Bringing Engelhard to the Georgetown Graduate Community

Seniha Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana

The students enrolled in Seniha Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana’s (Conflict Resolution) Conflict Resolution Theory course are not only part of the first set of students to take a graduate-level Engelhard course, but they are also part of the next generation of peace builders. Some of them might work as facilitators for community dialogues between Kurds and Iraqis. Others might work at local NGOs in Colombia, helping to facilitate art-based trauma healing initiatives for children after the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia). These students often work closely with extremely vulnerable populations—sometimes alongside people who have experienced the traumas of human trafficking, genocide, or gender-based violence.

Because they are frequently affected by secondhand trauma in these contexts—and sometimes experience their own trauma—Kadayifci-Orellana believes in the importance of infusing wellness into the class so that all first year students can begin to build resiliency and develop healthy coping mechanisms. In the course, Kadayifci-Orellana asks students to learn the conceptual frameworks behind a variety of different conflict resolution theories, one of which is conflict transformation theory. “Conflict transformation theory states that as peace builders we are to take care of the world, but in order to take care of the world you have to take care of yourself,” says Kadayifci-Orellana.

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) staff psychologist Engin Ontiveros paired up with Kadayifci-Orellana to design an exercise to help students build emotional preparedness and resiliency. During Ontiveros’ visit, students considered their personal signs of stress, practiced healthy forms of coping, and constructed wellness plans to prepare them for long-term engagement in their chosen realm of conflict resolution. While some students were initially hesitant to talk openly about these personal issues, they later expressed how useful and beneficial they found Ontiveros’ visit to be.

Noting that she is working with a generation that is often reluctant to talk vulnerably with their peers about their feelings, Kadayifci-Orellana thinks the most important takeaway is that students come to realize they don’t have to be strong all the time. Partnering with the Engelhard Project helped Kadayifci-Orellana’s students understand both the validity of their feelings and also how to support their own wellness. She has reinforced to her students the critical importance of taking care of themselves in addition to the communities they work with. And yet, the biggest benefit is still to come, according to Kadayifci-Orellana: “When students are actually working in the field— that’s when it really clicks for most people,” she shared.

Working with the Project was a natural fit, Kadayifci-Orellana said, because it created a space to begin to build resiliency, healthy coping mechanisms, and open dialogue among her students about what they may experience in the field. However, future fieldwork isn’t the only thing she’s concerned about when it comes to her students, who are also learning to balance their busy lives with graduate coursework. “In addition to work and field-related stress, they are just coming of an age to find their way in the workplace and in life, so taking care of our master’s students is also very important for me,” says Kadayifci-Orellana.

Through her partnership with Engelhard, Kadayifci-Orellana is actively helping her students cultivate balance in their own lives, so they can be effective, compassionate, and balanced partners in resolving some of the most pressing challenges. If you’re interested in working with or learning more about the Engelhard Project, please visit our website or send us an email at engelhardproject@georgetown.edu.