O’Connor Uses IPCR Concepts in Nonprofit Work

By Purnell T. Cropper | January 19, 2011

By Michelle Tooker ’07,’10M

While in Northern Ireland as part of the International Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR) program, Kelly Hays O’Connor ’12 was able to apply the theories she’d learned in class to real-world contexts. She also developed skills she can use in her day-to-day work as Communications Manager for the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House.

“My experiences in Ireland made theories I’d learned about in class seem less abstract because it grounds them in a real-world context and enables you to see how these ideas are actually playing out,” she says. “It is also helpful to go and see a country that you’ve read about—and the aftermath of conflict—firsthand. It helps to broaden your perspective.”

O’Connor decided to earn a master’s degree so she could extend her skill set and capacity to work for nonprofit organizations. She appreciates the flexibility of the IPCR program and says it’s been a smooth transition for her to go back to school.

“I have really enjoyed getting back into the classroom where I can learn about and discuss issues and ideas that I am passionate about, particularly with fellow students who care about similar things,” she says. “The fact that the classes are small really allows for a lot of great discussions and also allows you to get to know your professors.”

Even though she’s only in her first year in the program, O’Connor already is applying concepts she’s discussed in class to her work for the Ronald McDonald House.

“I have been able to put some of the skills and concepts drawn from my first semester classes to use, such as compassionate listening and interest-based negotiating. I find that having tools to resolve conflict come in handy even in a day-to-day workplace setting.”

With another year left, O’Connor is planning to complete as many international experiences as possible. As part of the IPCR program’s ID courses, she will go to Rwanda, Costa Rica, Serbia and Kosovo, and Ukraine. All of these opportunities will provide her with valuable international work experience and new perspectives as she looks to expand her career.

“My heart is in non-profit work, and that is what I want to continue to do, particularly on health-related issues,” she says. “I’d like to continue to grow in a management capacity and, if it makes senses, start my own organization at some point.”