Students visit Oxford for armed conflict workshop

By on April 14, 2015
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While most students spend their week going to classes and meetings, five students recently traveled to England to discuss armed conflict.

Between March 20-26, second-year law student Catherine Blair, junior Meaghan Williams and seniors Aleks Petakov, Erin Novak and Jacob Morris attended the Oxford Human Rights and Violent Conflict Workshop at Oxford University. Assistant Professor of Legal Studies Sujata Gadkar-Wilcox joined the students as their faculty adviser.

The week-long seminar included sessions about ongoing civil wars around the world and drug wars in Latin America. Students from seven other universities participated in the workshop, including University of Oregon, University of South Carolina and Stockton College. Petakov said there were many different perspectives during the armed conflict workshop.

“[There were] kids from all over, from different ethnic backgrounds,” he said. “Students from third world countries, from war-torn countries really put things into perspective and brought interesting viewpoints to the discussions.”

In order to attend the seminar, students had to fill out an application and write an essay on why they were interested in discussing violent conflict. Petakov wanted to participate after seeing his family experience civil war in the former Yugoslavia.

“My main interest in this kind of work has been my family history,” Petakov said. “I’ve seen post war development and what that looks like recovering from a decade of war essentially. That’s given me a perspective and that’s really what’s drawn me into human rights and these kind of seminars.”

While attendees like Petakov chose to attend the workshop because of their personal history, Novak applied for the seminar because of her career interests.

“I plan on attending law school in the fall and have always had an interest in human rights and international law,” Novak said. “I figured Oxford would be an amazing academic opportunity that would incorporate these interests.”

Each day the broad topic of armed conflict was broken into subcategories. Novak said some of the areas of focus during the seminar were law, peacemaking and humanitarian aid.

“I really liked the way they broke down the issues of human rights and armed conflict,” she said. “I think this provided a more well-rounded discussion and analysis of human rights, which is such a large and general topic to discuss in the first place.”

Students made their own presentations on the last day of the seminar, according to Petakov. Each of the five Quinnipiac students broke off into groups with students from other universities and created PowerPoint presentations about the ongoing Syrian civil war.

11099573_10203829623516834_478231821_oAleks Petakov

Petakov said the Syrian civil war was a large focus of the entire seminar, and it was clear students cared about the issue when making their presentations.

“The level of professionalism was astounding,” he said. “Everyone really put a lot of effort into these presentations and you could see everyone really cared about these issues.”

Novak said the knowledge she gained at the seminar will be very helpful when she enters the legal field.

“Meeting so many undergraduate and graduate students though this experience and listening to their perspectives on issues in the world has really inspired me to voice my personal opinion and respect conflicting opinions of others,” Novak said. “To be in a room with so many intelligent presenters and students is an unbelievable learning experience and truly changes you for the better both academically and professionally.”

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Year: 2016
Double Major: Public relations and Spanish