University of Georgia education plays a key role in alumnus success and creation of Summer Institute in Ecuador

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By: Erin Rock

The study abroad opportunities and educational quality that UGA alumnus Jeff Pugh received during his undergraduate education at the University of Georgia inspired him to create the Summer Institute on Conflict Transformation across Borders, which was launched last summer in Quito, Ecuador. Dr. Pugh, who is currently Assistant Professor of Conflict Resolution at University of Massachusetts, Boston, will co-teach the Summer Institute for the second time this year from June 5-24.

Fourteen participants from nine different countries studied the dynamics of peace and conflict last year in areas affected by complex transnational challenges. The course covers topics including cross-border environmental conflicts, border wars, drugs and human trafficking, spillover from internal conflict, and social conflict and integration in migrant- and refugee-receiving communities.

The 3-week-course is taught by Pugh and Cecile Mouly, PhD and professor at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences in Ecuador (FLACSO). Pugh graduated from the Honors Program at University of Georgia in 2003 with a degree in Political Science and Speech Communication and a certificate in Latin American and Caribbean studies.

He currently teaches conflict resolution, human security and global governance at UMass-Boston and serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Mediation, Peace and Resolution of Conflict (CEMPROC) in Quito.

“UGA is a global leader in study abroad and there are lots of innovative ways UGA students can connect with Conflict Resolution in Ecuador,” said Pugh. “My education at UGA was very interdisciplinary. I am excited that this educational tradition is still continuing today.”

Pugh was first introduced to Ecuador while carrying out field research under the mentorship of Fausto Sarmiento, a professor of geography at UGA. Sarmiento also taught and mentored two of this year’s program participants, Charles Clifton and Erin Rock, who both came from different areas of study.

“I am going to law school next year,” said Clifton. “The negotiation and mediation aspect really hit home for me.”

Before Pugh established the Conflict Transformation study abroad program at UMass-Boston this year, he co-taught a related course abroad at UGA in the School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA) from 2007-2012. The undergraduate program also focused on peace and international conflict resolution.

This year’s program received both young professionals and students from diverse fields and universities.   FLACSO master student in international relations, Jaime Gimenez was one of this year’s participants.

“During the weekend trips, we were able to apply the theoretical concepts we learned in class,” said Gimenez.   “For example, we had classes about refugees and environmental conflicts. We then visited the places where these issues were going on and saw with our eyes what is actually happening.”

The program came about from a meeting between Pugh and Mouly when Pugh was an undergraduate Foundation Fellow studying in Monterrey, Mexico.

“Thanks to the Foundation Fellowship at UGA, in 2003, I was able to go to Monterrey, Mexico to study conflict resolution and negotiation,” said Pugh. “That was where I met Cecile Mouly, my current collaborator in carrying out the Ecuador program.”

Not only is the summer institute a learning experience for participants, but it also serves as a great international networking opportunity. Participants came from nine different countries this year.

“Meeting a lot of different people from a lot of countries and having the experience to exchange ideas and hear their different cultural experiences is very enriching,” said Gimenez.

The final proposal created by students at the end of the course also allowed students to put the peacebuilding techniques they learned to practical use as most hope to submit their proposals for funding or carry them out as graduate theses or research projects.

Pugh said that UGA students from many disciplines, like Clifton and Rock, have always expressed interest in the peacebuilding study abroad program since it started with UGA in 2007.

“We’ve had students from journalism to Latin American studies to International Relations to Geography,” said Pugh.

Because of the importance UGA President Morehead places on experiential learning at Georgia, Pugh hopes that Conflict Transformation across Borders will continue to receive diverse participants from UGA in the years to come.

“I definitely recommend Conflict Transformation to all undergrads and graduate students,” said Clifton. “The ability to travel around and learn within an area versus having to do so within a classroom, along with the multi faceted approach from a lot of different speakers all of them being experts in their area made the experience really enjoyable. It’s definitely one you’ll never forget.”

Applications for the 2016 Summer Institute are being accepted until April 4, 2016. More information is available at http://caps.umb.edu/conflict_transformation.

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