Jocelyn Lee / UC Irvine UC Irvine’s 2013-14 Dalai Lama Scholars Blanca Castro (left) and Elizabeth Koppe met in a mediation class that inspired them to create Students for Global Peacebuilding.

Peace Week gets underway

Series of events organized by new Dalai Lama Scholars will promote conflict resolution,  nonviolence and compassion

Two undergraduates dedicated to conflict resolution on campus have been awarded the 2013-14 XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship, established at UC Irvine in 2004 to recognize students committed to ethical leadership, peace and positive global relations.

Blanca Castro and Elizabeth Koppe each received $7,500 from the university’s XIV Dalai Lama Endowed Scholarship Fund plus $10,000 from Dalai Lama Fellows, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco.

They’ve helped organize a weeklong series of events – including a Peace in Action Summit – that advocate peace building and nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution. Peace Week, which begins today, will feature a keynote presentation, workshops, panel discussions, a forum, Ring Mall booths, networking opportunities and an arts event.

Speakers Linda Biehl, Meymuna Hussein-Cattan ’03 and James R. Doty, among others, will address such topics as learning to forgive, challenging violence and creating a culture of compassion.

“Everyone could have more compassion in their lives,” says Koppe, a fourth-year student majoring in philosophy and social policy & public service. “The goal of our Peace Week project is to foster positive interactions and feelings of connectedness among the campus community.”

She and Castro met during the winter quarter of 2013 in a mediation course taught by Paula Garb, co-director of UC Irvine’s Center for Citizen Peacebuilding. The class inspired them to start Students for Global Peacebuilding during the spring quarter of 2013.

Their project was also deeply influenced by their participation in a nonviolence workshop taught by Bernard Lafayette Jr., a longtime civil rights activist and organizer, at UC Irvine’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium.

“We learned that nonviolent strategies can transform entire cultures,” says Castro, a third-year student majoring in criminology, law & society and minoring in international studies and conflict resolution. “[Lafayette] presented diverse examples – from a prison to a high school. We believe that intergroup and interpersonal conflicts on campus can be addressed using these strategies.”

She and Koppe hope that Peace Week participants will further pursue conflict resolution education and take their newfound skills into the community.

“The Dalai Lama Scholars reflect the very best of UCI’s values and intentions of building bridges of understanding,” says Thomas Parham, vice chancellor of student affairs.

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