Ayuen Garang Ajok
Hometown: I am from Juba, South Sudan, and my hometown in the United States is Oreland, Pa.
Educational Background: Before I attended Arcadia University, I went to Pennsylvania State University for a year and then transferred to Temple University in Philadelphia, where I received a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business and Legal Studies.
Why Arcadia? As a child, I went to Kenya as a refugee. I started my first grade in Kakuma, a refugee camp in northwestern Kenya. My first classroom was under a tree with no roof; when it rained, classes were canceled. There were no school supplies, but we managed to learn from teachers who used the ground as a blackboard. Life was very tough: We went without food or water for a very long time during my eight long years in the refugee camp. Still, I managed to go to school and learn. I knew education would provide me the ability to draw some meaning from the suffering in my life. Through all these painful moments, I knew that someday I would find happiness. My past is what has kept me going in life.
Coming from a war-torn country, I figured that if I learned about conflict resolution, I would be able to help my country of South Sudan. As I researched graduate schools, I knew I wanted to focus on human rights law, sustainable development, and humanitarian work. I found Arcadia’s International Peace and Conflict Resolution program (IPCR) and thought it seemed well designed to address contemporary problems affecting people in the world, especially in conflict zones.
I was also drawn to Arcadia by its study abroad programs. During my first semester at Arcadia, I had an opportunity to go to the Republic of Ireland and to Northern Ireland to study their conflict. To me that was a great opportunity that I knew I couldn’t find at every school. I also went to Costa Rica in 2010 to learn about the conflict confronting its indigenous people. In addition, I traveled to Tanzania and learned development and regional security from an African perspective. I discovered other cultures and shared my own culture with the locals in Arusha. My time there was amazing.
What have been some of your key professional development experiences during your time at Arcadia? During my time at Arcadia, I had a lot of opportunities. For instance, I studied at Nyerere Centre for Peace Research in Arusha, Tanzania. During my time in Arusha, I was able to learn human rights laws from Mr. Roland Adjovi, who is an expert in international laws and African affairs. Also, I had an opportunity to conduct rigorous research about the rule of law in East Africa and participated in the rule of law conference that was organized by United Nations Dispute Tribunal (UNDT) and the East African community. In addition, during my time at Arcadia, I went to Costa Rica in May 2010, where I studied the impact of a hydroelectric dam under construction in Boruca, particularly its impact on sustainable development and environment. My experiences during my time at Arcadia were extraordinary.
How has Arcadia’s global emphasis impacted your learning? Going to Arcadia introduced me to ongoing social justice issues around the world. It illustrated how conflicts were mitigated and brought to the international arena. In addition, I like that the IPCR program exposes students to fieldwork. It is extraordinary to learn in the classroom and then see that knowledge applied in areas where conflicts exist.
What was your Master's Thesis Topic? Refugees' Repatriation: Factors Linked to Refugees’ Reluctance to Accept Repatriation Offers
What are you currently doing/where are you working? After I graduated from Arcadia, I worked as director of Africa Programs with an organization called Global Education Motivators at Chestnut Hill College. Presently, I am a graduate student at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I am here at Cornell pursuing my MPA in Economics and Financial Policy. My areas of interest are labor economics, labor markets, and employment relations in developing countries.
How has Arcadia helped you achieve your goals? Arcadia gave me great tools to excel in the field of development. In particular, the IPCR program has helped me understand why conflicts exist, what their root causes are, and how they are resolved through nonviolent mechanisms. After graduating, I began working as a director for an NGO in Philadelphia, where I promoted social justice issues. Working there, I introduced proposals regarding economic development, international development, and social policies. After two years of work, I started my second master’s degree at Cornell. I am also the president of the Cornell International Affairs Forum, a professional student organization.