Maha Paulus remembers the feeling when she stepped into the rotunda at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice almost ten years ago. “It was a sense of calmness and peace,” she said. A few months later Maha and her husband Al were at the Founder’s Gala, when a man introduced himself to them. It was Father William Headley, the founding Dean of the Kroc School.
Father Bill encouraged Maha to come spend some time at the Kroc School; she spent the next three years as a volunteer. In that role Maha learned a lot about the Kroc School’s mission, vision and important work internationally. Al Paulus has also served on the school’s board of advisors.
“Because we come from the Middle East, a region where peace has not prevailed for a very long time, we wanted to provide students like current Paulus Peace Scholarship recipient and MA in Peace and Justice student Vida Chechman the opportunity to become ambassadors of peace and contribute to a legacy of future generations to come,” said Paulus, who along with her husband Al, immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq in the early 1970s. Their two daughters are USD alumnae (and were both married by Father Bill, now a close friend to the family).
Dean Márquez remarked, “The Paulus family was among the first donors to the Kroc School. They had faith in our promise and that a new generation of peacebuilders, focused on thinking differently, with courage, could change the face of the planet.”
Maha and Al Paulus know that people in conflict-ridden areas “suffer beyond suffering – and all they want is to live in peace. Our hope for the future is that we have more students go through the MAPJ program and find ways to build peace and do good things around the world. We believe peace is possible through respect and non-violence. We hope our scholarship helps students go back to their village or town and teach people how to work together and respect each others views, even if we have different views.”
A few questions with 2018-2019 Paulus Peace Scholarship recipient, Vida Chechman.
Why did you choose to attend the Kroc School?
Throughout the process of finding a Master’s program, I learned about the Kroc School and its amazing programs. I was really interested in the broadness of the courses it offers and how it covers different aspects within the field of Peace and Justice. I believed that this school will provide me with the required knowledge and skills to mitigate some of the conflicts where I come from. This university has given birth to so many great individuals who were able to make a difference in many parts of the world. I wanted to become a part of this big family and learn from its individuals.
Why is receiving scholarship assistance important to you?
Receiving a scholarship played a big role in my enrollment in the program. It highly contributed in providing the opportunity to pursue my studies here in the United States at one of the leading schools of peace and justice, the Kroc School, and at the nation’s most beautiful campus, the University of San Diego. Therefore, I would like to pass my appreciation to the Paulus Family and Inamori Foundation for providing this opportunity to me and giving me the privilege of being their scholar.
What inspired you to choose your area of study?
Growing up in Iraq and witnessing the frightful conflicts in the country contributed to the development of senses of responsibility and ownership inside of me. Being a member of a minority group in Iraq (ethnically and religiously) further instilled these traits in me. I felt the need to do something about it. I tried my best to contribute to kids' education in refugee camps, to take care of the refugees themselves, and to educate the youth about diversification, leading by example and peace. I did this until I felt the need to broaden my knowledge about peace and my contributions to my country. And that was when I decided to pursue Peace and Justice to come back to Iraq, with new experience and knowledge to share with people and implement through projects in Iraq.