My Life-changing Experience at the Kroc School
Monday, June 4, 2018
The following is a post from Susy Escobedo, an MA in Peace and Justice student graduating from the Kroc School in August 2018. Escobedo is also an attorney admitted to practice in Mexico and the alternate Solicitor/City Attorney for Tijuana, Mexico.
The two years I have spent at the Kroc School have gone above and beyond any other academic experience I have had. In fact, I would say my time at the Kroc School is one of the most positive and transformative experiences I have had in my life. Not only did I find the most wonderful and brave human beings within my cohort, it also opened my eyes to the systemic issues that perpetuate cycles of conflict and violence, and the roles we play in them.
Reflecting upon these last years, I am overwhelmed with treasured moments where not only was I learning academically, but I was also having great life experiences. My mind goes to our field-based practicum in Colombia, where we spent around 10 days getting an insider perspective about the Colombian peace process; we weren’t studying history, but rather the making of it. My mind also travels to our applied peacebuilding practicum in Culiacán, Mexico, where we created eight working groups focused on local peacebuilding initiatives. Also, I am reminded of my visits to New York to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Conferences, and my three-month internship with the Permanent Observers to the United Nations where I was at the heart of the international Peace and Justice field.
When I started the program, it had been almost seven years since I graduated law school, and I was unsure of what to expect. Coming from the private sector, I felt alien to this field, as if I was missing some sort of holistic qualification. This is something that I have noticed while doing my master’s program: many people — including myself, at the time — have misconceptions regarding the Peace and Justice field. First off, there is this utopian, even fairytale-like, stereotype associated with our field. Second, there is a misconception that Peace and Justice is strictly for NGOs or the United Nations, and that it strays away from the private sector or politics. Third, there is a misconception about Peace and Justice practitioners and how we are seen as soft, sweet, cute or delicate.
Whatever doubts I had about my choice in master’s program vanished the first day of class. I knew I was at home the second I walked into the Kroc School. It felt as though the building itself was embracing me. I met my classmates, who would soon turn into best friends, and met the wonderful and inspiring professors. Two months into the semester, I found myself leaving my job at an international law firm to become a full-time student.
Peace and Justice is a multidisciplinary field. It applies across sectors and can be implemented in the global arena as well as in our personal relationships. It does not exclusively pertain to NGOs or to the United Nations. In fact, the private sector is implementing Peace and Justice initiatives more frequently. During my time at the law firm, I had been working on developing gender and inclusion policies within the firm—little did I know that the work I was doing then was peacebuilding. Additionally, when we look at policies being implemented, whether local or global, how often do these actually address the root causes of the conflict? How many of these actually analyze all parties and all perspectives? Imagine a world in which policymakers and politicians analyzed and understood the root causes of conflict, and proposed informed solutions that addressed the systemic issues at the root of the cause. As practitioners, we have a range of opportunities to implement and share our skills.
Before school started, I met a former student, Janice Deaton. She shared with me words of wisdom and also warned me about the “heavy” readings in our courses and specified that “heaviness” in these reading was not due to length but rather due to the material itself. Rape, genocide, war, poverty, oppression, torture and human rights violations would become a part of our daily readings, conversations and thoughts. Earlier in this post, I mentioned that the Peace and Justice field carries with a sterotype as being utopian, fairytale-like and soft. However, through my experience in the program, I can attest that the field is the opposite. As Peace and Justice practitioners, you are constantly learning and informing yourself of the many injustices people in the world face. It is your job to look at the world and humanity at its worst and understand the root causes of these conflicts — not just the form the conflict is currently taking, but how it came to be. Then, in this awareness, you must propose inclusive solutions that address these root causes, not just Band-Aid solutions to problems that require surgical procedures.
For those of you scouting programs or for those of you who will be joining the Kroc School this semester, there was something that brought you to this particular field—allow yourself to understand what it is. Make the best out of every class, and avoid looking at readings and homework as the means to an end. Be open to what the Kroc School and your classmates have to offer. If you allow it, this program will give you great life-changing experiences, it will open your eyes to new perspectives, and it will give you the skills to be a much-needed peacebuilder in whatever sphere you choose.
Want to learn more about getting your master's degree from the Kroc School? Take a look at our graduate programs in Peace and Justice, Social Innovation, and Conflict Management and Resolution.