Out of my dedication to peace, justice and understanding, I have spent the past eleven years actively exploring issues of prejudice, conflict, structural violence, and social change. I pursued my B.A. in Prejudice and Intercultural Communication (Individually Structured) from the University of Colorado at Boulder and my M.A. in International Peace Studies with a concentration in social change for peace, democracy, and human rights at the University of Notre Dame. As a student activist, I participated in a two-year service learning and community organizing program, co-founded Stop Hate on Campus, chaired Holocaust Awareness Week, and served in Denver homeless shelters, on the Dine Navajo Reservation, in a poverty stricken rural community in Mexico, and with organizations working for peace in both Israel and Palestine.
While a Fulbright Fellow, I conducted research on peace-building and social justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the University of Haifa and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. More specifically, I researched the effectiveness of people-to-people initiatives, the different goals and methodologies of programs, the diverse Palestinian and Israeli perspectives on people-to-people initiatives, and the required steps to further develop peace-building with social justice in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
My passion is very much applied and my professional experience at this point has grown to include Israeli-Palestinian peace-building with teachers, high school students and kindergarteners in the Middle East, German-Polish-Jewish dialogue with young adults in Osweicim (Aushwitz), Poland, diversity seminars with secondary school and university students in the United States, community organizing work with welfare-to-work participants, and international education for peace work as a consultant for UNESCO-Washington.
I entered Boston College’s PhD program in September 2003, where I am focusing on the sociology of world conflict, and medical sociology with a focus on mental health. As an integral part of the latter, I have incorporated into my studies the clinical MSW, which has allowed me to gain experience working with US soldiers returning from Iraq who are experience post-traumatic stress disorder, and working in a in-patient psychiatric unit clarifying with individuals the precipitants for his/her hospitalization and his/her thoughts for post-discharge.
I intend to do my dissertation on peace-building during times of acute violence utilizing longitudinal field research data and surveys of Palestinian-Israeli people-to-people initiatives. More specifically, I will study how initiatives adapt to radically changing environments, the challenges they face, and their effectiveness internally for the participants, and externally for the larger political and cultural reality. Bringing a critical lens to my field research and the conflict and peace-building literature, I hope to be able to offer recommendations to strengthen and/or clarify the symbolic, cultural, and political value and impact of peace-building, even during more dismal times.
- Gawerc, Michelle I. (2006). "Peace-building Through People-to-People Initiatives: Theoretical and Concrete Perspectives." Peace and Change: a Peace Journal, 31(4), 435-478.
- Dowty, Alan and Michelle I. Gawerc. (2001). "The Al-Aqsa Intifada: Revealing the Chasm." Middle East Review of International Affairs, 5(3).
- Gawerc, Michelle I. (2000). "Peace Education: Israelis and Palestinians — The Development of Peace-Building with Social Justice for the Future." Posted on the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Education Network, contact the author for a copy.