Alumni Profile: Miriam Rayward '09

Saturday, January 1, 2011

I am in the process of obtaining my MA in international policy studies with an emphasis in conflict resolution. This will be my last semester in Monterey, Calif., and then I will go on to Jerusalem for my last six months of the program. Since there is no graduation ceremony in August, I will be walking this December. I have just heard that I have been selected as the graduation speaker at the ceremony, and I'm so excited about this honor.

During my short time at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (now a graduate school of the Middlebury College), I have tried to make the most of it. One of the goals I set out to achieve was becoming fluent in Arabic. Before even starting the degree in the Fall of 2009, I received the Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace. Thanks to this award, I was able to participate in Middlebury's summer intensive Arabic program during the summer of 2009, right after graduating from USD. After the summer, classes at the institute began.

As a part of my degree, I decided to pursue a mediation certification. After only one semester, I became a certified mediator in the state of California. Since spring 2010, I have been mediating small claims cases in court. The court of Monterey offers a free service to anyone involved in a small claim. As a mediator, I meet with the parties in the dispute and help them communicate their needs to one another. After airing out frustrations I help the parties direct the conversation in a more positive way by encouraging them to explore different settlement options that are agreeable to both. This is one of the most rewarding positions I have ever held; I help people resolve their disputes and, most of the times, the relationship that they previously had is amended as a result of the process. Because I enjoy it so much, I am going to start mediating unlawful detainer cases as well (eviction cases).

Going back to my Arabic goal, I was fortunate enough to receive the U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarship this past summer. I traveled to Morocco, and not only did my language skills improve dramatically, but I also had a great time doing it. My next big trip is to Jerusalem, and I will be there for six months starting in February 2011. These six months are for the International Professional Service Semester. This program is an option that my school offers as a part of the degree. It is a six-month internship opportunity with an organization of the student's choice anywhere in the world.

I have decided to work with an organization in Jerusalem called Hand in Hand, which is a network of schools in Israel and one in the Palestinian territories that teach Israeli and Palestinian kids together. They go to school together and learn both Arabic and Hebrew. As part of the work I will be doing with the organization, I will be developing the curriculum for a mediation class to be taught to the students, developing a program evaluation system for the organization, and I will also be responsible for communications and administration of the organization.

On top of my duties working with the organization, I will also be doing research on the relationship between education and violent conflict, for the academic component of my study-abroad experience. I also received the Boren Fellowship, a National Security Education Program award, to help with the funding. I received this prestigious fellowship to continue with my language study while in Jerusalem, which means I will also be taking Arabic classes. Although it will be a very busy six months, I know it is going to be an incredible experience and I can't wait.

I am now starting to look at different government positions for after I graduate. The Boren Fellowship is an award that comes with a service requirement. I don't see this service requirement as a burden, but rather another opportunity to make a difference. I will soon start applying for jobs in Iraq to help with reconstruction efforts. I'm planning on doing a one-year contract with the State Department, and then considering whether I want to become a foreign service officer for a short period of time. This job application requires a security clearance. While I consider government work a part of my career, I do not want to make a career out of it. I have many plans for the future, but they are constantly changing, so I will let you know more about them as they start consolidating.

This is a very exciting time in my life. It feels like I'm at that point where I can really start making a difference. Needless to say, this would not have been possible without the Department of Communication Studies. The department has been my academic and professional inspiration during my time at USD, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

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