My name is Xavier Cyrille Kouame, I am a candidate for the Master of Arts in Peace and Justice. I am originally from Abidjan, which is the economic capital of Côte d’Ivoire. I studied for five years at the Facultés Universitaires Privées d'Abidjan (FUPA). I obtained a master's degree in international public law with a final dissertation on the protection of stateless persons in Côte d'Ivoire.
After all these years spent studying law, I still had a feeling of dissatisfaction. I was overwhelmed by a perpetual flux of questions that I attributed to the educational system, which is not very diversified in terms of majors. With the options being few, studying law soon appeared to be the most suitable option. After graduation, enrolling at the Kroc School of Peace Studies sounded like a calling for me. Côte d’Ivoire, marked by about two decades of inter-ethnic conflicts and post-electoral crises, has certainly infused me with a desire for justice. One of the direct impacts of the war on the country was the displacement of people. In 2002, like the majority of Ivorians at the time, I was a displaced person. Far from being an isolated case in the country, these memories I have of those moments have certainly propelled me on the path to the Kroc School. The course of this conflict, while part of a common narrative for Ivorians who were displaced by war at the time, holds a personal, private, and sacred aspect for each individual. The impacts of these stories and narratives unconsciously fueled my desire to study at the Kroc School of Peace and Justice Studies.
As aforementioned, I am a Peace and Justice Candidate. The Kroc School offers a diverse and original curriculum, so I had to choose between three main majors. One of the reasons I decided to study peace and justice in the first place is its much broader connotation in that it encompasses other fields like social innovation and conflict resolution. The other reason is that it offers a range of various solutions, both theoretical and practical. At the same time, it serves as a foundation and represents the ideal intersection between different fields of study.
One of the topics I am currently working on during my time at the Kroc School is also at the intersection I mentioned earlier between the field of peacebuilding and several others. I am working with the current chair of the music department here at USD on topics such as migration, incarceration, border issues (not only as the physical wall but as a set of practices), and issues concerning the arts, specifically music. It is about analyzing the outcomes of the arts in the sense that they might have intervened both positively and negatively in these carceral thinking systems and border logic. We have been working in refugee shelters and community centers with recently resettled folks where the ideas of space, time, and narratives can easily be altered and are worth analyzing in that context. It has been a nice experience of unlearning, making arts outside the box, confronting different aspects of storytelling, the body, trauma-informed approaches, and building resilience through peacebuilding and the arts.
Aside from the big picture, such as working for impactful NGOs nationally or internationally, I think that, almost a few weeks away from graduation, my journey at the Kroc School has been transformative. Transformative not only because of the class material but also because of the community building and all the connections I made here. I joined the program looking for answers to very difficult questions, and I am leaving the program with one question that summarizes my whole experience at the Kroc school. As it is written in our favorite room "how can we change the world"? Coddiwomple is a term that perfectly describes my journey here. It is to travel purposefully towards a vague destination. After two years spent in this institution, I will be expanding my education by starting my Ph.D. program next fall. Hopefully, all my previous volunteer and professional experiences, contrasting with my academic background, will help me find purpose on this wonderful journey.