McCormack Speaks

November 19, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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Bob Turner, McCormack Research Fellow, Shares His Perspectives as One of Key Debate Organizers

 

Over the last three years, the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies has returned to its role as a sponsor of political debates. Since this past summer, McCormack has collaborated with The Boston Globe and WBUR to provide a platform for political candidates running for office to have discussions with each other and the public. The team organizing these debates is led by Dean Cash, Research Fellow Bob Turner and Rashelle Brown, McCormack’s events planner. McCormack Speaks sat down with Bob Turner to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work.

 

SA: What kind of reactions have you received regarding these debates from the public, candidates, UMass Boston, and the city of Boston?

BT: It is very satisfying, in particular, that all of the candidates I talked with spoke positively about the professional way the debates were run. All said they were the most substantive of their campaigns. Our last debate, between the candidates for governor on November 1, was the last of that campaign but still produced lively dialogue and fresh information. It had a large audience, as it was telecast live by Channel 5. There has been much comment from within UMass Boston about the public service that the debates gave, and the positive message this sent about our school as a substantive and productive member of the community.

SA: What has been surprising about sponsoring these debates?

BT: The partnership among MGS, The Boston Globe, and WBUR has developed over three years into a very strong and mutually supportive group. We look forward to more years of this collaboration. Also, all of the 10 debates we co-sponsored were broadcast live. The degree of technical skill and experience needed to bring this off – on radio and television – was really impressive. Equally impressive, always, is the so-calm and so-effective preparation of our own events planner, Rashelle Brown.

SA: What have been the challenges and the rewards of sponsoring these debates?

BT: A major reward: the MGS participation. In several of the debates, questions from McCormack students or faculty that had been prepared beforehand were posed to the candidates, either by the MGS questioner in person, or by a panelist. Helping prepare the questions, and then witnessing their inclusion in the debates, was very gratifying. It was terrific positive publicity for the school. A challenge will be to make sure this kind of questioning by MGS people will be included in all future debates.

SA: How do you see sponsorship of these debates as connecting to the values and mission of the McCormack Graduate School?

BT: The Supreme Court seems to think corporations are citizens that can make political contributions. This is questionable. Not questionable is the fact that the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, while prohibited from making cash contributions to candidates, is without question a citizen of our city, state, and nation. Anything we can do to further the health of our democracy is at the core of our very being.

SA: Are there plans for future debates? How do you envision McCormack continuing and expanding these forums?

BT: We look forward to more action next year, and are talking with our partners about what that might look like. One thought: we just had the mid-term elections, but the New Hampshire presidential primary is only 14 or 15 months away, and swarms of presidential candidates usually start arriving in these parts with the first snowflakes.

November 7, 2018
by saadiaahmad001
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Topol Grant Research Team Publishes First Article on Scaling Up Grassroots Nonviolent Movements

The Topol Peace Data Initiative seeks to explore the ways in which grassroots peace initiatives and nonviolent movements for social change can be scaled up and applied at an international scale. Members of the research team recently published its first article with Sage Journals, entitled: “Scaling Social Movements Through Social Media: The Case of Black Lives Matter.”

According to the abstract, the article explores the potential role of social media in helping movements expand and strengthen their impact, utilizing a case study of the Black Lives Matter movement to present the possibilities of social media to build connections, mobilize participants and resources, build coalitions, and amplify alternative narratives.

The article was co-authored by Marcia Mundt, a public policy doctoral student, along with Dr. Karen Ross, assistant professor of conflict resolution, and Charla Burnett, a global governance and human security doctoral student.

The publication is available as an open access article here.

September 28, 2018
by mccormackgradschool
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Saadia Ahmad, ’17 graduate of Master’s in Conflict Resolution, participated in the inaugural Muslim Jewish Interfaith Coalition Forum in Morocco

Saadia Ahmad, a 2017 graduate of the Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution, recently participated in the inaugural forum of the Muslim Jewish Interfaith Coalition (MJIC) in late August. The conference brought together 60 young adults who identify as Muslim or Jewish from over 30 countries to Essaouira, Morocco for a week of building relationships, learning about one another’s religions, forging new professional networks and possibilities for collaboration, and exploring the Moroccan city’s rich history as a place of peaceful coexistence among Muslims and Jews.

Saadia is also a Fellow with the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development, through which she worked with Darren Kew, Center Director and Associate Professor of Conflict Resolution, on a 5-year USAID project on creating faith-based mediation systems to mitigate violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria.

She can be reached at saadia.ahmad001@umb.edu.

 

McCormack Speaks: What were some of the highlights of the program?

SA: The structure of the schedule, guest speakers, discussion groups, and visits to religious sites were immensely helpful in gaining content knowledge about the history and theology of Islam and Judaism and experiencing the culture, people, and hospitality of Morocco. That being said, what I often most benefit from and appreciate in these programs are the informal interactions and relationships that blossom in between all of the programming. It was during these moments of conversation, both serious and lighthearted, where I was able to learn more about the spiritual and political interests and questions around Muslim-Jewish matters that I came in with.

 

McCormack Speaks: Why was this interfaith program of interest for you to attend?

SA: I’ve been involved as a participant and as a facilitator with many interfaith programs over the last seven years that bring people together to talk, explore similarities and differences between traditions, build relationships and understanding across (and often within!) religious groups, and develop partnerships for working together in the long-term. This was my first interfaith program that focused specifically on relationships between Muslims and Jews. I’ve been looking for this for a while, as many of the programs and organizations I’ve been involved with thus far focus primarily on Muslim-Christian relationships and interfaith dialogue between multiple religious groups.

Depending on the religious groups that are present, there are different topics and questions on the table that are specific to those religious groups and those distinctive relationships. For Muslims and Jews, for example, the Palestinian/Israeli conflict is the obvious and stereotypical example of a topic that is of special importance to Muslims and Jews and Muslim-Jewish engagement. Equally important issues are the shared experience of being minority religious groups in the West and, with that, the potential for collaboration and supporting one another through all the challenges that a minority status entails.

Additionally, I’m in a phase of exploring questions around my faith and have shifted in some of the ways I practice and identify with Islam. In conversations with some of my Jewish friends and reading the work of Jewish authors, I’ve come to appreciate how the tradition emphasizes intellectualism, asking questions, and creates space for those who identify as Jewish but who may not practice – something that is also present in my own tradition but is not mainstream in the same way. I was very interested in hearing how Jews as well as other Muslims engage with their faith and issues affecting their religious communities in ways beyond normative practice, ritual, and belief. In other words: what does it mean to be a Jew or a Muslim who identifies deeply with the religion, but not engage in some of the traditions and practices expected of someone who claims a religious identity? This program created the right space thematically, geographically, and logistically to explore all of the above.

 

McCormack Speaks: How did you first decide to pursue work and advanced studies in interfaith dialogue and conflict resolution?

SA: I first became involved with interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding during my undergraduate studies as a Muslim at a Catholic college, where I experienced the benefits of positive interfaith exchanges. Through regularly attending Catholic worship services, taking theology courses, participating in Campus Ministry, and serving on its Pastoral Council, I experienced my own Islamic faith sophisticating in unprecedented ways. I realized the potential for religion to unify and heal rather than to divide and harm and created the college’s first interfaith organization to facilitate such encounters and also to support non-Catholic members of the community.

As only 20% of the Muslim student population at the time, I also encountered hostility and misunderstanding around my religious and racial identities. I witnessed significant misunderstanding of Islam and realized the need for more Muslim public intellectuals and for greater interfaith community building efforts. These experiences – both the positive and the difficult – motivated me to facilitate and encourage positive interfaith interactions in our local and global communities.

 

McCormack Speaks: How have your affiliations with the Conflict Resolution program, the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development, and the McCormack Graduate School assisted with your work?

SA: Our classes, professors, and classmates push us to think critically and compassionately about conflict: to ask questions that others may not think or want to ask, to recognize the humanity of the other side, to suggest that there are alternatives to harmful and destructive ways of dealing with conflict. The field experience I gained through facilitating online with Soliya, mediating small claims cases in the Dorchester District Court, and meeting with Muslim and Christian clergy and leaders in Nigeria, have helped me further develop my skills and combine theoretical knowledge with practical application. The op-ed articles I’ve written over the years – including in The Boston Globe, America Magazine, and The Richmond Times – are also informed by this approach.

There’s a way in which studying and practicing in this field seeps into your bones, and you begin to view everything around you – both professional and personal matters – through the lens of what causes conflict, what may help manage or resolve it, and how you might play a role in that.

February 14, 2017
by McCormack Speaks
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A Cavalcade of Controversies: Trump’s Domestic and Foreign Policy Agendas

Policy roundtableA recent Boston Globe columnist, reporting on President Donald Trump’s first few weeks in the White House, described recent events as “a cavalcade of controversies.” What an astute (and alliterative) observation.

As part of encouraging broader discussions of this new policy landscape, the McCormack Graduate School recently partnered with the College of Liberal Arts at UMass Boston to host two policy roundtables to discuss President Trump’s domestic and foreign policy agendas.

We invite you to read about our analyses, watch the videos, and engage in the national chatter by sharing your comments on this blog.

The Trump Administration: Domestic Policy Roundtable

Read the news story

Watch the video

The Trump Administration: Foreign Policy Roundtable

Read the news story

Watch the video

November 22, 2016
by McCormack Speaks
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Women of Color are the Force for Change in Politics

by Carol Hardy-Fanta
Senior Fellow

Book coverIn a new book, Contested Transformation: Race, Gender, and Political Leadership in 21st Century America, we argue that gains in political leadership and influence by people of color are transforming the American political landscape, but they have occurred within a contested political context, one where struggles for racial and gender equality continue. These thoughts are particularly relevant in the aftermath of the recent election—one marked by deep divisions drawn around race and gender.

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