MA Student Reflects on IPJ Project Management Workshop

By Ali Wolters (MA ’14)

For two consecutive Fridays earlier this semester, master’s students in USD’s Kroc School of Peace Studies had the opportunity to take a one-unit project management workshop with IPJ staff members Zahra Ismail and Chris Groth. As one of the student participants and a competitor in USD’s Social Innovation Challenge, I found the workshop to be very useful both on a personal and institutional level.

Project Management Workshop - Ali and students Personally, academic work does not excite me unless there is a bridge linking it to what is happening in the world, which is why I was drawn to USD’s program — it really strives for that balance. The workshop enabled me to not only utilize nearly two semesters of coursework, it also allowed me to problem-solve and create. We were asked to choose a project — one we’ve worked on, one we are currently working on, or an imaginary one — and use it as model to apply the project management tools we were discussing.

The timing was perfect, as I am applying for funding for a project with the Social Innovation Challenge through USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce. The workshop gave me the time to write down my specific project goal, objectives, activities and outcomes and then talk them over with Zahra and Chris. This was very practical and helped strengthen my proposal.

Project Management Workshop - Ali WoltersThe project, Work for Justice and be an Essential Peace of the Puzzle, is an innovative peace and human rights curriculum that is designed to empower Mozambican high school students to recognize their agency in actively engaging in, analyzing, and addressing community-specific needs in a global human rights context. The curriculum will be developed with the help of key community members in Guijá, Mozambique and then piloted in the upcoming school year. The process of developing the curriculum with teachers, parents, students and other community leaders will be part of my master’s capstone project.

On an institutional level, the workshop created a strong link between the IPJ and the Kroc School. Having been a former intern at the IPJ in 2008, I had worked with some of the staff and was aware of the resources and programs the institute has to offer. As master’s students we are introduced to the IPJ during our first week of orientation, but as school picks up and the readings and papers pile up, it is easy to forget or not prioritize connecting with the IPJ and its staff. This workshop gave us the opportunity to connect with two amazing IPJ staff members and allowed us to further understand the institute’s work with their local partners in Cambodia, Kenya and Nepal.

As students at the Kroc School, we are very fortunate to have access to the IPJ and this workshop further solidified that. I hope that the Kroc School and the IPJ continue to strengthen the intersections for students and staff.

The two-day workshop focused on providing students with an understanding of the project management cycle and introduces them to the tools and skills necessary to effectively undertake and manage their own projects. Special attention was given to managing projects in an international context. This year the workshop included students from the MA program in peace and justice studies, as well as a student from the MA program in leadership studies at USD’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences.