Monday, June 30, 2008
A Course in Peace
First-of-its kind at SDSU, the Hansen Summer Institute is a building block toward a more peaceful world.
In the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination last December, Pakistani student Anam Khan and her family were marooned in their homes while enraged citizens set fires in the streets, looted banks and killed at whim. The vividness of her experience set her on a path to understanding her country’s deep divides.
For Khan, conflict and intolerance are widely associated with her native land, but she is committed to one day seeing Pakistan as peaceful and thriving.
Khan and 19 other international students are participating in San Diego State University’s second annual Hansen Summer Institute on Leadership and International Cooperation which wraps up July 20. During their time here, the students will learn conflict resolution skills they can take back home to begin healing the deep-seated problems that plague their countries.
Like Khan, all of the students come from developing nations and countries currently experiencing conflict or at risk for conflict, including Kenya, Morocco, China, Russia, Bosnia and the Congo.
Far From Strife, At Home in San Diego
“For these students, violence and civil unrest is a sometimes daily occurrence,” said Ron Bee, managing director of the institute and SDSU professor of political science. “This program provides the skills these students need to go back to their homes and help build a more peaceful future.”
Hansen Institute Fellow Maxim Kuchits (right) presents a
letter from the Mayor of his hometown Vladivostok, Russia to Mayor Jerry Sanders.
For all of the international students, it is their first visit to the U.S. For the eight SDSU and two University of San Diego students participating, it is an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts of the dramatic conflicts taking place around the world.
The first-of-its-kind international program is designed to provide a unique university-based leadership experience and program in international cooperation. Funding for the program came from a $1.7 million donation from the Fred J. Hansen Foundation in 2006.
“We have students coming from opposite sides of current conflicts who will be living and learning together for nearly a month,” Bee said. “Just the opportunity for these students to interact in a neutral environment will be of great benefit to them.”
The program focuses primarily on creating an international community of young scholars who will use their summer experience to form lasting friendships and common practical understandings for a more peaceful future.
Aside from their classroom experiences, the students have also travelled around San Diego including trips to Petco Park, the Midway Museum, the U.S.-Mexico border and San Diego City Hall.
Participants were selected 155 applicants; triple the size of last year’s pool. Each student demonstrated potential for community or international leadership through their involvement in extra-curricular activities such as relief work in their country or internships with organizations supporting peace. Several students are also journalists in their countries.
"Expect to hear about these students in the future for the positive things they're doing for their countries and for ours," Bee said.