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CRR Student Testimonials


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Eilish Boschert (2017)


I highly recommend ISE's Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation programme to anyone who seeks a challenging and immersive post-graduate experience. The programme appealed to me initially because of its location in Belfast. Having written my undergraduate thesis on Northern Ireland's 'peace walls', I was anxious to continue my studies in the heart of this transitional society, hoping that living in the city would offer more insight and opportunity. I was not disappointed. My time in Northern Ireland has been more challenging and fulfilling than I ever thought possible, and I have found myself devoted to the success of this society.

As an undergraduate, I majored in Religious Studies - focusing on religio-political violence. A post-grad programme that took an interdisciplinary and intersectional approach to conflict and peacebuilding was really important to me. I was pleased to discover this was also a primary concern for the professors who consistently challenged our notions of conflict and the ways in which culture, gender, race, and economic status informed each other and impacted upon a society's capacity to build and sustain positive peace. The students themselves came from a multitude of scholarly backgrounds, which aided in rich, nuanced conversation. Furthermore, our professors encouraged us to pursue research between various disciplines, creating a veritable melting pot of innovative thought on peacebuilding.

The Community Learning and Reflective Practice module was the highlight of the programme for me. I was placed with the Northern Ireland Foundation as a Peace Journalist - this sent me across Belfast, attending cross-community events, engaging with local peacebuilders, and writing articles for 'Shared Future News'. My experiences gave me a deeper insight into Belfast's ongoing socio-political tensions and served as an invaluable link to local peacebuilders while I conducted research for my dissertation.

Ultimately, the success of the students can be attributed to the dedication and encouragement of our instructors. They frequently organized field trips and workshops with local community relations practitioners which enhanced the academic experience by creating a captivating and interactive learning environment. Their unmistakable passion for their research set a precedent that my colleagues and I aimed to achieve. I am grateful that I chose ISE's Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation programme as I have been thoroughly impressed by the education and experiences I received here.

Malika Cox (2017)


I began my search for a Masters of Philosophy in a global peacebuilding program a few years before I entered the Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation program in September 2016. I chose the Trinity College Dublin CRR course at the Irish School of Ecumenics because of the academic reputation of TCD and the location of Belfast as a post-conflict society. I can say that the program exceeded my expectations and I have learned so much over the past academic year when it comes to conflict studies, conflict analysis and resolution, peacebuilding, transitional justice and the process involved in reconciliation after conflict.

The CRR course offered many modules that provided a great balance in both theory and practice. I especially found the field trips throughout each semester highly beneficial as well as the diverse guest speakers such as field practitioners, regional peacemakers, global diplomats, mediators, and ex-paramilitary community members. The intensives that were available gave the students the opportunity to participate in dynamic and engaging mediation and conflict transformation work. I chose the community placement module and was able to spend a semester with Clonard Monastery which is known for its part in the Northern Ireland peace talks that led to the Good Friday Peace Agreement. During my time at Clonard, I was mentored by respected peace activists and participated in cross-community reconciliation work, festivals, workshops, banquets, and seminars.

Regarding my research, I benefited incredibly by having my supervisor in Palestine while I undertook my fieldwork. Because of this my understanding of the root conflict issues of this region greatly deepened and brought the experiential learning to the theoretical. I am confident that because of my supervision for my dissertation, I was able to produce a much more meaningful piece of work which ended up being jointly awarded the James Haire dissertation award. I highly recommend the CRR course and I am incredibly grateful for the quality educators and education I received at TCD ISE in Belfast.

Siera Collins (2015)


In the five years prior to enrolling at ISE, I focused on the Middle East and Arabic language studies. However, I became keenly aware, during my time studying in the US and in the Middle East, that if I wanted to be impactful in my work, I needed a degree that would offer hard skills. My initial attraction to the MPhil in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation program at ISE was the equal attention given to theory and practice, and the opportunities given the school's network due to its location, relationship to other universities and being a part of Trinity College in Dublin. Still, my decision to attend ISE was solidified after I visited several other peace and conflict programs and realized just how unique and valuable this program was comparatively - not only for what it offers academically, but additionally due to its warm and laid-back community of professors and staffers.

In addition to the ISE modules which are well-structured and relevant to the experience of living in a post-conflict society, students have the choice to take classes in Dublin, providing an interesting contrast to the Belfast classes and a greater selection of modules from which to choose. Through some of the modules provided at ISE, especially those taught at Corrymeela in Ballycastle, students have the opportunity to hear from practitioners and gain hard skills.

Furthermore, ISE's connections to local organisations allows for hands-on learning in its community learning module. This module is especially important for foreign students. Through my own community learning placement, I gained a critical and nuanced understanding of post-conflict Belfast and made key connections for my dissertation research. Additionally, with the primary focus of placements being on reflective practice (integrating theory into practice) I was able to contribute to my placement in a meaningful way.

Dustin Moretz (2015)


Studying at ISE has been an incredible privilege. This program actively promotes learning about peace, conflict, and its resolution through listening and learning from those who have lived through conflict and experience its legacy firsthand. Intentionally or unintentionally, I learned so much through being immersed in the social environment of Northern Ireland, and the learning that took place was something no other program back in the States could quite offer. Learning from practitioners and everyday folk here in Belfast has been academically, professionally, and personally rewarding, and the knowledge and experiences I've gained on this program are irreplaceable.

Kelsey Thompson-Briggs (2015)


I feel so fortunate to have been a student at ISE. The combined effect of studying reconciliation in Belfast, a healthy balance of theory and practice, and the accessibility of the academic staff made for a truly unique postgraduate experience. The course enabled me to develop a deeper understanding of reconciliation, while also allowing for personal reflection on the society that I have come to call home. In particular, the opportunity to learn from peacebuilding practitioners through modules as well as community learning placements, facilitated an understanding of the challenges and complexities of the peacebuilding field, particularly here in Northern Ireland. In addition to the academic merits of the course itself, the emphasis on community, enhanced by small class sizes and friendly staff, results in a programme that allows for the development of the whole person, as well as specialised academic knowledge.

Emily Graber (2014)


I chose the M.Phil in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation because I was looking for a course that blended applicable practical and conceptual learning. I hoped to learn more about transitional justice, particularly about reconciliation in post-conflict societies. The Belfast-based programme met my hopes and provided a dynamic and engaging learning environment through weekly classes and intensives - week-long classes. Lectures were informal, participatory, and stimulating; student-led seminars allowed students to discuss the day's themes with each other over a cup of tea or coffee and encouraged a wide range of perspectives and thoughts which also enhanced discussions during lecture-based classes. I appreciated the diverse perspectives brought by the international class. Some intensive courses were offered at Corrymeela in Ballycastle which allowed for a different kind of learning in a beautiful setting. The ISE Belfast programme offers a wide variety of courses and one thing that I particularly appreciated was the freedom we had to tailor the course to our interests, both through the courses we could choose from and the direction we took in our individual assessments.

The programme is greatly enhanced by being located in Belfast. One unexpected but much appreciated part of the Belfast programme is that the staff are so warm, friendly, and personable; ISE Belfast was for me a supportive community and a healthy learning environment. As peace work here in Northern Ireland continues, it is exciting to engage in conversations about this country's history, present, and future with students and professionals from here and all over the world, and to do so in a welcoming and wonderful city.

Chad Harper (2014)


I chose this program because it seemed to combine Trinity's academic excellence with Belfast's particular past and present. The interdisciplinary nature of the program also appealed to me - throughout the course of the year we examined conflict resolution and reconciliation with perspectives that included history, sociology, theology, political science, and more. Students are given tremendous freedom in their studies, and I enjoyed having the ability to range widely and dive deeply according to my interests. We also benefitted from practical training in conflict resolution skills. These courses helped us see how the lessons we learned in the classroom could be applied in the field. We had the opportunity to do exactly that through internships with a host of partner organizations in Belfast. The M.Phil. in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation unites theory and practice, and I am thankful to have been a part of such an exceptional program.

Beyond the program itself, the people you meet provide another kind of education. The faculty and staff of the Irish School of Ecumenics combine excellence in their crafts with a laid-back way of being. The result was a community where I could ask questions knowing that my ignorance wouldn't be sneered at and my curiosity would be rewarded. The guest lecturers and practitioners also made their arguments with force and grace. And in my experience, the folks at our partner organizations put students in positions where we could both learn from their experience and expertise and contribute to the work of the organization in meaningful ways.

Finally, there is the place itself. I found Belfast to be a tough and gracious city, and I will always be grateful for my time there.

Ailish Morgan-Welden (2014)


I completed the Master's program in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation at ISE's Belfast campus in 2014 and would highly recommend the program to anyone interested in studying peace and conflict.

I chose the program because I had been working in the field for a few years and was looking for an academic program that would also allow me to develop professionally. ISE's program was the perfect blend of academic and practical knowledge. The small class sizes allowed for extensive student participation and lectures were balanced with skills-based courses. The staff was incredibly supportive, both day-to-day and in the dissertation process. The courses offered through Corrymeela in Ballycastle were particularly useful and enriching - as well as providing the opportunity to explore the beautiful north coast!

Living and studying in Belfast was essential to the course and provided an immersive and hands-on experience. Particularly through the Community Learning module, students were given the opportunity to learn from and work with local practitioners and to experience a peace process first-hand. By living in Belfast, academic knowledge from the classroom was applied and reflected in everyday life.

The staff and students at ISE Belfast are a wonderful community. The small size of the program allows for exceptional support and familiarity. In the classroom or over a cup of tea, students and staff can socialize and continue discussions. ISE blends academics, practical skills, and a supportive environment.

John M Hazel (2013)

John Hazel

Having recently received my M.Phil in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation in the Belfast extension of ISE, I have enrolled to do the Masters in Theology degree at the Queen's University Belfast. I am convinced that having obtained the M.Phil was the key to unlock many doors to further education and Queen's offered me a place without equivocation. Now that I have retired I am finding great pleasure in exercising all those academic indulgences which formerly evaded me. All this goes with gratitude to Trinity College Dublin and the M.Phil programme.

Alan McGovern (2013)

Prior to enrolling for the MPhil. in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation programme I sheepishly explored the internet looking at what programme would best suit my needs. I browsed through many internet pages and picked out three highly regarded colleges. I contacted these colleges to try and get a personal feel for where I would be studying over the next couple of years. I was disappointed as I came away from each phone call with the same feeling. This was a feeling that I was only another potential number on their system and that part time students were not really a priority.

I decided to try once more and this has turned out to be a fantastic decision. Having read up on the outline of the MPhil. in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation I contacted TCD Belfast for the same reason I contacted the other three colleges. The difference between this phone call and my previous three was phenomenal. From my first contact with the staff at TCD Belfast to this date I have always felt welcome. I have felt part of a unique group, more than a number, notwithstanding the fact that I am a part time student I am extremely satisfied with every aspect of TCD Belfast. I have highly recommended TCD Belfast to my work colleagues and friends and I will continue to do so.

The full time lecturers and guest lecturers at TCD Belfast have displayed exceptionally high standards in relation to the quality of education delivery. The modus operandi, vis-à-vis delivery of the course on an intensive module style basis, has enabled a greater opportunity for part time students. The awareness and understanding of the students' needs seems to be always at the core. It is very much a participative process which gives the student a sense of ownership of the whole process. Having completed six of the modules and the required assignments I can recall how fatigued I was both physically and emotionally after each module. It is only now I am actually thinking how the lecturer(s) must have felt. Nonetheless the standard of teaching is of a quality I have never seen before and it never waned from the start of each module to the end.

The facilities at TCD Belfast are more than adequate. The library has a good collection of books in the areas relevant to TCD Belfast student needs and is much easier to navigate than the extensive libraries at Trinity College and Queens University libraries. The classroom facilities are excellent and the modules which take place away from TCD Belfast, such as Conflict Transformation and Conflict Resolution Skills, also offer fantastic facilities. From my experience with other institutions TCD Belfast is without doubt the best at distributing relevant information. The notes are delivered meticulously and in good time prior to each module. The notes include essential and further reading as well as class notes and power point notes. This is an excellent tactic regarding information dissemination as it gives each student an opportunity to research the relevant information required without increasing students stress levels by forcing them to rush to get the books in the library before their fellow students get there first. For me this has been the difference between coming to class prepared and coming half prepared.

Adelina Stuparu (2013)

The MPhil. in Conflict Resolution at ISE stood out for me when I applied because of the great balance between theory and practice. Unlike most other courses of its kind, here you have the opportunity to learn the theory in the classroom, do an internship with a local organisation, and most importantly, experience a post conflict setting, and observe the fragility of peace agreements. The course itself is mainly made up of intensive modules, which means you have to be prepared to do a lot of individual study. In terms of where to study, you have quite a few good options: at ISE during the day time, in the Linen Hall library, or if you prefer studying late at night you can also use the Queen's library to study and borrow books. Living in Belfast has been great. It has all the advantages of living in a big city though you can walk to most places. There are a few good museums, pubs with live music, lovely cafes, and my favourite place to go: Queen's Film Theatre.

Carla Mueller (2011)

I began the course as a career change after being a secondary teacher and counsellor for 9 years. Moving from the very big and busy Los Angeles to a much smaller Belfast has been a joy - I absolutely love living here and being part of this community. It's been challenging to adjust to being a full time student after being in the workplace for so long, but it's been exciting to find that I can do it, especially in the very supportive environment created by ISE lecturers, staff, and classmates. Since I come from a different field, I was initially concerned about how much I would need to 'catch up', but I found that I was very comfortable to go at my own pace with the help of the ISE team throughout the year. There is a positive spirit at the school, a sense that we are all in this together. People encourage each other and offer support and help to one another. This refreshing lack of competitiveness brings out the best in each of us and encourages strong friendships as we each do our personal best.

ISE is also remarkable in that it brings us into contact with many of the local and international leaders in the field. As students we have incredible opportunities and many resources within reach here in Belfast. Also, the diversity of students means people bring many perspectives to the discussions in this unique academic setting. Together we celebrate our successes and respect the variety of interests in the class, whether we personally share them or not. We are encouraged through the courses to weave our personal and professional experiences into our discoveries. A primary reason I chose the program was because it would enable me to integrate and academically engage my Christian faith into the course work. Religion and faith are treated as real elements in the complexity of conflict, and we are challenged to explore the roles they play in conflict, conflict transformation, and reconciliation.

What's next for me? I'm returning to LA to coordinate a programme that takes former gang members to Congo (DRC) for 6 months to equip them to be leaders and advocates for peace in their communities. It's an opportunity I couldn't have imagined before studying at ISE.

Colleen Doherty (2011)

The opportunity to study at ISE Belfast is an amazing one- living and learning in a post-conflict environment is an irreplaceable experience. I have made connections with people from all walks of life, including those who have lived through the conflict and are dealing with its aftermath, as well as others from around the world who are interested in learning from it. The classroom and residential experiences offered by ISE and its partners are not only great in an academic sense, but have made a profound impact upon me personally. Belfast is a very culturally interesting and stimulating environment in which to live- there are many different activities to participate in including dance and language classes, pubs and clubs, cafes, and more. In Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland there are also a great many options available for tourism. This program and city have shown me first-hand the complexities of conflict resolution and reconciliation, a learning process which has strengthened me academically, personally and professionally.

Barbara Hart (2011)

The ISE programme offers a dynamic learning environment with extraordinary opportunities to gain insight and understanding into the complex process of reconciliation in post conflict societies. Living in Belfast serves as a rare immersion program. Being present as political, social and cultural changes occur provides amazing access to the conversations about how change unfolds. It has been humbling and significantly rewarding to live and study in a community engaged in the transition from violent conflict to fragile and fragmented peace. I know these experiences have greatly enhanced my capacity as a mediator and will make me a more patient conflict resolution practitioner.

Last updated 13 February 2019 by Irish School of Ecumenics (Email).