18 December 2006

The next generation of peace builders and diplomats have graduated from The University of Queensland with a Masters in Peace and Conflict Resolution – the only degree of its type in Australasia.

The graduates are the third group of Rotary World Peace Fellows to complete their studies at UQ – the sole Australian university and one of only six worldwide selected to host a Rotary Centre for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution.

UQ Senior Lecturer and Rotary Centre Director Dr Richard Devetak said the course had been created to inspire and train future leaders.

“The curriculum is particularly designed to educate fellows in the sources of conflict, theories and practices of conflict resolution, and peacebuilding,” Dr Devetak said.

“These are essential in training future generations of diplomats and peace-builders.

“Given that many fellows come from conflict zones themselves, they have an interest in contributing to conflict resolution and peacebuilding efforts.”

This year’s graduating class included students from Thailand, Israel, Uganda, Finland and Argentina, whose professional backgrounds were as diverse as journalism, law and the performing arts.

2006 Rotary Peace Fellow Karla Castellanos said the program allowed like-minded people from around the world to focus on building a better future.

“The wonderful thing about this program is that it brings together people of completely different walks of life with completely different aspirations for what they will do as professionals and as individuals, and yet they all come here with the same goal of promoting goodwill, peace and understanding,” Ms Castellanos said.

As a course requirement, students undertake on-the-ground training to complement the research side of their studies.

Among projects this year, the fellows contributed to the United Nations earthquake relief effort in Pakistan, facilitated conflict resolution programs in South Africa, and worked with the Department of Information and International Relations in Dharmsala, Tibet.

An architect from Florida, Ms Castellanos spent three months in Tamil Nadu, India, where she assisted community development projects and participated in an initiative to help children living with HIV/AIDS.

Ms Castellanos said the experience had inspired her to use her skills and studies to help others.

“My dream come true would be to work for an organisation like the one I was working for in India,” she said.

“I cannot describe how great I felt when I was over there, working with the people and interacting, it was gratifying to me.

“I hope my work did something to help their community.”

Dr Devetak said the combination of research and field experience allowed the fellows to assist the global peace process in the long term.

“The aim of the Rotary Centre program is to promote peace through education,” Dr Devetak said.

“My hope for the graduating fellows is that they achieve their ambitions, whatever they may be.

“I know that many aim to put into practice what they have learned here at UQ to make small steps towards a more peaceful and just world.”

Media: Dr Richard Devetak (07 3366 7318) or Cameron Pegg at UQ Communications (07 3365 2049, c.pegg@uq.edu.au)