The Nova Southeastern University chapter of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Peace Leadership Program has successfully completed its first cycle! The cycle lasted a total of 8 sessions with each session focusing on the application of specific leadership skills in promoting peace at the interpersonal, intergroup and international level. Although the program was marketed to various disciplines in the undergraduate school, the majority of participants were currently enrolled in the Conflict Analysis and Resolution graduate program at NSU. Each session included a skill building training, participation in a related activity, a lively discussion on a current domestic or international conflict and a presentation made by one of the participants. The format of the sessions encouraged participants to learn leadership skills, brainstorm peaceful resolutions to current conflicts, and practice leadership through presenting on a topic they felt passionately about.

Back row from left to right: Safeer Bhatti (USA), Lauren Marx (USA), Farouk Raheemson (Nigeria), Grace Okoye (Nigeria), Keyvan Aarabi (Iran/USA), NWANNE DORIS ELEKWACHI (Nigeria), Stacy-Ann Palmer (Jamaica/USA).

Front row from left to right: Bobby Huen (China/USA), Athena Passera (Trinidad/USA), Ian Dozier (USA), Roxan A Anderson (USA)

The participants in cycle 1 hailed from Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the U.S and typically had a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. The diversity of the group provided a spectrum of cultural and intellectual perspectives that produced a remarkably high quality of social and political discourse during the sessions. One of the most powerful experiences throughout the cycle occurred during session 5 when the students participated in an international negotiation simulation. The simulation divided the participants into two groups with one group representing Israeli interests and the other Palestinian interests in a dispute over water resources in the West Bank. During the simulation students were asked to perform as leaders, navigating diverging goals, emotional flare-ups, and deep seated feelings of mistrust to reach a peaceful resolution. The final resolution reflected hours of negotiation and brainstorming. This activity helped students understand the complexities in international conflicts, the often incompatible interests of leaders and the power of creativity in brokering a peaceful resolution.   

As the founder and lead facilitator of the NSU chapter of the NAPF Peace Leadership Program I had a the opportunity to promote the message of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation while given the freedom to find creative mediums to educate and motivate future peace leaders. Paul Chappell provided me with the mentorship and support I needed to successfully promote, conduct and complete this cycle. My experience helped me to build upon my own skills as a public speaker, teacher and leader for peace. In addition to imparting knowledge, I also learned an incredible amount of information from the participants. In the first session the group watched the NAPF video titled The Myth of Nuclear Deterrence. Following the video, I asked each student, if they were the leader of their respective country, to state the position they would take on nuclear arms. The answers varied, and I learned the challenges of changing the dominant role that deterrence plays in nuclear discourse. Listening to the rationale behind each student’s position helped me to learn the impact that prevailing social dogma and acculturation has on the formation of opinions on nuclear weapons.

The first cycle of the NSU Chapter has been successfully completed with a total of 10 students graduating and the group is currently working on doing philanthropy work by donating their time to helping those in our community. A wonderful product of this cycle was the creation of a cohesive group that is unified by the shared goal for peace. One aspect that made my role easier was having the support of all of the group members and, in particular, having Lauren Marx as a co-facilitator and co-developer. The second cycle is about to begin with a new group of students and a new set of perspectives through which to understand and develop leadership for peace. I will learn from this experience and work towards making each new cycle a better version of the first. The NAPF Peace Leadership program has just begun its impact in South Florida. I am committed to pushing ahead by beginning the second cycle at NSU and actively working toward starting new chapters at other universities here in South Florida. I am eternally grateful for this opportunity to work with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, including Paul Chappell, Rick Wayman and Dr. David Krieger, to help promote their mission toward a more peaceful nuclear free world.