It turns out I needn’t have worried about sustaining the blog’s new Student Stories feature.  I started off with only two students — Mirza and Maliheh, plus Manjula on the alumni side — but today I’m introducing Roxanne Krystalli, who has an interest in writing and who volunteered to be included.  I love volunteers!  Roxanne is a first-year MALD student, studying International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.  For her second Field of Study, she is in the process of designing one on the theme of Gender and Conflict.  Prior to Fletcher, she worked with women affected by conflict, in affiliation with the United Nations, Peace in Focus (co-founded by current MIB student Kate Fedosova, and Kyle Dietrich, 2009 MALD graduate), and other organizations in Egypt, Uganda, Colombia, Guatemala, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.  Today, Roxanne tells us about her interests and a special project she has initiated.

I arrived at Fletcher with three different, but connected, interests:  First, I came here to further study the intersection of gender and conflict, which I had explored in my field work with ex-combatants in Colombia, survivors of sexual violence in East Africa, and women parliamentarians in the Middle East.  Second, I was fascinated by non-violent movements and civil resistance, with which I became better acquainted through the Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict.  And third, the thread that tied everything together was my fervent belief in the power of storytelling.  Whether as a co-designer and implementer of curricula on creative peace-building through visual and written stories in post-conflict areas, or as a budding writer, photographer, and blogger, I was fascinated by the power of stories to air grievances, generate empathy, move individuals to action, and create community.

In Fletcher classrooms, stories are rigorous, academic, footnoted.  This made my MALD classmate, Katherine Conway-Gaffney, and me wonder:  What about the other stories?  The more personal stories?  The stories the members of this community carry within them?  Katherine and I first met through the “buddy program” that pairs incoming first-year students with second-year students with similar interests, and we quickly discovered that we both believed the power of this community lies in the narratives that exist within it.

It is this shared belief in the power of storytelling that led us to co-found the Storytelling Forum.  The format is simple:  Students are invited to share stories that have affected their lives and work, in response to question prompts.  This is not an academic discussion, or a how-to; rather, it resembles the conversations that would unfold at a café among friends.  Our first evening of sharing stories, moderated by Professor Eileen Babbitt, revolved around the theme of the personal dimensions of work, and the thrills and challenges of an international life, while the second evening focused on notions of home and family.  Students’ suggestions for future storytelling evenings include topics ranging from questions of love, solitude, and companionship, as they relate to an international career, to stories about humility, uncertainty, or grief.  The project is independent and student-run and, since many of the stories are so personal, we have restricted readership to members of the Fletcher community.

My first semester at Fletcher has been nothing short of humbling and inspiring.  Looking into the various stories that inhabit this community, and slowly seeing how they intersect or diverge, fuels my gratitude for being here.  Stay tuned for more updates on stories from the Fletcher community!

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