Global Perspective

USF Group Delivers Peace Research to a Global Audience

by Mary McInerney, USF News

Fourteen students, grads, and faculty members from the School of Education traveled to Trinidad and Tobago last month in the name of peace.

This is the first time USF has sent students to the International Peace Research Association conference, which has been held since 1964. Members of the USF group presented workshops and papers at the conference.

Michiko M. Kealoha EdD ’22 collaborated with student Brian Anthony Davis MA ’21, EdD ’24 to present at a workshop on “Bias, Equity, and Justice in K-12 and Community Colleges.”

Kealoha was impressed by the global attendance at the conference. “To be in community with educators from around the world, United Nations members, and former prisoners of war was surreal,” she said.

Presenting at the conference was a highlight, Davis said. USF “prepared me well and equipped me with the tools necessary to engage in international conversations around peace, justice, and equity,” he said.

For Marna Wolak EdD ’25, it was the first time she attended and presented at an academic conference. She was most inspired by a group called Youth Leadership for Justice and Peace Plenary, made up of young people from Guyana, Ghana, and the United States.

The youth scholars and activists covered a variety of topics “including ageism in academia, the misalignment of our education systems and the job market, the role social media has played in youth engagement globally, the importance of empathy in our work, and collective action through mindfulness and joy,” Wolak said.

Megan Patterson MA ’23 said the USF group went to the Caribbean to learn. “Arriving in Trinidad and Tobago, our team immediately ‘walked-our-walk,’ building community and support networks with one another, spending three meals a day as a collective, showing up to every presentation, workshop, and panel,” she said.

That camaraderie was important, said attendee Monisha Bajaj, professor of international and multicultural education at USF. She pointed out that many of the students began their programs online during the pandemic. The group enjoyed exploring the community, too, learning the history of steel pan drums and exploring a reforestation project in Trinidad.

“What’s great about this conference is that it wasn’t all sitting in a hotel ballroom,” Bajaj said. “It was a very engaged conference. To go to a place and really engage with the local community, and with students, was really awesome. In this setting, we were all learning together.”