Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence

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. 

David Kim, MA COEX'22

David Kim, MA COEX'22

From Kenya to South Korea to Nepal, David Kim, MA COEX’22, has seen firsthand the impact of conflicts on local populations. That’s what led him to Heller, to gain the skills for a career in peacebuilding and diplomacy. 

“I was always interested in development because that was the sector my parents worked in. Within development, what I’m interested in most is peacebuilding: how to bring conflicting communities together.”

COEX student Soroush Kazemi

Soroush Kazemi, MA COEX'21 (Afghanistan)

"I love the diversity at the Heller School and Brandeis. Here, I’ve learned that it’s not only Afghanistan facing these challenges—there are other classmates from other countries in the same boat. They are all working hard to bring changes to their countries. I’ve learned a lot from my classmates and the experiences they’ve shared, which will enrich and enhance my knowledge for when I go back to the field and start stronger than before."

In February 2020, the Academy Awards honored “Learning to Skateboard in a War Zone (If You’re a Girl)” with the Oscar for Best Short Documentary, which features Soroush's work as the general manager of the nonprofit Skateistan-Kabul in Afghanistan. 

Leland Davidson, MA COEX'20 (United States)

In lieu of the traditional internship that most COEX students complete over the summer after their first year, Davidson chose to complete an independent research project on developing a better understanding of white supremacist groups, which have been increasingly visible and vocal since the 2016 election. The research, approved by the Institutional Review Board at Brandeis, took him nearly the full length of his 16-month degree and was at times deeply uncomfortable. But given his connections in the area, he felt he was the right person to undertake the work.

“It’s not easy to do this work, but as the truth gets discombobulated through social media, I wanted to go find out the actual truth of what people believed by talking to them directly and writing it down.”

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.”

Esther Daniel, MA COEX/MA SID'20

Esther shares how she not only learns from her professors, but from her global cohort of classmates.