Master of Arts in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence

Alumni Profiles

COEX careers thrive in any space devoted to resolving conflicts at scale, from small nonprofits to huge government agencies, in the U.S. around the globe.

At Heller, you will work closely with the Career Development Center to define your professional goals and build strategies to achieve them. Beginning with the online Career Academy the summer before orientation, COEX students regularly meet with career advisors, learn from professional development workshops and attend employer events throughout their time at Heller. You will be supported at every stage, from initial career visioning through resume development, networking training and practice interviews. 

The Career Development Center will continue to be a benefit long after you graduate. Staff are committed to connecting students and alumni to the Heller network and the professional resources they need as their career aspirations evolve—it’s a lifelong promise.

Meet our alumni: 

Maria Fernanda Cabezas, MA COEX'23

Maria Fernanda Cabezas, MA COEX'23 (United States)

Operations Manager, Everyday Peace Indicators

"Peacebuilding gave me a different way to think about conflict. Before, I used to just analyze conflict for understanding. Now, I think about root causes, how we can approach them to improve living conditions, and how we can take into consideration people that don’t agree with our perspectives. Heller gave me a new view, a deeper understanding."

Learn more about Fernanda's work.

Sarah Leonard, MS GHPM/MA COEX'19

Sarah Leonard, MS GHPM/MA COEX'19 (United States)

Global Public Health Advisor, CDC

"I went back to graduate school to work in disaster response and public health preparedness. I enjoy feeling like I’m making a difference. In a situation like [the COVID-19 pandemic], I’m seeing the value of my dual degrees in conflict resolution and coexistence, and global health policy and management. If you’re watching the news on a daily basis, you see the importance of good public health policy, but you also see the conflicts that arise among competing states, health departments, and more. There are so many competing needs, and it’s important to figure out how they can work well together." 

Julia Szendro, MA COEX'18

Julia Szendro, MA COEX'18 (United States)

Director of Strategic Initiatives, New York City Department of Corrections

Topol Fellow in Nonviolence Practice 2016-2017

“I strive to bring a conflict sensitive lens to my work” every day, Szendro says. “I am adapting the principles and tools of conflict resolution as I work to build partnerships for change implementation.”

As a policy analyst in the DOC’s Intergovernmental Affairs Unit, she serves as a bridge between the DOC and external partners and oversight agencies, such as the city council, the mayor’s office and the state legislature. A new project she’s excited about is defining and measuring culture change for staff members as the DOC counts down to the closing of Rikers by 2026.

Learn more about Julia's work. 

Shadi Sheikhsaraf

Shadi Sheikhsaraf, MA SID/COEX'17 (Iran)

External Relations Officer, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Public Policy and Coexistence Fellowship Recipient

Shadi Sheikhsaraf grew up in Iran during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s, which raged throughout her childhood. “The trauma is still with me. But that was motivation for me to work on humanitarian activities and conflict prevention and post-conflict healing, for the betterment of people’s lives.”

“When you’re at war, you do not see the other side. It’s not easy. But I started talking to my classmates from Iraq. We became friends and understood that the fear we experienced was the same. Having classmates from all over the world helps you to get rid of some of the biases you have.”

Learn more about Shadi's work.

Tarig Mohamed

Tarig Mohamed, MA COEX'16 (Sudan)

Regional Program Manager for Africa and the Middle East, KARAMA

"I came to Heller with lots of practical experience, but lacking the theoretical part. The subjects that I studied at the COEX program widened my knowledge very much and enabled me to understand and relate the practice to theories. The professors were so kind and welcoming and of course extremely professional and knowledgeable. The diversity at Heller and the ability to interact, study and hear cases from different countries converted my interest from focusing only on Sudan into the whole world."

Read more about Tarig's work. 

Rebecca Herrington, MA SID/COEX'14

Rebecca Herrington, MA SID/COEX’14 (United States)

Developmental Evaluator, Social Impact

“At Heller, there’s the opportunity to be proactive and create your own path through the programs. I leveraged what professors had to offer with their experiences, had the experience of teaching and grading, and took advantage of being in Boston to work with NGOs there. I wanted [my master's degree] to be practitioner-focused and wanted to do both conflict management and international development. Heller was a great place to combine that.”

Read more about Rebecca's work. 

Naveed Noormal

Naveed Noormal, MA COEX'16 (Afghanistan)

First Secretary, Embassy of Afghanistan, London

It took just a short negotiation class with Alain Lempereur, director of the Master’s in Conflict Resolution and Coexistence program, to convince Naveed to leave his home country of Afghanistan to pursue a degree at Heller.

“I realized those were the skills I needed to be successful,” says Naveed, who was a foreign service officer for the Afghan government when Lempereur arrived in Kabul to provide training to junior diplomats. “War damaged almost everything in my country including institutions. Coming from a post-war country, it was always about bringing reform for a better future.”

Read more about Naveed's work. 

Megan Casey

Megan Casey, MA COEX'18 (Iraq)

Communications and Operations Manager, Mediators Beyond Borders International

Topol Fellow in Nonviolence Practice 2016-2017

“When I found out about the coexistence and conflict resolution program at Heller, I thought it was out of my own imagination. It seemed created for me.” She has dedicated her career to creating dialogues, especially in communities or countries where there are limits on conversation about taboo or difficult topics.

Read more about Megan's work. 

Head shot of COEX student Peter Ter

Peter Ter, MA SID/COEX'14 (Sudan)

Peace Corps Response Volunteer

Peter values the theoretical and practical skills he acquired as a Heller student. “We go through simulations that relay real-world experiences. Our professors are respected international experts in their field — and we learn the word is mightier than guns, and that by bringing people together, they can work through their differences.”

Read more about Peter's work. 

Jennan Al-Hamdouni

Jennan Al-Hamdouni, MA COEX'16 (United States)

Conflict Dynamics International

Jennan’s humanitarian focus landed her an internship with Conflict Dynamics International (CDI). Today, she works with CDI’s Humanitarian Access and Negotiation Support Unit, where she supports monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian access organizations in armed conflict contexts, conducts research, and contributes to workshops and publications. Her work with CDI involves regular contact with humanitarian practitioners in current armed conflict and emergency contexts. She says, “I got into my job, sat at my desk and realized, ‘Wow, I know how to do this.’”

Read more about Jennan's work. 

Tessa Tompkins Byer, MA COEX'16

Tessa Tompkins Byer, MA COEX'16 (United States)

Mediator and Housing Stabilization Coordinator, Just-A-Start

While attending the Heller School, she was inspired by the mediation role-plays she witnessed in professor Ted Johnson’s class, so she searched the local area for volunteer opportunities with a strong desire to apply her new skills. She trained as a mediator through the Harvard Mediation Program, a group made up of community members and Harvard law students. 

At Just-A-Start, she was hired for her conflict resolution skills. Conflicts regarding housing can be between tenants and landlords, family members, neighbors and even the housing authority. She helps residents receive federal funding if they are in the process of being evicted or need back-rent or security deposits, and prevents people from being homeless. 

Read more about Tessa's work.