The full dissertations of the PhD in International Conflict Management alumni may be found at KSU Digital Commons.


  • "Modeling Peacekeeping: The Case of Canada Examined" (2015)

    By: Senai Abraha


    This research introduced a comprehensive model for explaining why countries participate in peacekeeping by studying Canada’s peacekeeping decisions. The history of Canadian peacekeeping since 1947 presented an ideal case because of the significant fluctuation in its involvement from being a leading peacekeeper to a token contributor. It adopted Waltz’s schema to explain this fluctuation at the systemic, domestic, and individual levels of analyses. Most of the literature on Canadian peacekeeping decisions employed systemic level analyses such as national interest and international cooperation without taking into account the impact of domestic political and socioeconomic environment, and the role of leadership personality in peacekeeping decisions. This study tipped this imbalance by assessing the role of public opinion and leadership personality on Canadian peacekeeping decisions using a mixed research method. The evidence on public opinion showed that, with the exception of the Trudeau and Mulroney administrations, other Canadian governments didn’t consult public opinion in making peacekeeping decisions. Subsequently, the results on leadership personality indicated that Prime Ministers exhibiting personality traits associated with peaceful foreign policy did not commit greater number of peacekeepers than the Prime Ministers who did not reflect those attributes. The study concluded that Canadian peacekeeping decision is best understood by analyzing the dynamic interaction between the Cold War and the war on terror at the systemic level, the budget deficit and national unity at the domestic level, and the personality of Canada’s leaders at the individual level.

  •  "Assets or Liabilities? Civil Society Organizations and Peacebuilding in Bawku East Municipality of Ghana" (2014)

    By: Joseph Kingsley Adjei


    Numerous studies have argued that civil society organizations (CSOs) have positive effects on society, an argument often defended by reference to the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in promoting development, labor solidarity, democratic accountability, and post-materialist causes in the developing world. Contemporary scholarship is strongly committed to the idea that CSOs play a strongly positive role in facilitating democracy and development. Today, CSOs are actively engaged in every sector of conflict management and development. From pre-conflict, conflict, to post-conflict phases of societal disintegration and rebuilding, CSOs deliver essential services, lobby the power system, advocate on behalf of the marginalized and monitor human rights abuses. Because they come in all capabilities and persuasions and operate at every layer of the social system, CSOs have far reaching effects on expanding peace consolidation activities in general, and strengthening peacebuilding processes in particular. Conversely, critics of CSOs posit that excessive group mobilization aggravates social tensions and can delegitimize a functional state; that CSOs’ direct connection with the state can usurp the state’s moral imperative to govern in times of crisis and promote inefficient governance; and that CSOs can produce cleavage structures, creating organizations that are subversive, radical, seditious, insurgent, and revolutionary. CSOs have further been accused of inflaming genocidal proclivities that divide societies. Against the backdrop of these diametrically opposed views about CSOs, this dissertation evaluates CSOs’ peacebuilding activities in the context of the protracted conflict between the Kusasi and Mamprusi ethnic groups in Bawku East Municipality (BEM) in the Upper East Region of Ghana. The study asked the question: Were CSOs assets or liabilities? If they were assets, they would use their seven traditional functions of protection, advocacy, monitoring, socialization, social cohesion, facilitation, and service delivery to mitigate the effects of the conflict and bring about peace in BEM. On the other hand, if they were liabilities, then they would exacerbate the conflict. The study focuses on CSOs because in spite of the establishment of a military base in BEM in 1983 coupled with a police post in the center of Bawku, the conflict occurred and recurred from the 1950s to the late 2000s. The role of government in peacebuilding had also been minimal because of its perceived complicity in the conflict. The proliferation of CSOs and their peacebuilding activities between 2008 and 2013 therefore provides a viable option for evaluating their impact.

    The study uses a concurrent mixed methods approach, comprising interviews, focus group discussions, and survey instruments. Data was sourced from both international and local CSOs and participants from the BEM population. The study triangulates these sets of data in its analysis using the “before” (2008) and “after” (2013) framework. Among others, the study finds that the CSOs contributed positively to the peacebuilding process between 2008 and 2013, the focus of the study: they facilitated dialogue and improved relationships between Kusasis and Mamprusis, rehabilitated infrastructure and built new ones, among other activities that reduced tension in BEM and reinvigorated the society to normal life. This made them assets, and not liabilities. The study concludes, on the strength of evidence adduced from the data, that the positive impact of CSOs on BEM was complemented by the security services and the receptive posture of the population.

  •  "A Preventive Approach to Post-Election Conflicts in Contemporary Africa" (2014)

    By: Edoh Agbehonou


    In this dissertation the author hypothesizes that (H1): In Africa, countries that use majoritarian electoral systems are more likely to experience post-election conflicts than are countries that use proportional electoral systems, (H2): In Africa, countries that use majoritarian electoral systems are more likely to experience post-election conflicts than are countries that use mixed electoral systems, and (H3): In Africa, countries that use mixed electoral systems are more likely to experience post-election conflicts than are countries that use proportional electoral systems.

    These hypotheses are tested by using both primary qualitative and secondary quantitative data analyses in order to answer the research question: "In Africa, why do some countries tend to experience post-election conflict while others do not?" This dissertation focuses on the first twenty years (1990-2010) of the move to democracy in Africa. With elections as the unit of analysis, and using the dataset on African electoral violence and the Cingranelli-Richards (CIRI) Human Rights dataset, this dissertation uses a most different systems design on six countries included in the Afrobarometer studies: Benin, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Togo, and Senegal. Among these six countries, Ghana and Togo use a majoritarian electoral system, Benin and Guinea-Bissau use a proportional representation electoral system, and Guinea and Senegal use a mixed electoral system.

    The findings indicate that reforming the electoral system to accommodate the needs of the populace in countries with frequent electoral conflicts is the one way not only to cope with current post-election conflicts, but also to help prevent future ones. To be more specific, the author recommends that proportional representation systems are the best tools to help prevent and mitigate post-election conflicts in Africa. Other implications include, but are not limited to, identifying ways to help promote substantive and representative democracies in Africa based on the findings of both the quantitative and qualitative phases of the study.

  •  "Conflict Behaviors: Culture, Gender, and Religiosity as Predictors for Conflict Management Styles Among First and Second-Generation Arab Muslim Immigrants in the United States" (2015)

    By: Jamil Al Wekhian


    Multiple studies have shown that culture, religiosity, and gender influence people’s behavior in managing their conflict; however, there has been little investigation of the impact of the acculturation process on these variables utilized by Arab-Muslim immigrants in the United States. My study follows a sequential explanatory model with a mixed methods approach, and specifically explores the conflict management styles utilized by first and second-generation Arab-Muslim immigrants in the U.S. and how their culture, gender, and religiosity contribute to these processes. Data was collected by conducting 257 online surveys and 24 face-to-face semi-structured interviews, with the sample population stemming from the Arab-Muslim communities in Columbia, St. Louis, and Kansas City, Missouri. Binary logistic regression and Chi-square tests were used to analyze this quantitative data through SPSS.

    The resulting analysis showed that first-generation immigrants tended to be more collectivistic, have a higher level of religiosity, and utilize a wider variety of conflict management styles including obliging, compromising, integrating and avoiding. Second-generation immigrants were more likely to have a lower level of religiosity and were more likely to utilize the dominating conflict management style for managing their interpersonal conflicts. In addition, gender had a significant relationship only with the avoiding conflict management style, while level of religiosity had a significant relationship with the obliging, compromising, integrating, and dominating conflict management styles. Finally, culture had a significant predictive relationship with integrating and avoiding conflict management styles.

    In this sequential explanatory model, more weight was given to the quantitative phase; however, the face-to-face semi-structured interviews enhanced the understanding of the overall trends in conflict management style preferences of first and second generation Arab-Muslim immigrants when trying to manage their interpersonal conflicts. While this study establishes predictive relationships between gender, culture, and religiosity with utilization of the various conflict management styles, other studies should be conducted to better understand the implications of these relationships.

  • "Immigration-Related Identity Markers and Well-Being in Academia: Perceptions of Conflict at Work and Life Satisfaction Among Foreign-Born Professors in the United States" (2017)

    By: Elena Gheorghiu


    Although immigrant professionals contribute significantly to the American economy, their processes of adaptation to the host country and integration into work departments has not been sufficiently examined. Based on a survey of 241 immigrant professors in the United States, the current study sought to reveal how immigration-related identity markers, that is acculturation strategy adopted and migrant personality, impact the levels of private life satisfaction, work satisfaction, and perceptions of conflict at work. Results of Ordinary Least Squares regression analyses revealed that maintaining a balance between original cultural values and local ones, as well as scoring towards the lower-end of the migrant personality continuum are associated with increased levels of well-being and decreased perceptions of conflict at work. Contrary, maintaining original cultural values without integrating the local ones, as well as scoring high on the migrant personality continuum are associated with low levels of well-being and heightened perceptions of conflict at work. These findings may inform policy makers and scholars of conflict about the issues inherent in the acculturation process of foreign employees, and may help craft interventions that minimize the negative effects of cultural identity-based conflicts.

  • “Perilous Decisions Humanitarian Security and Risk Management in a Complex World” (2016)

    By: Amanda Guidero


    For the past 20 years, attacks against humanitarian staff have drawn increasing attention in the media and among academics and practitioners. Recently, high profile attacks against organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières in Syria and Afghanistan have underscored the insecurity confronting humanitarian organizations. While most attention has focused on how external actors have increasingly targeted humanitarian organizations, few studies have examined the security decision-making processes within organizations. This research addresses the gap in the literature on humanitarian security decision-making by focusing on the internal dynamics that influence security related decisions. The research develops and applies the Organizational Security Risk Management Model based on theories of organizational decision-making in order to assess how certain behavioral and organizational characteristics influence decisions related to security management. The research identifies individual factors that seem to affect decision-makers’ perceptions and framing of security issues and describes and explains how organizations categorize and manage risk. The results indicate that organizational characteristics (funding source, size, structure, and mandate) affect strategic, tactical, and operational decisions such as the rigidity of policies, the role of the security manager or advisor, and level of autonomy in the field. Furthermore, the results indicate that decision-makers (security managers and advisors) often share similar backgrounds, such as exposure to a natural or manmade disaster as well as some affiliation with the United Nations, which likely shaped their views on security management. The results also suggest that organizations use similar processes to assess risks, but decisions to mitigate the various risks can transfer those risks recipients and local partners. The results also show how organizations in differing situations with varying levels of complexity can arrive at similar decisions.

  • "From the Creeks to the Community: The Reintegration of Ex-combatants in Nigeria’s Niger Delta" (2016)

    By: Maureen Erinne Kperogi


    Nigeria’s Niger Delta region was beset by several decades of communal turmoil when combatants took up arms against the government and oil companies to protest decades of neglect of the region. These conflicts eased in 2009 when the Federal Government of Nigeria instituted an amnesty program that involved disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DD&R) of combatants. This dissertation explores the dynamics and challenges of the process of reintegrating ex-combatants involved in the Niger Delta insurrection into mainstream society and community members’ involvement in the reintegration of the ex-combatants. It uses case study research. Interviews, focus group discussions, and observations were conducted among ex-combatants and community members in Okrika, and among the Presidential Amnesty Program administrators in Abuja. The dissertation isolates and examines the form, nature, and peculiarities of the reintegration process of ex-combatants in Okrika town, a major, symbolic hub of Niger Delta resistance. A review of the literature finds three types of reintegration: economic, social, and political. The study finds that ex-combatants in Okrika experienced more success social and political reintegration, but had the least success with economic reintegration. The study uses the Human Needs Theory (HNT), expounded by John Burton, to argue that unmet needs—that are non-negotiable— are the primary causes of protracted and intractable conflict and that in order for ex-combatants to fully reintegrate into the community, their human needs must be met. Government’s monthly reinsertion stipends were not only insufficient, the social stigma of ex-combatants’ past violent activities hurt their employability. However, the broad acceptance of these ex-combatants into the social and cultural fabric of the society extends and complicates the disciplinary conversation on DR&R. Given that this study is an in-depth investigation of one Niger Delta community, it is recommended that similar studies be replicated all over the Niger Delta to establish a coherent pattern of the form and content of government reintegration program.

  • "Deciding to Fight: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Decision-Making in Conflict" (2013)

    By: Rebecca LeFebvre


    Does culture matter in decision-making? Existing literature largely assumes that the cognitive processes that inform decision-making are universally applicable, while only very few studies indicate that cultural norms and values shape cognitive processes. Using a survey based quasi-experiment, I examine cross-country differences in cultural traits and decision-making processes among undergraduate students in the U.S. and Ghana. A comparison between the groups shows the constraining impact of culture at three levels: individual, societal, and situated. At an individual level, those who are more collectivist are more dependent in their decision-making. At a societal level, students from a collectivist society (Ghana) are more likely to protect the interests of their inner social identity groups, and students from an individualist society (U.S.) are more likely to make group decisions based on perceived merit. At a situated level, a feeling of familiarity with the setting of the conflict situation tends to produce more cooperative decisions. The quasi-experimental survey is carried over into a third sample of Ghanaian peace professionals from a peacekeeping training center. While Ghanaian students demonstrate a more ethnocentric response and a reluctance to go outside of their social in-group for help, the more experienced Ghanaian peacekeepers consider problem solutions that would involve out-group members. This reflects a unique and less ethnocentric approach in the experienced peacekeeping community that overcomes cultural constraints and produces more effective conflict resolution practices.

  • "Building Social Capital in the Global Security Context: A Study at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies" (2014)

    By: Eliza Markley


    Existing literature features no academic research on social capital in the security environment. However, social capital is relevant for the current global security context because it has the capability of building cooperation based on trust and shared values. This project defines social capital in the global security context as the social and professional networks - based on shared experience, norms and values, and mutual trust - that facilitate cooperation of security professionals for future benefits. This research explores how, whether and the extent to which international education at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies (MC) develops social capital among international security professionals. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, this study found that international education and shared experiences at the MC 1) foster social and professional networks that are used as capital to increase inter-agency and international cooperation; 2) facilitate the development of interpersonal and category-based trust; 3) contribute to participants’ awareness of and adherence to democratic values and norms; 4) increase intercultural communication and competence and 5) result in the application of acquired values, norms, and practices in the home countries of participants.

  • “Conflict Early Warning and The Response Nexus: The Case of the African Union—Continental Early Warning System” (2016)

    By: Makda Maru


    The African Union (AU) established the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS) in 2008 to identify escalating conflicts before they turned violent. Several studies underscore that early warning signals are not always translated into prompt response decisions. This study asks: When do conflict early warnings lead to early response decisions in the African Union’s Continental Early Warning System (AU-CEWS)? This question has not yet been addressed comprehensively in the literature through the use of empirical data. To address the gap, I test three hypotheses derived from political will and organizational culture theories. These hypotheses are: (H1) early warning leads to early response decisions if the organizational culture in the AU-CEWS encourages involvement and adapts to external challenges; (H2) political will affects early response decision-making in the AU-CEWS; and (H3) the conflict early warning indicators formulated by the AU-CEWS were developed in a depoliticized manner to permit effective early response decisions. I employed thematic analysis of semi-structured interview with 30 experts and decision-makers while referring to pertinent secondary data. I also used process tracing to assess the political willingness of AU-CEWS to respond to the current conflict in Burundi. Analysis of political will indicates that decision-makers were reluctant to discuss early warning signals of powerful African countries, struggled to put continental welfare over national interests, and lacked authority to impose decisions on member states. The organizational culture of the AUCEWS shows some factors that facilitate early response decisions, but at the same time, it has other factors that limit effective early response decision-making. The consensus based decision-making process within the AU Peace and Security Council facilitates full engagement of the decision-makers. However, AU-CEWS’ limited interaction between decision-makers and conflict early warning experts, hierarchical organizational structure, and the absence of a formal structure to bring early warning into the decision-making process limited the effective flow of early warning information to the decision-makers. Regarding depoliticization, my study shows that the early warning indicators were developed in a technical manner, which limits subjectivity or bias. The use of existing legal instruments as a base to identify conflict early warning indicators, however, partially, and perhaps inevitably, politicizes the conflict early warning indicators. The AU-CEWS has made creditable strides to prevent conflict in Africa, but it needs more political will, a more conducive organizational culture, and the depoliticization of its indicators and analyses, to create a more robust and successful early warning-response nexus. Overall, my research findings indicate that conflict early warning signals make a difference only if they are converted into early response. Effective conflict early response, on the other hand, is guaranteed when decision makers prioritize early response above political interest, when there is a structure to bring conflict early warnings timely and directly to decision-makers, and when the very indicators of conflicts are developed in a depoliticized and technical manner. Early warning institutions should underscore the fact that social factors (political will, organizational culture, and depoliticized warning signals) which guarantee conflict early response decisions remain as indispensable as technical and material capability needed to gather early warning signals.


    By: Natalia F. Meneses


    Armed conflict and its consequences do not discriminate according to gender. It affects all people. During an armed conflict, women are the majority of civilian victims: they are forcibly displaced, their family members are killed, and they suffer sexual abuse and torture. However, most peace processes have been exclusively controlled and led by men, while women and women’s issues are usually not included in peace negotiations or resulting agreements. In the last 30 years, there have been 35 comprehensive peace accords signed across the world of which only eight included women’s issues in their agreements. It is crucial that women’s issues are included to engender institutions and policies focused on improving women’s status in society as well as to ensure a sustainable peace. This project tackles the important question, why are women’s issues included in some peace negotiations and peace agreements and not others. I study this process by analyzing the peace processes and agreements in three cases: Guatemala, El Salvador, and Colombia. I use secondary sources for Guatemala and El Salvador, and a mix of primary and secondary sources (30 interviews) for Colombia. I find that a mobilized women’s movement and frame alignment are necessary conditions for the inclusion of women’s issues in the peace agreement. These findings contribute to the scholarly literature on peace agreements and on women’s rights in conflict-affected areas and have implications for practitioners in the areas of conflict management and peacebuilding.

  • "South Africa's Paradox: A Case Study of Latent State Fragility" (2014)

    By: Edward Mienie


    Do existing measures of state fragility measure fragility accurately? Based on commonly used fragility measures, South Africa (SA) is classified as a relatively stable state, yet rising violent crime, high unemployment, endemic poverty, eroding public trust, identity group based preferential treatment policies, and the rapid rise of the private security sector are all indications that SA may be suffering from latent state fragility. Based on a comprehensive view of security, this study examines the extent to which measures of political legitimacy and good governance, effectiveness in the security system – especially with respect to the police system – and mounting economic challenges may be undermining the stability of SA in ways undetected by commonly used measures of state fragility. Using a mixed-methods approach based on quantitative secondary data analysis and semi-structured interviews with government officials, security practitioners, and leading experts in the field, this study finds that the combination of colonization, apartheid, liberation struggle, transition from autocracy to democracy, high levels of direct and structural violence, stagnating social, political, and economic developments make South Africa a latently fragile state. Conceptually, the results of this research call into question the validity of commonly used measures of state fragility and suggest the need for a more comprehensive approach to assessing state fragility. Practically, this study offers a number of concrete policy recommendations for how South Africa may address mounting levels of latent state fragility.

  • "Peacebuilding in the Context of Displacement: Women’s Groups in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) Settlements in Kenya" (2016)

    By: Catherine A. Odera


    Following the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya, 650,000 people, comprising men, women, youth, and children, fled their communities, and found refuge in internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps. Although the Kenyan Government resettled some of the IDPs later in eco-villages and inner city settlements, seven years later there were still 309,200 in IDPs camps across the country. The objective of this qualitative multi-sited single case study is to explore the role of women’s groups in peacebuilding efforts following the post-election conflict. The study focuses on four grassroots-level local women’s groups in the Bankala and Mambira eco-villages and an inner-city settlement in the Rift-Valley, Kenya. The study uses the human security approach to peacebuilding to examine the activities and initiatives of the women’s groups. It also adopts the African feminisms theoretical framework that focuses on the African context of the settlements, female autonomy and cooperation, the importance of kinship, and the inclusion of all members of the community. The methodology involves the analysis of 28 individual interviews, five focus group discussions with 32 participants, participant observations, and published and unpublished documents. The findings indicate that the economic, social, and cultural initiatives of the women’s groups contributed to meeting dimensions of human security in the displaced persons’ settlements. Additionally, the findings signify that a community-based approach to peacebuilding that involved women, men, youth, and children allowed for sustainable structures of peace. Finally, I recommend the involvement of external organizations and the Kenyan government in collaborative partnerships and interventions with the women’s groups in order to sustain their peacebuilding initiatives beyond the grassroots levels.

  • “Refugee Resettlement and Peace Building: Exploring the Roles of Human and Social Capital of Caseworkers in fulfilling Grassroots Refugee Needs” (2016)

    By: Pranaya Rana


    Refugee resettlement provides reintegration opportunities for refugees and paves a path for sustainable peacebuilding through refugee empowerment. Despite these benefits, the often inadequate outcomes of resettlement present challenges for both the refugees and their service providers. Refugee caseworkers must meet their clients’ needs and provide certain services to their clients within a limited time period. This makes helping refugees gain economic self-sufficiency a daunting task. Often, failure to achieve resettlement goals is attributed to the refugees for not possessing the desired skills or networks (human and social capital). This research explores how caseworkers’ characteristics such as education, experience, and specialized training affect refugee economic self-sufficiency outcomes. The researcher uses U.S. resettlement policy data, focus group discussions with both refugees and their providers, refugee case file analyses, and a case study of refugee specialization training at a post-resettlement refugee services agency to analyze the effects of caseworkers’ characteristics on refugee economic self-sufficiency. The results support the claim that caseworkers’ characteristics play a vital role in helping the refugees attain economic self-sufficiency. This study identifies key challenges in refugee resettlement case management and recommends development of agency capital (i.e. human and social capital of caseworkers), which would help increase refugees’ human and social capital and ultimately improve both case management and resettlement outcomes. This study also recommends that resettlement entities adopt a community-specific service model to improve refugee economic self-sufficiency outcomes for the different refugee groups being resettled in the United States.

  • “Lending a Megaphone to the Muted: The Merits of Comprehensive Conflict Engagement through Photovoice in Refugee Resettlement Communities” (2015)

    By: Birthe Reimers


    Local refugee resettlement sites are often overlooked as hotspots of conflict because of the unstated assumption that resettlement and escape from militarized conflict automatically mean peace. However, refugees are resettled in local communities into which old conflicts are imported, and where new ones emerge as refugees and locals need to find ways of coexisting despite cultural differences. This research was developed in response to calls by the US Office of Refugee Resettlement and the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for grassroots-level data on the challenges faced by residents of resettlement communities and for the development of strategies for promoting intercultural understanding.

    This dissertation delineates the development of the Comprehensive Conflict Engagement Model, based on which the image- and dialogue-based Photovoice methodology was modified and applied as a practical conflict intervention. This work bridges the gap between conflict theory and practice by collecting bottom-up information about the dynamics that shape people’s lives in Clarkston, a refugee resettlement hub in Georgia, and exploring the utility of the CCEM applied through Photovoice as a comprehensive conflict engagement strategy that concurrently targets the internal, relational, and structural bases of conflict.

    The results suggest that the participants were generally satisfied with aspects of their environment on which they had an impact and dissatisfied when they were impacted uni-directionally, without reciprocal relationships and the power to actively shape their experiences. The results further demonstrate that a CCEM-based adaptation of Photovoice is a suitable comprehensive conflict engagement strategy for practitioners operating at the community level.

  • "Conflict Sensitivity and Conservation: Evaluating Design, Implementation & Practice" (2018)

    By: Amanda Woomer


    This dissertation investigates the use of a conflict sensitivity framework in supporting environmental conservation work. Employing an action research methodology, it consists of a multi-phase evaluation of the design and implementation of Conservation International’s (CI) Environmental Peacebuilding Training Manual. Through needs assessment, formative evaluation, and outcome evaluation phases, the dissertation explores questions related to what conflicts conservation practitioners face; what form a relevant, accessible, and effective conflict sensitivity framework might take; and what effect such a framework might have on the knowledge, attitudes, capacities, and actions of conservation practitioners. The findings indicate that conservation practitioners face a variety of conflicts stemming largely from their engagement with stakeholders, and that a conflict sensitivity framework is likely to be useful in responding to those conflicts. However, if conflict sensitivity is to have a sustainable impact on environmental conservation work, more must be done to support its integration. This includes: clarifying key concepts such as the difference between peacebuilding and conflict sensitivity, further defining how and when a conflict sensitivity framework should be used, ensuring a framework’s adaptation to the context and needs, and reinforcing the development of conservation practitioners’ capacity through ongoing guidance and applied practice. As a collaborative, action-oriented research project, this dissertation also includes a reflection on and recommendations about how to best take advantage of opportunities and address challenges associated with academic-practitioner research partnerships.

  • "The Multicultural Goal: Acculturation Experiences of Foreign Elite Athletes in the United States" (2015)

    By: Claudia Stura


    As more foreign elite athletes move between countries than ever before, many experience acculturation difficulties that may affect their performance. Research in this field is limited; consequently, this research explores the acculturation process of foreign athletes to top level sports team culture in the United States. The research was designed in two phases. In Phase I, the acculturation experiences of 18 first-year elite foreign student-athletes were studied from the beginning to the end of the year through semi-structured interviews conducted at three Division I universities. Phase II consisted of a comparative case study analysis of two Major League Soccer (MLS) clubs during one season. In total, thirty-eight semi-structured interviews were conducted with new foreign elite athletes as well as their teammates and staff members. Cultural and personal acculturation processes of both groups of athletes were compared and contrasted, and factors that both help and hinder the foreign athletes in their acculturation process were identified. The main findings for the student-athletes included: a) their engagement with the host culture on a deep level by taking classes and living on campus; b) their keen observation of cultural differences, their conscious awareness of their own personal adjustment, and efforts towards integration; and c) the manifestation of role conflict between being a student and being an athlete. While these student athletes struggled with acculturation stressors such as injuries and homesickness, the majority of them indicated that none of the challenges they experienced were major detractors from their performance. Findings with the professional foreign athletes indicated: a) an interest in learning about American culture, although actual cultural learning was quite minimal; b) their problems with the English language hindered their abilities to accomplish even their most basic needs; c) their struggles with acculturation stressors such as homesickness increased when their performance was not at expected levels; and d) their success largely hinged on team support. Given that serious problems were far more likely to occur at the professional level, the prerequisites of the athletes indicate the level of support they need and a systematic support structure, especially from their teams, seems to be crucial for a smooth acculturation process.

  • "Art & Agency: Transforming Relationships of Power Through Art in Iraqi Kurdistan" (2018)

    By: Autumn Cockrell-Abdullah


    Today, the Kurds factor significantly both as a key to some of the most critical conflicts in the Middle East and also as citizens of the world interacting with a highly global, highly interconnected reality. Despite their importance, we lack a nuanced understanding of the complex and multi-layered cultural context of the Kurds that impacts the socio-political factors inside Iraqi Kurdistan.

    The deeply entrenched political rhetoric of the hegemonic Kurdish nationalist narrative in Iraqi Kurdistan has served to homogenize the idea of what the Kurdish “nation” is, to whitewash deep social, economic and political concerns inside Iraqi Kurdistan and to marginalize those voices that resist nationalist ideals. Utilizing the work of Kurdish artists as well as arts-based perspectives, this study goes beyond the political rhetoric of Kurdish nationalism to understand meaning making within this cultural context and how meaning translates into ideas and behaviors, potentially, producing moments of conflict.

    This is a study about the place of culture in conflict and conflict analysis and the intersection of the arts and activism, particularly as art creates a space for resistance and a pathway for one group of Kurdish artists in Iraqi Kurdistan to transform a peoples’ understanding of politics and their relationship to the world around them. Critically considering the production of artwork, and the linkages between contemporary Iraqi Kurdish visual and conceptual art, as a historically particular phenomenon, this research demonstrates the struggle of a people to transform historical relationships of power and to develop a culture of Just Peace to include being able to effectively shape their society’s architecture, including institutions, policies and organizations that support its function.