Student Profiles

Heller COEX students are simply amazing. We believe that our program attracts people who are uniquely driven to nonviolent peacebuilding actions that incorporate complex cultural contexts and empower local communities. Our students come to Heller with an already-impressive array of skills and experiences, from military veterans and humanitarian aid professionals, to Peace Corps members and grassroots organizers. 

Abeer Pamuk

Abeer Pamuk, MA COEX'20 (Syria)

Topol Fellow in Nonviolence Practice

Life for young people in Syria, says Pamuk, “is like someone set the room on fire and locked the door. And as a young person, you have no tools, education or experience to help put it out.” With this thought in mind, Pamuk chose to pursue higher education and applied for the extremely competitive Atlas Corps Fellowship for nonprofit leaders. While in the United States on her fellowship, she learned about Heller’s master’s degree in conflict resolution and coexistence (COEX) and decided to apply.

At Heller, Pamuk was not only admitted to the COEX program but also offered the Sidney Topol Fellowship in Nonviolence Practice. “The scholarship means the school did everything they could to ensure I attend and for an international student like me, that means a lot.”

Nikita Trafimovich

Nikita Trafimovich, MA COEX’20 (Belarus)

Open Society Foundation Scholarship Recipient

“In the world today, we only have three models for understanding disability: a medical model, a social model, and a legal model. When we think of disability as a disease, that’s a medical model. Disability as a social construct is the social model, and disability discrimination is a legal model. I think that instead of these models, we can apply conflict analysis to understand disability as a phenomenon. I want to investigate the point of view that disability is a social conflict.”

Isaac Cudjoe

Isaac Cudjoe, MA COEX'19 (U.S. and Ghana)

Isaac Cudjoe has launched (Re)Turn, an ambitious, multi-part project about the reintegration of diaspora throughout the world. Cudjoe, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ghana with his family at the age of three, says, "“People in the diaspora need to unlearn stereotypes they’ve been taught about their countries, relearn the truth and make purposeful decisions to serve their communities,” he says. But it can’t be one sided. “Governments around the world need to understand that there’s this renewed interest, so they need to create proper channels for people who can do things like impact investment, especially in developing countries.”

Jessica Siriosi

Jessica Siriosi, MA COEX'19 (Papua New Guinea)

For Jessica Siriosi, conflict resolution runs in the family. She was born and raised in East New Britain Province but later spent six years working in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea—an area that has gone through decade of upheaval. Her father helped with the Bougainville Peace Process as one of the senior government officials in Bougainville, bringing together factions from Bougainville and the Papua New Guinea government.

“I’m passionate about everything about Bougainville. It’s a small island with a diverse and unique culture—over 23 different languages—and at the same time rich with minerals and resources,” Siriosi says. “In the short term, I plan to work closely with Bougainville to address structural and systemic violence in institutions. I see the potential of Bougainville emerging as one of the successful stories in the Pacific.”

Natalia Hermida-Cepeda

Natalia Hermida-Cepeda, MA COEX'19 (Colombia)

“I’m really, really happy here, with how much I’m learning and seeing everything from other perspectives,” she says. “My professors are convinced there’s a resolution for everything. A lot of us came from war zones, where people just gave up. They show us different ways to do things and what’s possible.”

After completing the COEX program, Hermida-Cepeda plans to continue her diplomatic service in the Middle East, focusing on improving the lives of vulnerable children throughout the region.

Head shot of COEX student Jaffar Alizadeh

Jaffar Alizadeh, MA SID/COEX’17 (Iran)

Topol Fellow in Nonviolent Practice

“COEX provides both theoretical knowledge and practical skills to promote nonviolence. There can be no peace without development and no development without peace.  My background is in economics and for a long time I believed that development is an economic phenomenon. This program provides a completely different approach to development, in which economics is one aspect out of many."

Julia Szendro

Julia Szendro, MA COEX’18 (U.S. and Hungary)

Topol Fellow in Nonviolent Practice

“My work focuses on the social inclusion of marginalized communities, and building state and local capacity for conflict resolution. Specifically, I have been looking at ways to engage the public in the reintegration of formerly incarcerated people, and embedding conflict resolution into both correctional programing and administration.

Ultimately I hope to support prisons and jails within the U.S. in becoming less traumatizing environments for staff and incarcerated people alike. I hope to do so by building programing that helps incarcerated people and correctional staff develop their capacity for conflict resolution."

Sylvia Murray, MBA/MA COEX'18

Sylvia, the founder of a peacebuilding nonprofit, explains why she chose to pursue dual master's degrees at Heller.