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Slifka Master's Program in Coexistence and Conflict receives grant

By Harry Shipps
On September 28, 2010

The University announced in a Sept. 22 article on BrandeisNOW that the Alan B. Slifka Foundation has given a gift of $4.25 million to the Slifka Master's Program in Coexistence and Conflict, which will enable the program to expand its faculty and student body, move to the Heller School for Social Policy and Management and expand the resources available to students. According to an e-mail to the Justice from Prof. Mari Fitzduff, director of the Master's Program in Coexistence and Conflict, the gift will help "expand the program by permitting us to hire more faculty, and a careers officer for our students. It will also enable us to increase the number of courses we offer, and strengthen our alumni network."

The BrandeisNOW article explains that the Slifka Foundation is a "private grant-making institution" that provides support to help promote "strategies to encourage political and civil society leadership, public policy, and institutional and structural change to create, nurture and sustain shared societies, in which cultural, religious, ethnic and other forms of diversity are embraced." A representative from the foundation could not be reached for comment by press time.

As a result of the gift, the COEX program will move to the Heller School for Social Policy and Management from its current location at the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life, according to BrandeisNOW.

In her e-mail Fitzduff wrote that this move to the Heller school was made because, for the most part, the students in the COEX program are demographically similar to those at the Heller School in terms of their experience in the fields they are studying, their age, and the international makeup of the student body. She also wrote that faculty at the Heller School have considerable experience working in fields related to coexistence, such as sustainable development and health, and that the creation of a new dual degree in sustainable development and coexistence and conflict, which began last year, makes the move a good decision.

"Giving the demographic similarities in the student cohorts, and the development of the Dual degree, it made sense to offer the COEX students the added advantages of Heller in terms of their career focus, alumni networking, and the national, international and global partnerships provided by the Heller School," she wrote.

The BrandeisNOW article quotes Riva Ritvo Slifka, the president of the Slifka Foundation, as saying about the COEX program, "We know the master's program, the students, and the potential for this field to grow are in excellent hands at the Heller School and Brandeis . The concept of shared societies must be taught and professionalized, and we found the perfect home for this endeavor."

The Slifka gift will only go toward the master's program in COEX and will not have any effect on the undergraduate peace and conflict studies program at Brandeis. Fitzduff wrote that the main difference between the COEX program and the undergraduate Peace, Conflict and Coexistance Program is the experience of the students. She wrote that most students accepted into the COEX program have around 5 years of experience in the field and that the program "is also very geared towards the work of people working with governments or international organisations, and international NGO's, as many of our students come from these contexts. It also focuses on policy and practical strategy development in the field, and towards issues of evidence based evaluation."

According to the program's website, alumni of the program have gone on to serve in positions such as "Director of Civic Education of the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) in Rwanda, Operations Officer, European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo, ... Save The Children, USA," and "Assistant at Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.

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