By Lindsay Jamerson
The Peace and Conflict Studies Department facilitates learning for many types of students with diverse interests and professional goals. This series introduces the perspectives of three students in the online and residential undergraduate programs: Chantay Benshimon, Justin Hunt, and Dorothy-Kate Kennedy.
Chantay Benshimon is a member of the online graduating class of 2020.
Upon graduation, Chantay plans to attend Tel Aviv University in Israel where she will pursue an MA in International Conflict Resolution and Mediation with a focus on Public Policy.
“As someone whose conflict management style was always avoidant, I learned that conflict is not always a bad thing and can actually be utilized as a tool to strengthen relationships.”
Why did you choose UNCG?
I reside in Nevada and there were no options to study in the field of Conflict Resolution here.I did some research and came upon the Peace and Conflict Studies online degree program at UNCG. It seemed like a well-rounded, interdisciplinary program, so I signed up. It was one of the best decisions of my life.
A light bulb went off in my head and I thought to myself:
“I want to get involved in this work!”
Did you always want to work in peace? Did you have an “aha” moment?
From a very young age I found myself hyper aware and fascinated by the barriers that people would create between one another based on various differences including the very ways in which they perceive and experience the world around them. I grew up seeing footage from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I remember being very drawn to ideologies that were anti-war and pro-peace throughout my adolescence. This was long before I knew I could pursue a career in the field of peacebuilding. I carried this deep interest into adulthood where I finally had my “aha” moment. I was participating in an internship program in Israel and met a wonderful mentor who showed me many different non-profit organizations that were doing really important work on the ground to promote peace, co-existence, dialogue, and justice. A light bulb went off in my head and I thought to myself, “I want to get involved in this work!” When I got back to America, I started researching degree programs in the field and the rest is history.
What jobs/internships/volunteering have you done that involves peacebuilding?
I have mentored marginalized youth who have borne the brunt of various forms of violence in my community. I have also volunteered overseas at a refugee clinic where I served refugees from Eritrea and Sudan who had fled their war-torn countries and faced traumatic experiences on their journeys. Currently, I intern at an alternative dispute resolution center here in Las Vegas as a mediator where I deal with community cases as well as court cases. I also co-facilitate a book study course on Nonviolent Communication as well as a dialogue program where I bring together conservatives and liberals to discuss various political/policy issues with the goal of finding common ground.
What has been your favorite class in the program?
I would say that PCS 415: Global Peacebuilding was my favorite class in the program. The capstone project of this course was an engaging and interactive case study where we got to play the role of a humanitarian aid worker and utilize conflict transformation skills to organize peacebuilding, relief, and development for an island that had been hit by a natural disaster. This course was multifaceted so we also got to delve into everything from gender roles in peacebuilding, to ethics in humanitarian work, to even using storytelling as a means to help communities experiencing conflict achieve reconciliation.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I hope to continue on after graduate school and pursue my PhD in the field. Ultimately, I want to have a career as a foreign policy professional at an entity that is committed to implementing sustainable resolution-based initiatives to alleviate violent regional level conflicts in the Middle East.