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AU Grad Student Awarded Inaugural Laura W. Bush Fellowship

By Jon Hussey

Michael Aguilar, a graduate student in American University’s School of International Service, was one of three students in the United States to receive the Laura W. Bush Traveling Fellowship, awarded by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  With the fellowship, which provides $1,500, Aguilar will spend from August 7 to September 7 in Central America examining the role of culture in conflict resolution.

The inaugural fellowship was created to help fund proposals designed to conduct brief work in a foreign country related to the mandate of UNESCO—using education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information to build strong ties among nations. 

“It is a humbling recognition,” said Aguilar.  “I was uplifted by such an honor. After six years of studying conflict resolution and international relations, this recognition allows me to get a hands-on experience of what it means to contribute to peacebuilding.”

During his month in Central America, Aguilar will work in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, speaking with locals who witnessed or experienced the civil strife that each country has struggled with.  Aguilar will work with these individuals to promote dialogue based on the shared cultures and values of each civilization and culture.

“Despite an end to the bloody wars in Central America, the region continues to experience alarming increases of violence and poverty,” said Aguilar of his reason for submitting his project.  “I hope my efforts in Central America can embrace at least one individual to believe that culture can be an instrument for peace rather than a cause for conflict.”

Aguilar, a second-year grad student studying international peace and conflict resolution, hopes to one day work for the United Nations or the State Department.  Since 2002, he has been involved with United Nations activities, including an internship with the United States Mission to the United Nations.