations, and equity-based analysis. She is passionate about her job because of the opportunity to contribute to climate change adaptation policy, and shape how the federal government approaches Indigenous reconciliation. She completed her Master’s degree in International Development at the University of Ottawa, following her undergrad in PACS and English Literature.
Janessa acknowledges that her experiences in the PACS program confirmed her career path to try to make a difference in the world through policy and research. The two courses she particularly credits as having a strong influences were the Gender and Conflict course taught by Marlene Epp, and the Peace in Perilous Times course with Lowell Ewert and Mary Lou Klassen. Within Gender and Conflict, they studied the power imbalances present across the spectrum of gender experiences all over the world. Within the Peace in Perilous Times course, students were able to develop physical and marketable skills such as canning food and making wool, to break away from purely academic learning.
Janessa’s advice for PACS students is to get involved with organizations of interest as soon as possible! The internships she did as an undergrad, and the co-op program in grad school was instrumental in the development of her policy skills and career.
Stephanie Goertz - founder of Green Lava Inc.
Entering her undergraduate program at the University of Waterloo, Stephanie Goertz had no idea how a Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) minor would fit into her career or life. Looking back, she reflects that her PACS education is not something she can fit in a box or summarize easily but contributed to an overall perspective. This perspective and mindset have impacted her ongoing learning and how she can connect with others to make a change in her community.
Steph received a degree in Anthropology with a Peace and Conflict Studies minor. Since graduating she has collected several careers and become an activist in her community. In 2019, she stepped into politics by running in the federal elections for the green party and now in 2022 is running for municipal council. The last several years of engaging with grassroots groups and not-for-profits, such as 50by30WR, Food System Round Table of Waterloo, Nith Valley EcoBoosters, Let’s Tree Wilmot, and Waterloo Region Grassroots Response to the Ukrainian Crisis, have taught her the interconnectivity between all levels of government.
Reflecting on her degree Steph says “truth comes when you enter the university and start taking all of these courses, figure out what is out there, and start finding the direction of who you want to be”. Part of the journey for Steph was running the UW DECA Chapter. As she continued her degree, PACS stood out as courses she thrived in; “as I started taking more PACS courses, I realized the benefit of them."
When asked how PACS has impacted her career and life, Steph replied:
A perfect example of this is how she pulled together efforts to support Ukrainians fleeing to Canada engaging with hundreds of diverse volunteers who don’t normally get involved in their community by volunteering. Typically, what she has seen is the same dozen people volunteering in numerous groups but with these new efforts, it was amazing how many people came out to help. Steph reflects on her experiences being able to collaborate and engage people to help Ukraine: “[there was a] huge empowerment of so many people. It was so exciting, the door had never been opened for them before." Part of what the PACS program and ongoing learning in Peace and Conflict fields did for Steph was altering the way she viewed conflict and interactions overall, and this has impacted how she has been able to connect with people and make change happen.
Her involvement in municipal politics seemed to have happened the same way a lot of things happened for Steph: She sees an issue and steps up to do something, making a change in the process. Reflecting on her involvement in politics, which first took place in 2019, she recognizes the importance of her values reflecting once again in her Green Party’s focus has of working across party lines for the greater good echoes patterns of bringing people together for a cause in the same way the grassroots organization for Ukraine did.
When asked what advice she had for future students, Steph paused and considered. She talks about the difference in spaces that people will encounter after graduating. While PACS can seem like a very specific major she encourages students to not get caught up in specific fields they immediately associate with PACS, but instead to:
These words echo her path and experience in life with involvement in numerous different endeavors. She goes on to say that people will not always believe in you or what you are doing but you need to be confident in who you are.
Here she pauses and concludes her thought; “have faith” and elaborates “you will find people who agree, and you will find people who don’t”, but to Steph, this all seems to be part of the journey.
Health and Wellness
Hilary Sadowsky - Paramedic
Having first attended college to become a Paramedic, then pursuing a certificate in Indigenous learning at Algoma University in Sault St. Marie, to now studying PACS at Conrad Grebel with a political science minor, Hilary Sadowsky has a passion for learning. Although the PACS program wasn’t as clear-cut about peace as she thought it would be, its flexibility and interdisciplinary nature it was the right fit for her.
Hilary’s learning didn’t end in the classroom either. In the summer of 2014, she did a three-month field study placement in Uganda, working with the organization One4Another International, a pediatric surgical program designed to help children in Uganda receive life-altering surgeries. These are all “medical conditions we have in Canada but typically we’d have them dealt with early on in a child’s life like a cleft palate wouldn’t go years without being corrected, a club foot wouldn’t go years without being corrected… In Canada, they would never be left to go that long”. In Uganda, despite having a free, public healthcare system, corruption means that people are forced to pay anyways – which many can’t afford. The organization partners with clinics and hospitals to assess patient needs and connect them with a specialist or surgeon. Hilary worked alongside two Canadians and two Ugandan employees as a consultant of sorts, promoting the program and also assisting with the administrative tasks that keep the organization running.
The PACS program and her field experiences left Hilary with a myriad of options, from working internationally in aid and development to working locally with First Nations communities; the challenge becomes, “Which way do I go?” Since completing her undergraduate degree in PACS, Hilary worked in Indigenous education and went on to do a master’s degree in Rural Planning and Development at the University of Guelph, which led her to Inuit Nunangat research. Hilary has also continued in her career as a Paramedic.
Taylor Doss - Emergency Shelter Worker
Upon graduation from Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) at Grebel and the UWaterloo, Taylor Doss (BA 2019) was hired at the House of Friendship’s Charles Street Men’s Shelter and is currently working at the YW Emergency Shelter in Kitchener.
Through his work, Taylor has noticed the way conflict-centered roles can affect mental health, and how his PACS courses prepared him for that reality. As an emergency shelter worker, one of his responsibilities is leading a conflict resolution workshop. “We go over strategies for how to engage in healthy communication with other people,” he explained.
Rozana Al-Rawas - MA Candidate, University of Toronto
Rozana is currently finishing her Masters of Teaching at OISE (Ontario Institute for Students of Education) at the University of Toronto. She learns about the pedagogy of teaching and learning while practicing teaching during her four-month blocks. Her goal is to become an elementary school teacher and she is well on her way.
Rozana credits the PACS courses she took during her undergrad with helping enrich her experience in schools while dealing with children of all ages. It also equipped her with the knowledge and resources to teach about peace. Recently, in light of the Syrian refugee crisis, Rozana organized and assisted her Grade 5 students in writing postcards to Syrian refugee children. They welcomed the children to Canada and offered them positive and heartwarming wishes.
“I believe it is important for all students in PACS to realize the unlimited options the program has to offer,” she says. The multidisciplinarity of the program is critical and Rozana believes it will complement any field one chooses to pursue. She adds that the PACS program “Will help you grow both as an individual and a universal citizen.”
Brenda Fitzpatrick - Ph.D. Candidate, University of British Columbia
Brenda is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, studying environmental conflict from an inter-cultural conflict perspective. Using the Site C hydro dam project in the Peace River region of British Columbia as a case study, Brenda is attempting to bring an anthropological perspective on the environment, with applied world view conflict transformation approaches. Her dissertation is based on more than a year of ethnographic fieldwork in Fort St John, where she attended public hearings, rallies, fundraisers, and community events, along with conducting interviews, all related to the environmental assessment process with people on both sides of the conflict. Brenda says, “As environmental challenges become more and more urgent, I believe it is vital to facilitate conflicting parties in hearing each other out and to pay attention to whose voices are being heard.
Chris Hiller - Assistant Professor, Renison University College, University of Waterloo
Chris Hiller has been captivated with questions of justice since she was a kid. As a child, Chris felt an impulse to address injustice, engaging in social justice actions and leadership programs within her church and community. When she came to the University of Waterloo for her undergrad, she found PACS: a place that served as a launching point for her to explore questions of justice and peace through a range of disciplines, and in a way that was very grounding for her.
|“PACS opened my mind and fuelled my passion for peace work. The kinds of questions that surfaced for me during that degree—questions about power, difference, relationships, histories, responsibilities—those questions have stayed with me and animated my work all the way along my professional life”|
She found that Conrad Grebel provided her with a community that supported her values and aspirations, and this was exceptionally valuable to her as a student.
After graduating from UWaterloo in 1990 with a BA Honours in Psychology and a PACS minor, Chris remained in the Waterloo region for some time exploring different avenues of peace work. She found herself involved with faith and justice groups, activism against the Gulf War, and organizations addressing violence against women and girls. From there, Chris went to Washington D.C. as a Voluntary Service Worker with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and served as the Coordinator of Adult Education for Community of Hope, a community development organization committed to creating opportunities for low-income families experiencing homelessness. This work fully immersed Chris in efforts to grapple with race, racism, and white privilege. Coming back to Canada, Chris worked with Frontier College as the Coordinator of its national Family Literacy Program, where she supported provincial trainers in working with newcomer, low income, and Indigenous communities to create local literacy supports.
Five years after receiving her undergraduate degree, Chris went back to school to receive an MA in Sociology and Equity Studies from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. It was during this time that Chris began to explore intersecting relations of power, analyzing how systems of race, gender, class, and colonialism work to position particular bodies as marginal and vulnerable to violence, and questioning how such systems might be challenged. After that degree, Chris worked briefly with an organization serving newcomer women, and was then hired by the Anglican Church of Canada to coordinate a national program of education and advocacy in support of Indigenous land, treaty, and inherent rights. This work enabled her to collaborate with Indigenous and ecumenical partners in advocating for changes to federal Aboriginal policy; it also gave her opportunity to work alongside of Indigenous Elders, Indigenous church and community leaders, and Indigenous activists in holding the Church and broader society accountable for the colonial past and present, and in envisioning and working towards right relations.
From there, Chris returned to school to pursue a PhD in Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier University. At that time, her research involved interviewing non-Indigenous solidarity activists. She sought to understand the experiences and processes by which settler Canadians come to rethink their identities, place, and responsibilities, both in light of settler colonial history and in relation to Indigenous peoples and their lands, sovereignty, and rights. After graduating, Chris worked for a time as Assistant Professor at Algoma University, where she prepared social work students to work in remote, northern, and Indigenous communities. Since returning to Guelph in 2016, she has worked as a researcher and part-time professor; this past fall, she was thrilled to come back to Grebel to teach a new course in Indigenous-settler conflict and peacebuilding for the MPACS program. Her research continues to focus on Indigenous-settler relations, asking questions about what decolonization, reconciliation, and Treaty relations demand of us—in university classrooms and structures, in policy discussions and political debates, and in people-to-people relationships. Just as she did as a child, Chris continues to be compelled by questions of how to move people towards justice:
|“[My current work] seeks to understand how we get Canadians to shift in order to become open to questioning their understandings of history, their claims to space and place, and their identities as settler people”.|
Simon Palamar - Research Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation
Simon Palamar has always been fascinated by the world. Attending the University of Waterloo for his undergraduate, Simon received a Joint Honours degree in PACS and History. From there he went on to receive his Masters of Global Governance at UWaterloo, and finally to Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs to receive his PhD.
This fascination with the world around him Simon credits to his grandfather who worked for the Mennonite Central Committee managing development projects in Bangladesh. Simon would often visit his grandfather throughout his childhood and learned a lot from these experiences.
|“He was interested in the world and what is out there, recognizing that we live in a vast world with many different people, people with different values, hopes, and beliefs. And he recognized the importance of finding a way to mend those differences and manage those differences in a positive way.”|
These beliefs held by his grandfather are beliefs that Simon adopted, and while his grandfather triggered Simon’s interests of thinking in a global context, his time at PACS created an environment that fostered those interests and allowed Simon to explore them as future career options. In PACS classes Simon found that he was particularly interested in topics of international conflict, and managing conflict between countries.
Simon currently works as a Research Fellow with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) within their Global Security and Politics Program, and has been doing so since the completion of his PhD in 2012. In this position Simon facilitates dialogue between foreign policy professionals and national governments in consultations on sensitive policy issues including national security and refugee law. This role means that Simon is consistently working to manage relationships between people with fundamentally different values and beliefs.
|“What I’ve found through my work is that students should take advantage of the professional skills that PACS has to offer. You take a degree like PACS, and you can develop yourself. It’s not about learning facts and regurgitating them, but training yourself to deal with challenges, people, and conflict. PACS lets you take courses on mediation, negotiation, you can learn to moderate differences and that is so valuable. In every job that exists knowing how to work with people and how to manage conflict calmly is a key strength.”|
Erin Riley - Vice-Principal, St. Benedict Secondary School, Cambridge
Erin Riley’s passion for learning and desire to have a positive impact on those around her led her on many adventures both during her time as a PACS student and in the years afterwards.
Starting her undergraduate education in 1995 and subsequently graduating in 2000, it took some time for Erin to find the perfect fit for her education, settling into a double major of PACS and Religious Studies. In between her 2nd and 3rd year Erin participated in an internship which she still credits as an instrumental time for her development, both academically and personally.
|“The experiential learning components of education are really important. PACS has those opportunities to learn through experience within the program.”|
Erin spent a year with the organization One World where she first was travelling with a group, living in communities in Guatemala. As a part of this portion of the internship the group focused on learning about group dynamics including effective communication, intercultural communication, and problem solving – much of what Erin was learning in her PACS courses. For the next part of her internship Erin was living in El Salvador in a small community at the base of a mountain with a woman who had lost most of her family to war. Erin was integrated strongly into the community in this portion, participating primarily in the everyday life of the members of the community she was now living in. The final section of the trip Erin spent in Nicaragua continuing to live in the community and doing work with a women’s collective focusing on health care and education. The focus of Erin’s experience was learning from the people around her and learning from the community she found herself in.
|“The internship gave me the opportunity to experience and see firsthand the things that I was reading about in my courses. Everything I was learning in regards to Catholic theology and the peace process, I got to see it all lived out there.”|
After returning from her internship and graduating from UWaterloo, Erin was then faced with the decision all graduating students are faced with: what next? For Erin that next step was teacher’s college. Unsure of exactly what she wanted Erin decided that the practical component of Bachelor of Education would give her more hands on skills and more direction for her future.
Almost 18 years later, it would seem that Erin made the right choice. In 2001 she started teaching Religion full-time for the Waterloo Catholic District School Board at St. David Catholic Secondary School where she remained for 16 years, first as a Religion teacher and then a guidance counsellor. The past two years Erin has spent as Vice-Principal at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School in Cambridge.
|“I would never in a million years have thought I would become a teacher much less a Vice-Principal. It is curious to me that you end up in places you never thought you would be, but in the end, it is exactly where you are meant to be.”|
Erin puts her PACS education into action daily, constantly in communication with people and building relationships with students, families and staff. Her career and vocation as a Catholic educator allows her to keep faith, peace and justice in the forefront. Recently her school has begun a partnership with Community Justice Initiatives (CJI) to establish a culture of restorative practices within the school community. Additionally, she is excited to be in the early planning stages of a service/learning program for students focusing on social justice that will include a global experience.
|“Everything I learned in PACS that I use now I can remember learning in the classroom and through my internship experience. I learned about understanding people’s wants and needs, what it means to diffuse situations while validating people’s feelings and the power of restorative justice. PACS shaped who and what I advocate for, and the lens through which I view the world”|
When asked about advice for future PACS students or soon to be PACS graduates Erin said,
|“I didn’t enter PACS with any clear direction of where I was headed but emerged with the knowledge and skills that have transformed the person I am and the transferable skills I use every day. While you’re in school focus on finding and exploring your passions. The biggest rewards I got out of my education came from following my instincts, taking risks, and working hard.”|
Jessica Scott - Customer Experience Specialist, University of Waterloo
Jessica is working for the University of Waterloo’s Housing and Residence Department as the Customer Experience Specialist. She describes her main role as helping people with change and sees a strong connection between her work and the skills she gained from PACS.
“The biggest thing with any interpersonal issue is listening. So in my job you always start with active listening, where people can tell if you are paying attention. I find that many big problems are actually small misunderstandings, and you just have to be able to unpack a story to understand it. PACS taught me how to listen to people and unpack these stories.”
During her studies, Jessica tailored her PACS major and Religious Studies minor to focus on interpersonal conflict, including aspects like social work and learning how it applied to PACS. After finishing her Bachelor of Arts, Jessica continued to Laurier for a Bachelor of Education degree. “The goal was to always apply my PACS degree within the context of working with people and interpersonal conflict.”
Jessica wants to continue to work with university students in the realm of student services. A large part of her plan is to continue connecting with students on campus and making sure they are finding what they need to be successful.
Megan Shore - Associate Professor, Western University
Enrolling in 1994, Megan Shore majored in Religious Studies with a PACS minor. Afterward, she pursued a MA in International Development Studies at Dalhousie and a Ph.D. in Conflict Resolution at the England’s University of Leeds. Currently, she is an associate professor in the Social Justice and Peace Studies (SJP) program at King’s College at Western University.
There are three main aspects to a professor of SJP Studies. First, she teaches courses about the theories and ethics of peace, justice, and war. Second, she engages in research that focuses on the intersection of justice and peace. Her current research focuses on the role of faith-based organizations in response to homelessness. Finally, she mentors students in pursuit of their goals. She is currently on sabbatical creating a website called "nopeacewithoutjustice.com", which will act as a virtual hub to profile people, organizations, and events that work to create a more just and peaceful world. Frustrated with stories of hate, oppression, and marginalization that seem to dominate the media, this website will offer an alternative narrative of hope and inspiration.
Megan credits the PACS program for introducing her to peace and justice as a field of study as well as the work available in the field. She would not have pursued it without having participated in the PACS program and now tries to guide her students in the way she was guided during her undergrad. Her internship in Guatemala was particularly influential. Both Megan’s program at King’s University College and the PACS program at the University of Waterloo emphasize engagement and active contribution, rather than just academic work in a classroom. She has found that there are many things one can do with a justice-based degree because there is more than one path to justice and peace.
Maria Lucia Zapata - Ph.D. Candidate, University of Manitoba
Maria is a Ph.D. student at the University of Manitoba, researching conflict transformation and local peacebuilding. She teaches Masters of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at Pontifical Xaverian University in Colombia, Masters of Indigenous Governance, and Masters in Social Conflict and Peace Studies. She also does consult work supporting local organizations and peace-building activities.
Maria’s main interest is in researching and teaching. She feels that this work is especially important right now because of the current situation in Colombia, within the peace process, and the coming post-accord stage.
This work is significant because, despite peace-building developments, there are still a lot of misconceptions around the concept and practice of peace, human rights, and social conflict. This is true not only for Colombia but for many other countries struggling with violence. Maria believes that there is a need for more researchers and teachers to analyze and inform society about peace-building developments.
Recently, Maria has been working on documenting the origin and development of the Campesino group that evolved from a group of concerned Colombian citizens to a nonviolent social movement, and then to a political party. This development Maria says, “Illustrates the theory and practice of conflict transformation from individual change to structural and cultural change.” Maria researches and publicizes cases like this to show that peacebuilding is possible, and to provide hope for the future of Colombia.
Sam Vandekerckhove - Registrar's Office Records Assistant, University of Waterloo
Working with the university, Sam’s role is to maintain, administer, and implement changes to current student records. He also coordinates, processes, and codes Petitions for Exceptions to Academic Regulations for Arts students. While this may not seem exciting, accurate administration of student records is paramount to ensuring that UWaterloo maintains its high standard of operational integrity. His work with Petitions for Exceptions to Academic Regulations helps provide accommodations and exceptions from standard policy to students who have experienced extenuating circumstances.
Sam credits PACS as being a sticking point for why he was accepted for this position. He learned useful negotiation techniques, mediation, and communication strategies that he consistently uses when interacting with students, faculty, and staff. Further, knowledge regarding different cultures, religious beliefs and practices, and conflict theory aids in navigating the wealth of diversity that is present within the student body and general community. He firmly believes that the PACS program embodies empathy, compassion, and understanding, as its key values are integrated into every alumni.
Assisting students, faculty, and staff is the most rewarding aspect of his position. The work his committee does makes a genuine difference in students’ lives and can offer them a second chance. “I am proud to say that without the wealth of knowledge and experience PACS facilitated, I wouldn’t be here today!” says Sam.
Law and Law Enforcement
Eric Boynton - Sergeant, Police Services Training, Region of Waterloo
Constable Eric Boynton, recipient of the Rotary Peace Scholarship and alumni of both the Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) and Master of Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS) programs here at Conrad Grebel, is extremely thankful for the funding the scholarship provided him. During his time in the MPACS program, Eric worked full-time. His partner was also in school, and they had a newborn at home. The Rotary scholarship funding alleviated the financial pressure of continued education, giving him the financial security he needed to focus on and complete his schooling – without which he may have been an entirely different person now.
Before the PACS program, Eric had an outlook on the world that he now considers close-minded. Meeting his professors – such as Lowell Ewert, Nathan Funk, Jennifer Ball, and Reina Neufeldt – was an important part of the change he underwent, and they continue to inspire him and his work.
"My professors taught me to care about and love the world in a unique way. I value my time in the program more for its ability to help me grow as a person and a contributor to my community than just the plaque on my wall."
- Constable Eric Boynton, Equity, Inclusion and Diversity Officer for Waterloo Regional Polic Service
Eric is using his education to help inspire others, as his professors inspired him. He works in the Office of the Chief of Police as an Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Officer for the Waterloo Regional Police Service. In this role, he has the responsibility of providing education and awareness to those in law enforcement, both internally and externally. He also works to build relationships with diverse groups of people in the community while helping to foster an inclusive, equitable workplace.
Additionally, Eric is a sessional instructor at Mohawk College, where he uses his practical and academic experiences to teach diversity courses to Police Foundations Students. He provides these students with frameworks that will allow them to interact in a more meaningful way with diverse groups, something that is extremely important as they move forward into law enforcement and other related careers.
In the future, Eric plans to continue his work with the Waterloo Regional Police Service. “I think I am uniquely positioned here to make positive change, inspire new members, and invigorate senior ones with my positive and unique approach to policing,“ he says. He loves his job and is dedicated to making a positive change in law enforcement fields. He is now pursuing further education as a Doctoral Candidate studying diversity in police recruitment in Ontario.
Eric attributes much of his success in his work to his time in the PACS and MPACS programs. He says: "My first passion is people - and PACS/MPACS gave me the opportunity to grow and learn from those who have similar passions. My Police Service is values driven and vision inspired, but I was having trouble making sense of my practical experiences with how they contribute to a larger narrative of building a peaceful and civil society here in the Waterloo Region. My time at Conrad Grebel helped me develop into both a better Police Officer, and a better contributor to my community overall."
Kenny Hildebrand - Articling Student, Legal Aid Ontario
|"I’m learning things in law school about alternative dispute methods that I already knew coming into this degree, so I can go even deeper with the content. I can ask more questions because I have that foundational knowledge"|
- says Kenny Hildebrand. Having graduated from Peace and Conflict Studies in 2016, Kenny has since been studying at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.
Upon finishing his PACS degree, Kenny was completely unsure of what field he was interested in. His solution? Apply to all of them! Kenny looked at various fields: from law school to medical school to a Masters of divinity, and to social work.
|"The cool thing about graduating from PACS was that no matter which field I ended up in, I was going to bring something invaluable to that profession."|
Kenny has since been living out this reality at Osgoode, gaining experience in different areas within the legal field. Within this degree, Kenny has had the opportunity to build even further on what he learned in PACS by specializing in a Mediation Intensive program offered by Osgoode. This program allows students to learn and practice the theory of mediation, gaining the skills needed to mediate conflicts, meaning that Kenny can take his PACS education to the next level. For Kenny, two days a week are spent working as a community mediator, doing conflict resolution training and coaching within the court system.
|"Because I come from a PACS background my initial ideas about conflict solutions were mediation, not litigation. I knew about mediation because of PACS. I knew very little about the litigation process going into Osgoode. The values of mediation are the ones I bring with me wherever I go. I focus on maintaining the relationships people have and protecting people’s dignity."|
When asked about how PACS equipped him for studying law and going into higher education, Kenny was quick to proclaim his PACS education as a valuable asset.
|"The reality is that PACS is so versatile. If you want to start a business, a PACS degree is going to change how you define success in the business world. If you want to do nursing, PACS will make you better at managing interpersonal stressors and see how underlying social issues impact health. PACS doesn't just equip you for a job: it equips you to be a better person. You will become the type of person others will want to hire and work with."|
Kenny believes that the soft skills he learned in PACS are equally as important as the hard skills he gained, including research, writing, processes of mediation, and how to negotiate.
|"PACS is an education path that infiltrates all aspects of your path. It shapes you into a better person, informing how you can better interact with people and the world around you."|
Renee Woodhouse - Constable, Waterloo Regional Police Service
Renee graduated in 2014 with a Joint Honours in PACS and Legal Studies. After completing police training, Renee works with the Waterloo Regional Police. She recognizes the need for authority within a community, as well as the current stereotypes and issues. To reconcile these, she works to serve the community. There will always be conflict, but there are different ways in which to address it; Renee practices many of these ways in policing.
Well aware of current stereotypes and issues within the policing community, Renee focuses on recent programs where the police department is changing into a more healthy service for conflict resolution. There is a push within the Waterloo Regional Police towards community policing rather than punitive measures. This way, they take the time to engage with different groups to have an idea of what people expect and want from the police. This is especially effective more recently, regarding the influx of immigration. A more holistic way to address conflict and conflict resolution, this method of policing serves the community and humanizes police officers. It is far more effective to figure out why issues arise than to simply punish.
Pairing PACS with her Legal Studies degree, Renee found that there are alternatives to dealing with conflict that does not use force. She was heavily impacted by the PACS courses in Restorative Justice, Mediation, and Negotiation. These were refreshing and necessary courses that contrasted with the punitive ideas presented in Legal Studies. Particularly in instances such as family disputes where mediation is critical, Renee can serve as a neutral party and provide access to other resources within the community like Community Justice Initiatives, mental health services, and victim services. She is constantly seeking community-based, restorative solutions, only using punitive measures as a last resort.
Sage Streight — Candidate for Juris Doctorate Degree, University of Ottawa
After finishing her joint honors Peace and Conflict Studies and Legal Studies undergraduate degree, Sage Streight enrolled in a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree at the University of Ottawa. Sage appreciates the focus on Indigenous law and compassionate approach to the degree and hopes to move into a patchwork role after graduation.
As a PACS student at the University of Waterloo, Sage was happy to be in a faculty that saw value and hope in their work. Passion was a driving factor in her professors’ work, and she has found that that passion has kept her going.
|“The reality of law can be discouraging, especially from a lens of peacework, but my professors showed creative ways to look at things and effective ways that peace can be used.”|
Sukhraaj ‘Raj’ Shergill is a 5th year Arts and Business Student at the University of Waterloo, and his very first Co-op position allowed him to work with the Government of Canada in Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC). Fast forward to now and Raj has completed 5 terms at INAC, having a number of different positions including Policy Analyst, Communications Assistant, and as an International Relations Analyst where he was invited to have dinner with the Chilean Ambassador to Canada! Raj’s current Co-op position has him working in Treaties and Aboriginal Government (TAG) as a Negotiations Analyst, a position that works to increase the autonomy of indigenous groups through supporting self-government and solidifying treaties. As Raj is currently wrapping up a Joint Honours in Peace and Conflict Studies and Legal Studies he is more than up to the challenge of these positions. But even with this intense legal work Raj has combined what he has learned through the Peace and Conflict Studies program with what he’s learned in the Legal Studies program.
|“Peace and Conflict Studies is so important when it comes to interactions. I can talk to people and pick up on subtle interactions, I’ve learned interpersonal skills, and they really do come through. From what I’ve learned in PACS I know how to work with people and work in a way that ends in a mutually beneficial agreement.”|
Just one way that Raj puts this learning to practice is through his volunteering. Currently he is in a position that he believes perfectly illustrates the way that Peace and Conflict Studies compliments so many other streams of academics. His main volunteering opportunity is with the Undergraduate Mock Trials (UGMT) that is an opportunity for students to participate in mock trials and develop their skills in preparing a case and acting as a lawyer in mock court. This program bridges the gap of practical legal theory between high school and law school at the University Undergraduate level, and is the first of its kind in Canada. Raj has been a part of the UGMT since it began in 2012 during which time he was a participant, and in the years after was a part of the Executive team. Now Raj acts as President of the Criminal Division that is taking place in 2016. While UGMT definitely appeals to Legal Studies students it is open to students from all programs, and Raj believes that PACS students could especially benefit from it. The skills that are used in UGMT are especially important for students who are looking to go into mediation and conflict resolution, as often those positions will spend time in the legal system.
|“The Legal Studies side looks at the debate, but the Peace and Conflict Studies side looks at: here is my goal, now how do I get to it? How do I interact with people in a way that will help me reach it?”|
With the deadline for UGMT just around the corner Raj will soon have his hands full as he continues to combine his passions of law and public service. Beyond this, he has the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) on the brain, with a goal of attending Law School in the future, and hopefully one day working in the public sector of law.
But of course, Raj will not be leaving what he’s gained from Peace and Conflict Studies behind,
|“The best part of PACS is that you’re involved in something bigger. And through things like volunteering you can build, not just marketability, but how you can take what you’re learning and actually better things around you. By taking part in things you’re cognizant of the fact that you can make change, and things that society has to change for themselves become things that you can spark.”|
Venus Ho - Child Support Enforcement Attorney, State of Tennessee
Venus graduated from the JD program at Golden Gate University School of Law in May 2017. During her studies, Venuse researched the effects of the law and intellectual property on the music industry. She analyzed and recommended how to reform the current law, in response to the impact of the popularity of downloading music illegally. She says, “With new uses of technology and social media, principles of copyright and trademark securities need greater protection for stakeholders with amendments and reforms in the law.” She feels that as technology has developed so quickly, the law has lagged. Venus says, “The law is lacking and oftentimes there is not an applicable rule of law when it comes to life, work, and conducting business.”
Since graduating from the JD program, Venus looks back and reflects on her undergrad at PACS fondly. "One valuable thing to have learned from PACS is that mediation and conflict resolution is a big part of practicing law. Some attorneys often get appointed to do mediation or arbitration work, so having those mediation/conflict resolution skills can be helpful.
Venus is now working as a Child Support Enforcement Attorney for the State of Tennessee.
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Non-Profit Organizations
Sandra Elgersma - United Nations Refugee Agency
Sandra Elgersma is an inspiration for all Undergraduate Peace and Conflict Studies students. Currently, she is a part of the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). As a UW Alumnus with a Sociology major and PACS minor, she had a passion for helping people in need.
|"One of the things that stuck with me from PACS was looking at the situation and developing solutions."|
She was able to take her findings from the classroom, which served as a foundation for her career, and pursued various roles that led her to her current position at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Ottawa. She felt that PACS was very transferable to her role at UNHCR and was drawn to the field of work.
|"Two things inspired me to work with UNHCR – one being that I’ve always wanted to make a difference. The second being solutions–based work: working on something that creates long-lasting solutions for people. "|
Working at UNHCR gave Sandra the ability to do both. Her role is to work on complementary pathways to Canada – to help implement alternative immigration pathways as a route to Canada. To be more specific, her role is orientated towards refugees – those who had to flee violence, conflict, or persecution and have crossed an international border to find safety in another country. Complementary pathways expand options for refugees to come to Canada beyond resettlement, which is important because the scale of displacement is increasing, and traditional solutions are not enough.
Economic immigration pathways hold enormous potential. Of the 400,000 new immigrants Canada is targeting for 2021, more than 50% will be selected because of economic factors (ex: job or trade). Considering this data, Sandra is supporting a small pilot project, making sure that skilled refugees can fit into this economic segment. The project aims to eliminate discrimination and unintentional barriers in recruitment and immigration processes to increase the likelihood of refugees immigrating through employment.
|"Qualified refugees may be excluded from job-backed immigration opportunities because the recruitment and immigration systems weren’t designed with them in mind. Many refugees do not have valid passports for example– so governments and other stakeholders need to work on a solution to overcome this obstacle."|
This act is an inspiration to social activists everywhere as Sandra is not only making society a better place but deconstructing root issues in various systems – such as screening and recruiting processes in addition to helping those seek refuge in Canada. Her project limits discrimination in the screening process and maximizes the likelihood of immigration through employment.
|"You don’t know where life will take you. Opportunities will come along."|
Sandra indicates that even though this may be an ideal position for a PACS student, it didn’t just happen. She went through various positions over the years and has currently been in this position for two years. She encourages PACS students to take any PACS opportunities that may come their way – whether it’s an internship, volunteer, part-time position, or a full-time position.
|"Experience non-pay and volunteer roles to gain the experience in the workforce – it really helps to demonstrate your interest."|
Cassandra Bangay - Junior Consultant on the United Nations Development Program Climate Change Team in Viet Nam
Cassandra is a Junior Consultant on the United Nations Development Program Climate Change team in Viet Nam. She works most closely on projects related to climate change-induced migration and energy-efficient buildings. Her daily work involves writing op-eds and briefs, hiring consulting teams, and supporting the reporting procedures of ongoing projects. Cross-cultural communication skills and other soft skills that she developed during her PACs degree have been essential in her work, but the course that is most influential daily has been the Peace and Business course. One of the assignments for that class involved writing a grant proposal: an essential skill for any career in non-profit or public service.
Climate change is an intricate global challenge that demands deep collaboration, and forces individuals to see how their choices (both on the ballot, and in everyday life) are bettering or worsening the quality of life of others living across the world. In an office context where “decoupling economic growth from CO2 emissions” is the mantra, Cassandra's PACs degree, and the Mennonite community more broadly, has helped to ground her in the value of living simply and working toward cultural change rather than relying solely on quick policy fixes. Though both policy change and grassroots societal change are important and deeply interconnected, the way forward involves engaging the tension between ideals and what is pragmatic. Finding ways to engage both sides of this tension to identify simple, yet sustainable solutions to complex challenges are the best part of the job.
“During these times of political strife,” adds Cassandra, “it is important to learn to love and respect people who we perceive to be different. Relationships like these strengthen the fabric of our society, and are our hope for the future.”
She still uses skills from her Conflict Resolution, Advanced Mediation, and Field Studies courses every day at work. When creating and managing relationships, conflicts are bound to arise. Her PACS courses gave her the tools to work through these conflicts.
Amanda Botelho - Caseworker/Liaison/Operations, Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support
Amanda currently works at Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support (MCRS) as a Caseworker/Liaison/Operations. She spends a lot of time working with refugee claimants who have come to Canada. Amanda assists them in filling in paperwork, connecting them to a lawyer, preparing them for their hearing before the Immigration and Refugee Board, and helping them understand the immigration process. She also assists them in settling in the Waterloo Region, connecting them to organizations that can assist in finding housing, applying to Ontario Works, and enrolling children in school. She feels lucky to have the opportunity to meet people from all over the world daily.
She can serve multicultural clients because of the courses she took in PACS. She also excels in understanding the complexities of violence and war - something most of her clients have experienced.
On her first day as a volunteer, MCRS received a new client from Congo who was dropped off at their doorstep and left to fend for himself. The caseworkers were busy so Amanda was asked to help the man find shelter, food, and basic needs for the next few days. She remembers feeling many emotions as she tried to understand how he must have felt when he told her about his long journey to Canada and the family he left behind.
“For me, that was the first time I had ever interacted with a refugee claimant and it was hard to hear such a painful story,” she says, “I think that if I had studied a different program it may have been harder for me to adjust to working with people who have experienced significant trauma.”
Amanda feels like being with MCRS is a perfect marriage of her interests in law and international conflict.
Will Clarke - Fundraising Coordinator, Operation Groundswell
Will is the Fundraising Coordinator at Operation Groundswell. This is a non-profit organization that facilitates international learning-service programs for anyone between the ages of 18 and 30. We will focus on helping participants fundraise a portion of the money they need to participate in Operational Groundswell programs. The money that they raise is called the Community Contribution, which goes directly to the communities which Operation Groundswell works with.
This is significant to Will for a few reasons. He feels that the programs that Operation Groundswell provides are life-changing for participants. Secondly, and according to Will most importantly, the funds raised for the community contribution helps to support communities that Operation Groundswell works with across the globe. These provide amazing impacts for partner organizations, and since all of the projects are community requested, they ensure that they have the maximum positive impact and are giving the community what they need.
Recently, Will has helped a future participant in raising enough money to participate in the program. After she was concerned that she would be unable to go, Will provided strategies and ideas for fundraising that she could implement. When he checked in with her only a week later, she had exceeded her goal. “She was so happy- not only because she was able to go, but because of how proud she felt for reaching her goal!”
Bonnie Klassen - MCC Regional Director for South America, Mexico, and Cuba
Bonnie Klassen graduated from UWaterloo with a major in Psychology and a PACS option in 1997. During her undergraduate degree, Bonnie took part in the PACS internship program, where she was encouraged to take a placement in Latin America. Bonnie found herself working in Colombia for three months in 1996, with a justice and peace organization of the Colombian Mennonite Church, JUSTAPAZ. By the time her graduation rolled around less than a year later, Bonnie knew that she wanted to return to Latin America. Less than a month after graduating Bonnie had moved to Colombia for a 3-year contract. She remains living and working there over 20 years later.
When Bonnie first arrived in Colombia after graduating, she began working as the Assistant to the Director at JUSTAPAZ. Bonnie then went on to become the first MCC Representative for Colombia, holding that position for a decade. For the last 6 years, Bonnie has been the MCC Regional Director for South America, Mexico, and Cuba. In this role, Bonnie works with her colleagues across the region, giving direction and supervision for the work that MCC does. This work has included coordinating disaster responses, community development, and peacebuilding with local partner organizations in the region
Bonnie believes her internship experience during her undergrad radically changed the direction of her life. She found that the value of an arts-based education like PACS gave her the lenses for critical thinking, analyzing, understanding, and asking questions. “This degree gives you tools to reflect and think carefully, try alternatives, facilitate processes, and the tools to know when to step back and listen.”
Bonnie has put these tools to use throughout her entire professional career and has been able to use these tools when working with communities and marginalized people, following the leadership of local communities, and being inspired by them, “Often enough I see Latin American communities doing the impossible. My rational mind will think there is no way; there are certain things that just cannot be done. But I am constantly inspired by those around me, the communities, the churches who are doing the impossible for peacebuilding and dignity. People have persistence, hope, and resilience. They do not think about giving up. They do not have that luxury, so they do the impossible”
Kara Klassen - Independent Consultant, Sustainability, Gender Equality, and Social Inclusion, Market Systems
Kara Klassen is a technical adviser and project manager with over nine years of experience working in Canadian and international contexts in East and Southern Africa, South-East Asia, the Pacific, and the Caribbean. She has proven expertise in women’s economic empowerment (WEE) and gender sensitivity/inclusion, value chain/pro-poor market systems development and analysis, program design and management; policy analysis; training, and facilitation.
She is currently supporting a client doing a project in several South Pacific Island Countries working with the staff and their business advisors to better integrate an understanding of and approach to including women and girls in their services.
In 2019, Kara was actively involved in a Green Party Campaign to get a local Kitchener resident elected. She organized events, managed volunteers, and did everything in between. While the candidate didn’t win, support for the Greens went from 3% to 26%!
Ellery Penner- Assistant Manager, Ten Thousand Villages
Ellery is the Assistant Manager at Ten Thousand Villages, in their Niagra-on-the-Lake location. Ten Thousand Villages is a not-for-profit fair trade organization that creates opportunities for artisans in developing countries, to earn an income by bringing their products to North American markets. In her role as assistant manager, Ellery is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the store, communicating artisan stories to customers and raising awareness about the significance of fair trade in a variety of settings, such as schools, churches, and small groups and organizations. Sharing her passion for fair trade and social justice is Ellery’s favorite part of the job. She says, “It was truly a gift to see daily hand-crafted items from all over the world, to hear the stories behind them and know that those who created them worked in safe conditions, with fair pay.”
Ellery is now working through a teacher’s college, preparing to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. “I have already seen the immense value of having a PACS background, as I’ve drawn upon the skills I learned in the classroom to help students navigate through interpersonal conflict,” Ellery said. She hopes to take every opportunity to encourage students to think about social justice, equality, human dignity, and restorative justice.
Leah Reesor-Keller - Country Representative, Mennonite Central Committee
Leah is a Country Representative for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Nepal. Along with her co-representative, Leah is a leader in MCC’s development and relief work in Nepal. Their team of Nepal and international staff, work with Nepal organizations to run projects related to agriculture, health, education, and disaster response in communities across the country.
Leah loves supporting people and organizations who are passionate about making positive change. In her role, she works on managing MCC’s resources, while also looking for ways to further develop the ability of the partner organizations, to reach the most vulnerable and marginalized in Nepal society.
The recent earthquakes in Nepal had a huge effect on Leah’s role and required hard work and dedication in a stressful time. After the earthquakes, the immediate priority for Leah was ensuring that all team members were safe, and finding shelter for them during the several days of aftershock. Leah and her team also needed to learn how their partner organizations and communities they worked in, were affected and had to communicate this information to MCC. She also did several media interviews to raise awareness of the disaster, and to encourage donations to support MCC’s relief and recovery work. Leah says, “Within a day, we started meeting with partner organizations to make plans to distribute relief supplies to rural areas affected by the earthquakes. Through the hard work of our staff, partners, and local volunteers, MCC Nepal was the first agency to provide relief supplies in some communities. I'm very proud of this!”
Gibo Shim - Intern, Welcome Home Refugee House
For the past six months, Gibo has been completing his internship at Welcome Home Refugee House in Waterloo. This role is similar to his previous role as residence don at Conrad Grebel; he lives with people and gets to know them while looking after the house and making sure everything is running smoothly. The other part of his role is to introduce people to life in Canada and support them through small milestones like taking the bus, practicing English, getting to appointments, and doing paperwork.
The refugees who have stayed at Welcome Home during Gibo’s time, have come from all over the world. There are people from Eritrea, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia, Uganda, and Angola. Welcome Home focuses primarily on newly arrived refugees, allowing people to make lasting relationships with each other, oftentimes moving out together. Welcome Home has room for up to five single women and five single men, as well as a separate family unit for one family. In total, Gibo has seen 20 different people in the six months he has been working there.
The PACS refugee class taught by Marlene Epp is one Gibo credits with preparing him for this role. The speakers she invited into the classroom had a large impact on him; this is where he met his current employer. The class also helped him become more confident and prepared him for this position.
When finished with this internship, Gibo plans to work in international peacebuilding. His strong desire to travel is fueled by his love of learning about people and other cultures.
Stephanie Van Pelt - Consultant, Rotary Peace Centre
Stephanie works as a consultant for the Rotary Peace Centre in Thailand at Chulalongkorn University, as well as the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. For the Rotary Peace Centre, Stephanie has been working on creating video interviews of the Rotary fellows studying in Thailand. She’s also helped with the administration of field studies in Cambodia and Northern Thailand. For the Network, Stephanie has been aiding the Director of Religion and Inclusivity with a program where faith leaders come together and learn about religious extremism. Leaders typically come from Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand.
A lot of the work she does for both organizations includes logistics, as well as video work. During her PACS undergrad, Stephanie often took the opportunity to create unique videos instead of essays. This has helped her to develop her passion and skill with video work, which she now uses every day.
Stephanie has found her work with Rotary to be extremely valuable. She’s been able to learn a lot and meet fascinating people working in peace studies. Stephanie also finds that her work is significant to the world in general. Promoting peace education is important for the future of conflict resolution, and the Rotary Peace Centre’s Centre for Peace Studies provides a space for community leaders to learn from diverse perspectives and discuss the promotion of peace.
Recently, Stephanie had the opportunity to work on a video project researching the conflict in the south of Thailand. She worked with a group of professors, as they interviewed and told the stories of people involved, relating to the topics of gender, reconciliation, mediation, and conflict analysis.
Jennifer Wiebe - Ottawa Office Director, Mennonite Central Committee
Jennifer is the Ottawa Office Director for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). In her role, she guides MCC’s efforts to shape the Government of Canada`s policies on behalf of program partners around the world, working in relief, development, and peacebuilding. As MCC’s voice to the Canadian government, the Ottawa Office has a lot of responsibilities. Their work includes researching and analyzing government policies, meeting with government officials, writing letters to Members of Parliament, presenting oral and written testimonies, building relationships with NGO partners, and producing educational material for churches and MCC supporters.
This work is significant as Jennifer says, “For MCC to do the work of relief, development, and peacebuilding effectively, it is important that we address government policies that contribute to poverty and injustice.” In general, they use advocacy to challenge systemic injustices. According to Jennifer, advocacy is a good development practice as it challenges some of the long-term, structural barriers to building sustainable peace.
Jennifer can see that the advocacy work of the MCC’s Ottawa Office does contribute to development. For example, MCC has almost forty years of experience working with victims of cluster bombs through post-conflict bomb clearance (de-mining), as well as risk education and victim assistance in countries like Laos and Lebanon. Motivated by this long-standing experience, they chose to intervene in the legislative process to strengthen Canada’s ratification of the Cluster Munitions Convention. Throughout 2012 and 2013, the Ottawa Office had many meetings with Members of Parliament to outline their concerns with the legislation, creating a written submission to the House of Commons committee that was studying the bill. They also presented oral testimony to the Senate committee tasked with analyzing the legislation.
Erika Toffelmire - Campus Ministry Coordinator, St. Jerome's University College
Through the Campus Ministry department at St. Jerome’s University College, Erika offers faith-based programming to students, staff, and the worshipping community at St. Jerome’s. She helps to coordinate Sunday worship services, mentors student leaders, co-facilitates local service-learning opportunities for students, and collaborates with other university departments of various committees. She and her team at Campus Ministry create a welcoming space where people of all faith can feel supported and challenged to ask themselves important questions.
Erika credits her experiences in PACS to forming her worldview and informing the work that she does now. She was chosen for her role at St. Jerome’s partly for her PACS education; it gave her a background in social justice issues and she was passionate about sharing this knowledge with others. She credits the Conflict Resolution training and her internship in India, with teaching her the importance of working alongside people rather than doing work for them.
“The spiritual well-being of people is a portion of wellness that we don’t often acknowledge and supporting this aspect is an important part of my role,” Erika notes, “My faith also asks me to consider the justice and well-being of our neighbors and the earth. This is something I imbue in my work and call others too; it is a piece of my job which I see as being very impactful.”
John Wray - Minister, United Church of Canada
John is a Minister at Chemainus United Church, part of the United Church of Canada. In this role, he is responsible for guiding the spiritual, ritual, and mission work of the congregation. This is important to John because he believes that people have a deep yearning for a safe place to explore their spiritual side. John believes that this exploration is best done in communities and that a good community not only responds to the needs of its people but also the people beyond its boundaries. Therefore, John works within his community, as well as engages in outreach.
Recently, John facilitated a series for his church called “Who is My Neighbor?” where he invited four different neighbors into the conversation, in place of a regular sermon. They hosted a Muslim scholar, a former homeless healing touch practitioner, a native elder, and a farmer engaged in drug and alcohol rehabilitation work. John expressed that this experience transformed the community and allowed everyone to gain a new perspective on people different from themselves.