IPCR Students Organize Peace Conference on Campus, Arun Gandhi Among Speakers

By Purnell T. Cropper | March 20, 2012


Ariel Otruba and Colleen McQuade are bringing the first-ever peace conference to Arcadia University. Engaging Peace, a collaboration with the Peace Center designed to showcase and celebrate a broad spectrum of innovative approaches and ideas in peacebuilding and conflict resolution, takes place on campus March 23 and 24. Both Otruba and McQuade are graduate students in Arcadia’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution master’s program.

Students can register to attend Engaging Peace at no cost. Keynote speakers for the two-day forum are Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph.D., Director of the Shalom Center.

In an email interview Otruba, the Bulletin’s Andrea Raglione ’12 got a better understanding of what inspired the two students to organize the conference.

Andrea Raglione: Where did you complete your undergrad degree, and what did you major in?

Ariel Otruba: I completed my undergraduate degree at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., with a B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies.

AR: Tell me a little about yourself and your work with IPCR.

AO: I am a second-year graduate student in International Peace and Conflict Resolution and I am also a Graduate Assistant for Angela Kachuyevski, Ph.D., and a volunteer at the Peace Center. My research interests center on the study of ethnic conflict and identity, international law and politics and most importantly, the spatial dimensions of conflict.

Most recently, I traveled to Cyprus for five weeks and interned at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) Cyprus Centre, which enabled me to conduct field research for my master’s thesis. This project investigates the UN and its policy and relationship to the Buffer Zone, the space that partitions the island.

In the past year, I have also traveled to Rwanda and Ukraine through the IPCR Program and completed a course through George Mason University titled, “Conflict Resolution in the South Caucasus,” which took place in the Republic of Georgia.

Some of the most rewarding experiences, outside of traveling, have included attending and presenting at various conferences. To illustrate, this fall I presented two projects, one at Georgetown University and another at the Peace and Justice Studies Association and Gandhi King Conference in Memphis.

Later this month, I will be sharing my thesis research at the Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting. Following graduation, my goal is to continue my education by pursuing a Ph.D. in geography.

AR: What made you decide to host this conference?

AO: In the last year of my undergraduate degree and during my time as a graduate student, I have been fortunate enough to participate in many different types of conferences and symposiums, many of which have afforded invaluable experience presenting my own research projects and ideas. The motivation and inspiration to hold this type of event at Arcadia is largely informed by these experiences and the assets they have afforded.

After driving to the University of Notre Dame last spring to present at the Kroc Institute’s student peace conference, Colleen and I decided that it would exciting to hold our own event. We believe there are countless benefits to holding this conference. It actually turned out to be quite serendipitous that our Arcadia University President Carl (Tobey) Oxholm III called together some of the graduate students at the beginning of the year to talk about how Arcadia University could better connect with the surrounding community. We saw our idea as an opportunity to support the President’s vision in reaching out.

The stars must have been aligned because the Peace Center was simultaneously looking to hold a similar event in the spring and it’s because of our shared vision that we were able to come together on this project. We believe that this event presents a great opportunity for students to network and share their ideas. It also brings new people to Arcadia and really reinforces the University’s global focus.

AR: What is the conference about?

AO: Fundamentally, Engaging Peace is about exchanging ideas and facilitating dialogue between students, academics and practitioners in regards to the many different ways people and organizations work towards creating peace in our local communities and abroad.

AR: Which faculty are you working closely with while planning the conference?

AO: As a student facilitated event, the IPCR program has really given us a lot of freedom and empowered us during the planning process. In light of this, it is important to acknowledge and thank all of those who have given their support. IPCR and Enrollment Management, in particular, have played a really significant role in the development of this event. There are also a lot of other departments on campus, such as the Office of the President, University Relations, the Business Office, Parkhurst Dining Services and Facilities, which have helped us to make this event possible.

AR: How is networking for the conference going?

AO: Networking and marketing are always challenging and time-consuming. Being active in the larger peace and conflict resolution community through organizations such as the Peace and Justice Studies Association has helped us reach out and connect with interested students, academics and practitioners. In fact, I have been pleasantly surprised by how far word of this event has traveled. There have been a number of inquiries coming from outside the United States. It has been personally very inspiring to learn about how this theme, Engaging Peace, is so meaningful.

AR: Is this the first student run conference for the IPCR department?

AO: Yes, this is the first student run conference for the IPCR program and more broadly, the first peace conference for Arcadia University.