<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1264012490284679&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Skip Navigation



Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Practice Fellows Reflect on Their Year at the Kroc IPJ

Written by Kroc IPJ

Untitled design (9)-2

Left: Rachel Hodel (RH)
Violence, Inequality and Power (VIP) Lab Practice Fellow

Right: Aliza Carns (AC)
Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Practice Fellow

What were your expectations before you started your fellowship?

AC: I knew that I would learn a lot, since this fellowship was going to put me in a position I had never been in before, working with community partners and having that outward facing aspect. At the same time, I expected that a lot of the work I’d be doing would be research based, since many of our external-facing products include the annual Women PeaceMakers (WPM) research reports we publish as well as reports on other WPS projects. I found that the fellowship really exposed me to a bit of everything, which I really enjoyed. 

RH: I came to the fellowship with an understanding of the VIP Lab’s approach to ending cycles of violence and the types of projects that the Lab was working on. So I had a framework for what I would be doing, but I was very open to how that would look for me in terms of the specifics. I had more eager anticipation than I did concrete expectations.

What was your greatest accomplishment and/or reward?

AC: The Women PeaceMakers student event was truly a labor of love—I planned and put on the entire event with the critical help of the WPM student committee (Thomas Oliver, Darlene Hakizimana, Madeleine Koehn, Aakriti Adhikari, and Leeya Appleby) that I chaired. We had food, activities, a poetry reading from students, and roundtable discussions. Most importantly, we got some really great connection and conversation going between the students and the Fellows! Many students and colleagues expressed their appreciation for the event after, which was wonderful to hear and made me so happy and proud.

RH: Contributing to the groundbreaking research that the VIP Lab is doing with the project on threats toward elected officials in San Diego project has been the most rewarding aspect of the Practice Fellowship for me. I researched and wrote a literature review that will provide a foundation for the project’s research to build upon, conducted outreach, and helped organize and code data.  

What was your most memorable experience during your fellowship?

AC: Getting to develop those personal connections with the Women PeaceMakers and Briana was probably the most memorable part of the fellowship. Tania, Dolores, and Nattecia are all so lovely, and when they were in San Diego we got to bond and get to know each other well. We went canoeing, explored La Jolla, ate good food, and of course did lots of work for the events together! Speaking with them one-on-one and creating those relationships is something that I will treasure forever from my time in this fellowship. 

RH: I had the opportunity to participate in the Identity Based Mass Violence (IBMV) Volume Launch, which brought peace and violence scholars and practitioners from all over the world to the Kroc School for a week of in-depth conversations. We began the week by attending a tour of Chicano Park while what felt like freezing rain came down around us. But even the cold weather couldn’t dampen the excitement of learning from and together with the authors and thought leaders that were assembled. 

Aliza, what did you learn from working with the Women PeaceMaker Fellows?

AC: I've learned that peacebuilding is not just something you can learn in school (although having the theoretical and analytical know-how can be important). I've been able to learn from two different WPM cohorts that peacebuilding is about doing-- it's the actions involved in contributing to the evolution of a society built on positive peace. These acts can be found in a wide range of fields, and Women PeaceMakers have worked in a variety of them. Because of this variety, Kroc has gotten to learn from and with individuals that have important perspectives and approach peace from many different angles. I for one am grateful for this and believe it has made me into a better person and a better student and future practitioner of peace!

In what ways were you able to apply what you have learned in your academic coursework to your fellowship?

AC: I’m taking a class about narratives in peace and justice this semester, and it’s made me so much more aware of how words shape meaning. It’s been really helpful as I’ve edited and written reports and blog posts, in order to make sure my words are sharing accurate information and not misleading readers. Having a background in gender analysis before grad school, paired with the War, Gender, and Peacebuilding class my first semester here, has also been a huge asset in the work I’ve done for the Kroc IPJ as well. 

RH: My coursework in Leadership and Impact Evaluation has applied directly to the work that the VIP Lab is doing with the threats made toward elected officials in San Diego research. I also participated in the Rwanda Practicum, where I learned about the impacts of propaganda and hate speech in driving conflict, and highlighted the importance of having robust civic institutions and civil discourse.

Were there any moments from your fellowship that shed light on power differentials or raised any questions for you about how you fit into the field?

AC: I definitely started thinking more about the ethics of peacebuilding after experiencing this fellowship and Kroc School classes. Andy Blum, executive director of the Kroc IPJ, hosted a short grant writing session for the Practice Fellows that opened my eyes to the power dynamics between donors, implementers, and partners. Confronting the reality that there are power differentials even in a field like peacebuilding was disappointing and uncomfortable, but a very necessary wake-up call for understanding how to do good in this field. I'm grateful for the tough questions the fellowship has pushed me to wrestle with.

What marketable skills did your fellowship help to cultivate?

AC: Event planning and management, leadership and communication, qualitative research, writing and editing, and many more.

RH: I’ve had the opportunity to work directly on a first-of-its-kind research project, the San Diego Threats. I researched and wrote the literature review that provides the context for the project, helped with basic data coding and analysis, and provided input into the program materials and design. I’ve learned about the different challenges of developing and implementing this type of project. 

In light of your fellowship experience, how have your professional goals evolved?

AC: If anything, I feel like they’ve gotten more confusing, but in the best way! Going in, I thought research was where I wanted to be, but now I’m realizing that I also like many of the program management aspects and event planning. I like interfacing with people in the community a lot more than I thought I would. I know I want to focus on gender justice, but am unsure in what capacity and specific field. Colleagues at the Kroc IPJ have been instrumental in helping me network and explore different pathways, including connecting me to friends and colleagues that are working in the spaces I’m interested in exploring further. 

RH: I still don’t know where my professional goals will take me, but I feel more confident in my ability to learn and be adaptable in whatever context I find myself in.

What advice would you have for a future Kroc IPJ Practice Fellow?

AC: It’s okay (and normal) to doubt your place and your abilities, but don’t let that hold you back from doing the best you can. Remember that there was a reason you were selected for this fellowship, and know that this is a practice fellowship--as in it’s expected that you will need some guidance and won’t be perfect. The Kroc IPJ has a whole team of people that want to support you and help you learn.

RH: Take as much advantage of all the opportunities that you have as you possibly can. This fellowship provides so many opportunities to learn as well as amazing role models to follow.

Kroc IPJ

About the Author

Kroc IPJ

The Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice (Kroc IPJ) launched in 2001 with a vision of active peacebuilding. In 2007, the Kroc IPJ became part of the newly established Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, a global hub for peacebuilding and social innovation. The core of the Kroc IPJ mission is to co-create learning with peacemakers — learning that is deeply grounded in the lived experience of peacemakers around the world, that is made rigorous by our place within a university ecosystem and that is immediately and practically applied by peacemakers to end cycles of violence.