COEX Commencement Speaker: Liz Peterson, MA COEX/ILHR’24

May 20, 2024

Liz Peterson, MA COEX'24, in graduation cap and gown

Dean Maria Madison, esteemed faculty members, cherished friends, supportive family, and distinguished members of the COEX graduating class, it is with deep gratitude and humility that I stand before you today to represent my cohort on this momentous occasion.

Whenever I tell someone that I am studying Conflict Resolution and Coexistence, their initial reaction is along the lines of “The world definitely needs that right now,” or “Wow, you have a lot of work to do.” And I always nod in agreement—my to-do list is pretty long. 

As I reflect on my journey at Heller, my to-do list has evolved significantly. At the beginning, my to-do list was full of trying to get through all of my assigned readings, navigating a new city, and attempting to remember the names of my fellow cohort members. Then it shifted into a whirlwind of finalizing papers and presentations, stressing over finding a practicum, and cherishing the moments spent at Nabeel’s, finding any excuse for celebration that crossed our minds. And now, in these final months, my to-do list is filled with the writing of practicum papers, unrelenting job searching, and bidding farewell to my dear friends who are scattering across the globe and embarking on their own journeys in the field of conflict resolution.

I often brag that while I have gained invaluable knowledge from our professors, some of the most profound lessons I learned have come from the stories shared by those seated beside me. Many in our cohort have witnessed and worked on the front lines of the very wars, famines, and gross human rights violations we have devoted our time to studying. Yet these stories are followed by a beacon of hope for the future. We chose to join the Heller family because we recognize the pain that exists in the world, but more importantly, because we believe wholeheartedly in our capacity to effect positive change.

So, yes, my to-do list may be lengthy, but I take solace in knowing that it is a shared to-do list among my COEX cohort. Together, we carry the responsibility of shaping a brighter, more harmonious future. And with our collective dedication and unwavering resolve, I am confident that the world will be forever transformed for the better.