School of Peace Studies

Contact: Megan Theriault
Phone: (619) 260-7618
Fax: (619) 849-8109

Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies
5998 Alcala Park
San Diego, CA 92110

Students and Alumni

2009 Alumni

Quiwan Zhao, Serena Clark, Sangita Nirola, Wilco Otte, Jill Covert, Kristen Kuriga, Tanya Susoev,
Anu Lawrence

Patrick Wadri, Cheryl Clark, Brooke Gonzales, Takeo Kuwabara, Marcia Luttio, Leah Watkiss

Cheryl Clark

Cheryl is from Rancho Cucamonga, California.  She received a B.A. in Sociology and Theology and Religious Studies with a minor in Psychology from the University of San Diego in May 2006. Cheryl’s interest in the study of peace and justice began with working with Sudanese refugees in Cairo, Egypt. This interest continued throughout her undergraduate education as she focused on understanding border-relations and the immigrant experience, studied in Oxford, England, and interned with small-base communities in El Salvador. Cheryl’s interest in justice turned national as she began her work with the Teach for America program, which places recent college graduates into low-income schools throughout the US in order to close the achievement gap between high- and low-income schools. Teaching World Geography and World History to high school students in La Joya, Texas, as well as coaching girls soccer, deepened Cheryl’s understanding of the critical work that needs to be done in the field of peace and justice. Her primary interests within the Peace Studies Program are immigration, poverty and its effects on immigration and gang-activity, micro-credit and the empowerment of the world’s poor. Back to top

Serena Clark

Serena is from Riverside, California.  She graduated from San Diego State University (SDSU) in 2007 with a degree in International Security and Conflict Resolution.  From 2005 to 2006 Serena studied in Florence, Italy.  While abroad, she interned with Democrats Abroad, a non-partisan political organization that promotes voting rights.  Additionally, while attending SDSU, Serena interned with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) assisting refugee youth integrate into the United States.  She also worked in the immigration office at the IRC.  Most recently Serena was employed at the United States General Service Administration (USGSA) on security projects located at western US border stations.  Serena’s areas of interests are international mediation, refugee studies, and environmentalism.  Back to top

Jill Covert

Jill is originally from Newbury Park, CA. She graduated from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 1993 and has lived in San Diego since. She has a degree in Sociology with a minor in Latin American Studies. In 1991, she spent a summer in Ecuador with Amigos de las Americas working on community development and reforestation projects. While at UCSD, Jill became active in women’s rights, which helped fuel her passion for human justice. After college, her interests and work expanded to research and mental health issues. Her main academic interests are women as peacemakers and how women are increasingly used as weapons of war. After receiving her Masters in Peace and Justice Studies from USD, Jill hopes to continue in the field of research to explore and document the stories and lives of women in conflict regions. Back to top

Brooke Gonzales

Brooke grew up in Southern California.  She received her B.A. from California State University, San Marcos in history, where she focused her study on marginalized groups of people and social movements.  She went on to get her teaching credential in social science.  Brooke spent the next two and one half years teaching high school in San Diego County.  She taught history and AVID, a class that focuses on getting underrepresented students into four-year colleges.  During this time, Brooke worked mainly with Mexican-American students, and became interested in rights for immigrants.  She also became passionate about using education to empower people.  On a summer off from teaching, she went to Nepal to train teachers in rural schools, and went on to do fundraising for the same schools.  This, in addition to other experiences traveling abroad, created a desire in Brooke to further her education in the area of peace and justice. Back to top

Kristen A. Kuriga

Kristen is originally from New York and completed her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in May 2004. While at Sarah Lawrence, Kristen studied social movements, labor history, and politics, and spent her time outside of the classroom organizing for peace and workers rights. After graduating, Kristen worked as the coordinator of the New York Union Semester Program, and then moved to San Diego to be a researcher and community organizer for the Justice for Janitors campaign. She currently lives at a Buddhist meditation center, and strives to bring together mindfulness and social action. She intends to focus her study on reconciliation in communities affected by conflict. Back to top

Takeo Kuwabara

Takeo is from Davis, California.  He graduated with Dean’s Honors from the University of California, Santa Barbara in December 2006 with a double major in Japanese and Asian American Studies.  He also attended a University of California Education Abroad Program at the International Christian University in Tokyo.  Takeo desires to expand upon his social science background by delving into the relationship between social constructions in popular media and their role in the peace making process.  His other areas of interest include peace and justice policymaking, conflict analysis, and the cultural and language based factors which influence cross cultural interactions.  Back to top

Anu Lawrence

Anu has a strong commitment to social justice and cross-cultural understanding that has been inspired by his world travels, particularly those in the developing world and by his multicultural exposure during his youth in the diverse Los Angeles area. Anu earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with summa cum laude honors from Southern Oregon University, where he majored in International Studies, with minors in Latin American and Peace Studies. Anu’s academic interests include peace education, the roles that culture, art and religion play in conflict and its transformation, as well as, Latin America, occupied countries and U.S. foreign policy toward the developing world. Anu intends to begin his career by working for a humanitarian aid organization in the developing world and envisions returning to another of his passions - working with youth, as a conflict resolution educator later in life.  Back to top

Marcia Megumi Luttio

Marcia grew up moving between Japan and the U.S.  She graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2006 with a B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in Latin American Studies.  She speaks Portuguese, English, and a small amount of Japanese and Spanish.  As an undergraduate, she studied in Cochin, India and in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Post-graduation, Marcia spent several months in São Paulo working with children living on the streets, a health education and alternate-income project for women in prostitution, a youth-run magazine on social concerns and an organization advocating for human rights in the prison system. Most recently Marcia worked for a substance abuse treatment program and supervised an independent living program for Covenant House Florida, a crisis shelter for homeless and runaway youth.  She is interested in all aspects of peacebuilding and conflict transformation, but particularly focused on children in conflict, youth and violence, human trafficking, and social transformation through the arts.  Back to top

Sangita Nirola

Sangita is from Nepal, a beautiful country known for the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest, and the Birthplace of Lord Buddha. She received her Bachelor’s degree in science from Tribhuvan University in Nepal and completed a program in Management from the Open University, London. Sangita started her career as a schoolteacher.  She later switched to the social sector where she established a non-profit organization in January 2002 with the mission of empowering women through economic independence. Having seen the impact of ongoing conflict on women, she decided to work with women who had been displaced by conflict, by offering training that would lead to employment opportunities. She has been very effective in transforming conflict through economic opportunities. Since the establishment of her organization, Sangita trained 200 women who had been the victims of conflict and raised awareness on issues pertaining to women, conflict and economics. After receiving her Master’s degree in Peace and Justice Studies at USD, she would like to become a political leader in Nepal so that she can serve women at large. Sangita believes that when she reaches the decision making level she can make a difference in the lives of women and children.Back to top

Wilco Otte

Wilco is from Utrecht, The Netherlands. He received a BsC in human geography (International Development Studies) and urban planning in 2007. Most recently Wilco worked at Jongehonden in the field of urban planning. Prior to this, he worked at the Corporation for Social Responsibility in the Netherlands. Until 2007, he also served as the Youth Representative of the Netherlands to the General Assembly of the United Nations. In this position, Wilco worked to reach as many youth as possible through activities such as debates and a youth trip to India.  He has also sought to create awareness about the United Nations among Dutch youth through organizing a festival, visiting several schools, giving lectures at various locations, and lobbying for more youth delegates. At the UN, he had the opportunity to work for improved youth participation in political decision-making. Back to top

Patrick Wadri

Patrick is a Ugandan who was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo two years after the civil war that deposed the dictatorial regime of Idi Amin in Uganda. The memories and aftermath of the war and the conflicts in Northern Uganda have continued to shape Patrick’s perspective on life and have etched in him a passion towards human rights. Patrick completed a Bachelors programin business management at M.S. Ramaiah College of Art, Science, and Commerce in the south Indiancity of Bangalorein June 2008. In India, Patrick worked with the Federation for International Students.  While studying at USD, Wadri continues to serve as a volunteer consultant with the West Nile Rural Development Agency (WENIRUDA,, a nonprofit agency based in Northern Uganda. Wadri has a profound interest in studying conflict resolution, management of the aftermath of conflicts and microfinance as a toolfor economic development. He speaks English, Swahili and Lugbara, Luo, Itesot, and Madi, all of which are local languages spoken in northern Uganda. Back to top

Tanya A. Susoev

Tanya received a B.A. in English Literature with a Single-Subject Teaching Credential from the University of San Diego.  Growing up in San Francisco, Tanya’s passion for the field of peace and justice was first ignited by theactivism that engulfed the city and the work that she was able to do within the homeless community. Experiencing the power in human connections, Tanya developed a desire to better understand how those connections could be made cross-culturally and the capacity that these relationships have to foster peace. She has since had the opportunity to build relationships with communities in the Blackfeet American Indian Reservation, the Lahu Village in Thailand, the small town of Logwood Walk, Jamaica, and with numerous families throughout Europe. In her undergraduate work, she developed the “Color Your World” program that uses art as a way to build relationships, break cultural barriers, and investigate our understanding of peace. This also connected to her advocacy in youth empowerment, encouraging youth in San Diego to discover, define, and declare their own voices. In the Peace and Justice Studies Master’s program, Tanya hopes to build the foundational theoretical, and experiential knowledge that would strengthen her work in the field. Back to top

Leah Watkiss

Leah is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In 2007, she received a B.A. from the University of Western Ontario specializing in Social Justice and Peace Studies with a minor in Religious Studies. As a Roman Catholic learning about peace and justice issues, she was delighted to discover Catholic social teaching and the liberation theology movement and focused her studies on the empowering role of religion in the social justice movement. She also began to explore religious conflict resolution and the numerous tools that religion offers the peace process. She hopes to further her understanding of these areas during her time in the School of Peace Studies. She has lived in Australia and Ecuador where she learned Spanish. She has also travelled in England, France, Cuba, and across Canada. After graduating, Leah worked for World Vision Canada, a Christian non-profit organization and the largest international NGO in Canada. Back to top

Cassidy L. A. Whitaker

Cassidy is from San Diego and San Luis Obispo, California. She graduated from San Diego State University (SDSU) in December 2007 where she received her B.A. in International Security and Conflict Resolution and in Political Science. During her time at SDSU, she studied abroad in both Oxford and Estonia. She also completed an internship with the San Diego chapter of the International Rescue Committee, working specifically in the First Things First and Students Plus programs. Through her international studies and travels she became very interested in the varied conflicts of the world and their potential paths to peace. She looks forward to pursuing her areas of interest including working with refugees and conflict resolution through mediation. Back to top

Qiuwan Zhao

Qiuwan is from Fujian Province, China. She got her B.A. at Shanghai Jiaotong University in 2005 where she studied Public Affairs Management and English.  She continued her studies and earned an M.A. in Public Administration in 2008. Between 2006 and 2007, she attended Hopkins-Nanjing Center for International Studies.  Most recently, Qiuwan worked as a research assistant for the Hindu-Kush Himalaya Environmental Policy Project (funded by the National Science Foundation), whose primary goal was to assess and improve environmental policy by focusing on internationally funded participatory policies and projects, community-based natural resource management and other inclusionary policy processes in India, Nepal and China. Her areas of interest are environmental justice, the empowerment of women and NGO development. Back to top