A Unique Learning Experience

After a long and challenging academic year and a couple of flights from the east coast, I am genuinely excited to finally be here in Monterey for the 2016 Summer Peacebuilding Program at MIIS! I first heard about the SPP from a good friend, and I quickly knew it would be a unique learning experience. One of the main goals of the program is to bridge the (often seemingly irreconcilable) gap between theory and practice of peacebuilding in societies coming out of conflict or violence. And I could not be happier after sharing and learning from an incredibly diverse and inspiring group of participants, lecturers, and practitioners that I have met in the last few days. Together with a brilliant group of assistants, lecturers, and collaborators, Dr. Pushpa Iyer (the program’s coordinator) has designed a truly fantastic program.

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My name is Luigi Mendez, born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, and I’m currently a PhD student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Growing up in Caracas, a city with some of the highest rates of criminal violence in the world, made me aware of the complexity and challenges often faced by policymakers and practitioners who work on this area. This, together with my academic background in Political Science, has fueled my interest in peacebuilding, conflict resolution, and in particular, criminal violence and sustainability (which are also some of my main research interests!). And even though I am currently on the more academic side of the spectrum when it comes to my interest in peacebuilding, I’m also very interested in exploring more practical ways to find solutions to some conflicts in Venezuela and Latin America.

I have had some memorable experiences learning about the different dimensions and tools for conflict resolution around the world. I was lucky to spend a month in Belgrade working in a theater workshop with the group Dah Teatar, which was founded in 1991 when the war started in Yugoslavia. This opportunity with Dah Teatar taught me about the powerful role and meaning of theater and arts in bringing reconciliation to a country that was torn by war. I also had the opportunity to travel to rural Costa Rica, to study the sustainability and equity dimensions of the struggles faced by Nicaraguan migrants in the country. And, more generally, I have spent time researching about criminal violence in Latin America.

I could not be more grateful to be here, more inspired and excited to share and learn from the SPP participants and lecturers, and more delighted to be studying in such a beautiful city.

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Sites DOT MIISThe Middlebury Institute site network.