The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and SIS inaugurated a partnership last fall to provide mentorship from USIP experts to graduate students focused on careers in peacebuilding. Three SIS students were selected from an applicant pool of 25 students who expressed interest in this unique professional development opportunity: Nazanin Sadati (SIS/MA ’23) and Jordan Grandt (SIS/MA ’23), both from SIS’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution program, and Nandar Tun (SIS/MA ’23), from the International Development program, will participate this year alongside students from George Washington University and members of Black Professionals in International Affairs (BPIA).
Last year, USIP’s work to actively engage more students from historically underrepresented backgrounds led to BPIA joining the program. SIS committed to supporting USIP’s goal for the program to support students who may not have easy access to mentors in the peacebuilding field and encouraged first generation college graduates, students of color, and individuals who were the first in their family to pursue careers in international affairs to apply. SIS graduate students across all programs with any interest or experience in peacebuilding were invited to apply.
USIP hosted a kick-off event in which mentors and mentees made their first connection in the USIP building. The atmosphere was energetic, with mentors and mentees all thrilled to start off the year with an in-person meeting. USIP vice president for policy, learning and strategy Joe Hewitt, who will mentor SIS student Nandar Tun, gave opening remarks at the beginning of the event.
Tun, who came to SIS from Myanmar, has high expectations for the experience and believes she has come to the right place for mentoring to help her achieve her professional goals: “Myanmar needs a generation of strong and diverse leaders who can advocate for the country on the international stage. I believe that a mentor from USIP can help equip me with practical conflict resolution and peacebuilding skills, support me as I explore post-graduation pathways, and guide me along the way towards my ultimate goal of building peaceful societies in Myanmar and the world at large.”
In the program, a USIP mentor is matched with an SIS graduate student for the full academic year. The mentor-mentee pair meets four times per semester, and the USIP complements those meetings with additional opportunities. Katie Hortenstein, senior program assistant at USIP, manages the program, including matching mentees and mentors, scheduling brown bag events, and sending invitations to exclusive events. This year’s mentees and mentorss will engage in brown bag lunch sessions on topics as disparate as informational interviewing and the current situation in Ukraine.
“As a first-generation student who’s pursuing an advanced degree, I didn’t have anyone who would be able to guide me down a path towards a career in peacemaking and conflict resolution. The USIP mentorship program seemed like it would be a great fit; I already learned so much from my mentor during our first meeting,” USIP mentee Nazanin Sadati said.
Expectations for exposure to great opportunities and unique access were exceeded. In the same week that the mentees learned of their mentor match, they were also invited to a USIP event where former US president Bill Clinton was featured in an event that launched a new series called “The Art of Peace: Conversations with the World’s Greatest Peacemakers.”
The USIP Mentorship Program provides SIS students with a wealth of opportunities and potential for development in peacebuilding skills. The program will operate yearly with an application run by SIS for the slots available to SIS students. The number of mentee slots depends each year on the number of USIP experts who agree to serve as mentors. Continuing students with a focus on peacebuilding should watch for an announcement of the application again at the beginning of the fall 2023 semester.