The Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding responds to a global and local need for professionals with advanced training in a rapidly growing field.
According to the International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice (2008), there is a gap in graduate programs that train students to think and plan holistically across disciplines and fields. Our program is designed to address that gap harnessing cutting-edge ideas and tools in peacebuilding education.
With generous donations from the J.M. Kohler, Wm. Collins Kohler and Underwood foundations, the MSP was created in 2013. MSP alumni are leaders in the field, bringing a new way of thinking to their work as they navigate pressing global problems, such as climate change, homelessness, food security and health disparities. Graduates of the MSP are well-versed in systems thinking, tools for structural change and the importance of embracing complexity.
MSP Learning Philosophy
The MSP uses classroom- and community-based learning to teach critical leadership skills in systems thinking, conflict analysis, facilitation, strategic planning and evaluation. The program is rooted in practice – students learn through hands-on, collaborative class projects and a fieldwork practicum.
The MSP embraces a cohort-based, trans-disciplinary model, and students are drawn from diverse academic, socio-cultural and professional backgrounds. Dialogue and relationship-building among students is central to the MSP learning philosophy.
The Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding prepares its students for careers engaging in today’s complex global problems. The curriculum incorporates a holistic approach that integrates diverse academic fields and professional sectors. The MSP requires 40 credits, with both full-time (two years) and part-time (three years) options. The core coursework centers on:
- Community resilience
- Systems thinking
- Conflict transformation
Courses are a blend of theory and practice. Throughout the program, students will have many opportunities to work directly with community organizations through class projects and summer fieldwork.
Scholarships & Funding
We understand that financial support is important to every student. A variety of options are available to help students finance their education at UWM, including over $500,000 in nursing scholarships & funding awarded annually, as well as loans, grants, student employment, fellowships, military education benefits and more.
MSP graduates pursue careers in a variety of sectors, providing a holistic or complex lens to projects and programs. MSP alumni are currently working in the private, public and nonprofit sectors, with a small subset pursuing doctoral degrees.
Where are they now? Check out a few of our alumni.
Sam Dorios, 2016
Systems and Complexity Associate, Hawaii Leadership Forum (Honolulu, Hawaii)
Hawaii Leadership Forum (HLF) is a societal change organization dedicated to fostering enduring, positive change in Hawaii. The main track for accomplishing this is a cross-sectoral leadership program, the Omidyar Fellows, which cultivates a community of midcareer leaders to equip them with the skills and relationships they will need to collectively transform Hawaii. Sam’s job is to support the fellows in their efforts. This usually takes the form of systems mapping; a process that he facilitates. Currently, his role is expanding to incorporate emergent learning so that the organization can continually adapt and improve its ability to create impact.
“The MSP program gave me the tools and skills needed to do systems mapping, but more importantly, it taught me the mindsets needed for this line of work. The nature of grappling with complexity requires an open mind, desire to constantly learn and improve, and a willingness to adapt. This inner work must be done before any meaningful outer work is possible. Moreover, the MSP connected me to HLF through an internship opportunity that led directly to my current position.”
Aruna Kallon, 2018
PhD Candidate in Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison, Wisconsin)
Aruna is a PhD student in Educational Policy Studies, with a concentration in Comparative International Education (CIE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Aruna’s research focuses on the effects of free primary and secondary schooling on educational quality and outcomes in Sierra Leone. Aruna intends for his research to provide an understanding of, and inform, local and foreign/external interventions for a sustainable implementation of the fee-free policy, and for narrowing the achievement gaps for approximately 1.5 million schoolgoing children in Sierra Leone.
“MSP nurtured in me a unique ethos: to embrace complexity as an opportunity or entry point for action and change, rather than as a limitation.”
Linda Xiong, 2019
Systems Change Coordinator, Texas Homeless Network (Austin, Texas)
Linda works with agencies across the Texas Balance of State Continuum of Care to establish and operate Coordinated Entry. Coordinated Entry is a community-led process and systems change approach that shifts a housing crisis response system from program-centric to person-centric.
“Through the MSP program, I discovered the breadth and depth of systems thinking as it relates to complex social problems and became confident as a facilitator of systems change. My cohort exemplified a community of peacebuilders where we shared and valued diverse perspectives and built strong friendships – a community I hope to develop wherever I go.”
Students in the Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding program pair coursework with fieldwork to participate in learning experiences that allow them to use their skills learned in class.
Fieldwork is the “heart” of the MSP. It is through fieldwork that students try out the methods and skills learned in class. Fieldwork also connects students directly to leaders in their fields of interest, allowing them to begin cultivating a professional network. Students partner with an organization of their choosing and collaboratively develop a fieldwork project. There is a large degree of flexibility regarding the geographic location, organization type and topical focus of a student’s fieldwork. Students interested in going abroad may need to be fluent in the local language.
- ACCMARI (community development org) Ixil Triangle, Guatemala
- Agape Scholars International Malawi
- Alliance for the Great Lakes Milwaukee
- ADIFORT (community development org) La Fortuna, Costa Rica
- Arts@Large Milwaukee
- Best Baby Zones Milwaukee
- City of Milwaukee Milwaukee
- Community Health Internship Program multiple sites in Wisconsin
- Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Romania
- Engineers w/o Borders Germany/Sri Lanka
- Environmental Protection Agency Duluth, MN
- Eurasia International University Yerevan, Armenia
- Fourth “R”/Dr. Heidi Luft Dominican Republic
- Grandmothers Beyond Borders Uganda
- Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Council Wisconsin
- Groundwork Milwaukee Milwaukee
- Haggerty Museum, Marquette University Milwaukee
- Hawaii Leadership Forum Honolulu, HI
- Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee Milwaukee
- IKIAM University Tena, Ecuador
- Impact Milwaukee
- Institute of Public Health Macedonia
- Institute for Urban Health Partnerships Milwaukee
- Institute of Public Health Macedonia
- Institute of World Affairs, UWM Milwaukee
- Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee Milwaukee
- International Peace Initiatives Meru, Kenya
- Kars Urban and Culture Research Association Kars, Turkey
- Kiva Wisconsin Milwaukee
- Local Initiatives Support Corporation Milwaukee
- Mali Watch International DC/Mali
- McNair TRIO at UWM Milwaukee
- Milwaukee 7 Milwaukee
- Milwaukee Health Department Milwaukee
- Milwaukee Water Commons Milwaukee
- Municipality of Ruminahui Quito, Ecuador
- Muslim Community Health Center Milwaukee
- National Parks Service Friday Harbor, WA
- Nepal Policy Center Lalitpur, Nepal
- Ock Pop Tok Laos
- PACA 40 Warsaw, Poland
- Racism and Health Collaborative Research Team Milwaukee
- RiverEdge Nature Center Saukville, WI
- Riverwest Food Pantry Milwaukee
- Silver Spring Nursing Center (IUHP) Milwaukee
- Silver Spring Wellness Initiative Milwaukee
- Stonehouse Water Technologies Kewanee, WI
- Student Success Center, UWM Milwaukee
- The Nature Conservancy Wisconsin Lake Beulah, WI
- The Omidyar Group San Francisco, CA
- The Women’s Bakery Kigali, Rwanda
- Ulupono Hawaii
- Wi’iam Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center Palestine
- YWCA Green Bay, WI
Fall Year 1 (9 credits)
|Course Name||Course Number||Credits|
|The Politics and Policy of Sustainability||MSP 760||3|
|Preparing for Sustainable Peacebuilding and Social Change||MSP 770||3|
|Transdisciplinary Research Methods and Information Literacy||MSP 780||3|
Spring Year 1 (11 credits)
|Course Name||Course Number||Credits|
|Complex Human-Environmental Interactions||MSP 761||3|
|Holistic Peacebuilding Practice||MSP 771||3|
|Innovation, Evaluation and Adaptive Management||MSP 781||3|
|Fundamentals of Project Management||MSP 785||2|
Summer Year 1 (2 credits)
|Course Name||Course Number||Credits|
|Fieldwork in Sustainable Peacebuilding||MSP 797 / 798||2|
Fall Year 2 (9 credits)
|Course Name||Course Number||Credits|
|Leadership and Program Management||MSP 791||3|
Spring Year 2 (9 credits)
|Course Name||Course Number||Credits|
|Negotiation and Group Problem Solving Skills||MSP 790||3|
|Reflective Practice||MSP 786||3|
Students Prior to Fall 2021
MSP students who started prior to Fall 2021, please refer to the handbook or advisor for curriculum.
MSP Program Director
Faculty and Staff
In addition to core program faculty and staff, MSP has a multidisciplinary and cross-campus collaborative advisory committee.
- Alexa Anderson, Assistant Professor, Nursing
- Anne Dressel, Assistant Professor, Nursing
- Timothy Ehlinger, Associate Professor, Sustainable Peacebuilding
- Kaboni Gondwe, Assistant Professor, Nursing
- Kirk Harris, Assoistant Professor, Urban Planning
- Laura Hermanns, Partnerships Coordinator, Institute for Systems Change and Peacebuilding
- Jeana Holt, Assistant Professor, Nursing
- Marissa Jablonski, Director, Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin
- Joanne Lipo Zovic, Faculty Associate, Sustainable Peacebuilding
- Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu, Associate Professor, Nursing
- Sarah Morgan, Clinicial Associate Professor, Nursing
- Margaret Noodin, Professor, English
- Margret Petrie, Student Services Director, Freshwater Science
- Marie Sandy, Associate Professor, Administrative Leadership
- Aaron Schutz, Professor & Department Chair, Educational Policy and Community Studies
- Caroline Seymour-Jorne, Professor, French, Italian, and Comparative Literature
- Paru Shah, Professor, Political Science
- Dimitri Topitzes, Professor, Social Work
- Christine Wolf, Assistant Director, Global & International Studies
Lekan is from Nigeria, he graduated with a B.Tech in Urban and regional Planning from the Federal University of Technology, Akure. He gained his experience as a research assistant in the Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research after which he followed his passion for poultry farming which enabled him to start charity as a hobby by donating farm produce to the less privileged. He joined the MSP program because of his passion social and economic equity.
Marisa graduated from UWM in 2018 with a B.A. in ethnic studies. She focused on medical disparities and social justice movements. She is passionate about centering the community and believes in solidarity rather than charity. She has worked in various organizations that focus on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, sex workers and those who have been trafficked. Currently, Marisa works with housing shelters and providers that work with those who are homeless. For fun, she loves to be outdoors, read, listen to podcasts, watch horror movies, cook, paint and be with her chosen family. She is excited to expand her knowledge of peacebuilding.
Olivia earned a BA in Spanish and a BS in marketing from Winona State University in 2016. She worked in digital marketing for a year before joining the Peace Corps as a community economic development volunteer in Costa Rica. Her passion is in grassroots community development. Olivia joins MSP as a UWM Economic Development Fellow managing the Kiva Milwaukee program.
Emily received her bachelor’s degree from UWM in international studies (emphasis in world affairs and international politics) and holds a peace studies and conflict resolution certificate. Her work at the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and the Boys and Girls Club allowed her to learn from victims of the justice system and gain experience working with Milwaukee youth. Emily’s research interests include examining the impacts of policies and development practices on marginalized communities. She is entering MSP as an Advanced Opportunity Program Fellow. She believes that the MSP program will not only help her expand her ability to address inequalities at both an interpersonal and global scale but also hopes to improve the communities to which she belongs.
Claire graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in social work. Claire started her college career at St Norbert College in De Pere where she had the privilege to participate in the GAP program. During her time in GAP she lived in the boundary waters for 28 days, did volunteer work and service learning in Chicago and Albuquerque and finished the semester working with coffee farmers in Guatemala. GAP was where Claire discovered her passion for peacebuilding and working to create sustainable communities around the world.
Jake graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, with a double major in politics and sociology and minors in Catholic studies and peace & justice. During his time at Loras, by working as a sustainability student worker, co-founding an environmental student organization, and leading a local chapter as a part of the national climate movement, Sunrise, he fostered a passion for environmental justice. Through his environmental activism, he would like to work with marginalized populations who are most at risk from a changing climate. Specifically, through the MSP program, he hopes to learn more about equitable climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.
Kabiru is from Nigeria. He has a B.A. in Economics and International Relations and also a master’s degree in Nonprofit Management from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Kabiru has always had an interest in development and community building. He currently works at a homeless shelter where he has helped men struggling with addictions and unfortunate circumstances get back on their feet. Kabiru is excited to be a part of the MSP program and hopes to use what he learns to build and strengthen communities around the world.
Eliza graduated from the University of Wisconsin- Madison with a B.A. in international studies. During her time at UW, she concentrated on global security and health as well as studying French and Arabic. Eliza is passionate about community-oriented peacekeeping efforts and building strong foundations in national and foreign policy. Currently, she is working with UWM’s PreCollege program Quest Project to advise and mentor students in the Milwaukee area to reach their highest potential. Eliza looks forward to learning and creating new ways to bring her passions into her work and expanding her ability to connect with people in Milwaukee and beyond.
A proud first-generation student, Jeydelyn (she/her) earned her BA in Social Welfare and Justice and Spanish from Marquette University. Significantly impacted by her Gilman Scholar semester abroad in Madrid, following graduation, Jeydelyn returned to Spain for three years to work as an ESL instructor and later in Shenzhen, China. She is entering MSP as an Advanced Opportunity Program Fellow. Jeydelyn also serves as the Community Outreach Coordinator for the MKE Entrepreneur Incubator Program. Jeydelyn joined the MSP program to explore sustainable and equitable international and community development. She is a passionate educator, lover of languages, mentor, and community advocate.
Piper joins the MSP with an extensive background in community building while working with folks in creating safe, healthful and connected lives after complex trauma histories. They have a particular interest in continuing their work helping children to connect with the natural world to build their resilience, fostering safe relationships with each other and the environment. Their experience in mental health, community building and earth-based practices has reaffirmed how critical they believe supporting people in rebuilding their reciprocal relationship with the earth is in order to create resilience, prevent and heal from trauma.
Jessica is an alumna of Loyola University Chicago’s Quinlan School of Business. On campus, she participated in social justice organizations and with the Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs office as an Empowering Sisterhood (LUCES) member and scholar. After graduating, Jessica joined Peace Corps Mongolia as an English teacher. Living in the Mongolian countryside allowed Jessica to explore grassroots community building, public education, and some public health. Jessica was inspired to apply for UWM’s MSP program to learn how to analyze the systemic complexities in our dynamic world, to use methods and practices to center community voice, and to develop a myriad of other skills to put those community ideas into action with a critical lens.
Everlyne has worked with grassroots, national, and international not-for-profit-organizations in Kenya. During this time, she coordinated projects on child protection, education, and livelihoods. She has worked in the informal settlements of Nairobi and rural settlements in Kenya. She has trained families and youth in various areas of community development. She also worked with youth and children to develop life skills. Everlyne is interested in the relationships among water, environment, and equity and how those systems can together create opportunities for sustainable peacebuilding in communities in Kenya.
Tinuola is a passionate education and gender activist from Nigeria. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Social Studies Education from Obafemi Awolowo University. Through her volunteering role with OneAfricanChild (OAC), an organization focused on promoting education in low-income communities in Africa, and also through her role as a Youth Advisory Member of the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI), Tinuola has delivered leadership development programs, designed curriculum, and provided teachers training. Participating in the Gender Responsive Education Sector Planning workshop spurred her interest in working on gender in and through education. Tinuola has joined MSP to build upon her expertise and experience and develop new skills that will help her to craft a distinct approach towards making a social impact and building sustainable practices.
Sara (they/them) is a genderqueer organizer, writer, and second year student with the MSP, where they work as a fellow with the Wisconsin Decarceration Platform. They organize with Black and Pink-Milwaukee and are involved in areas of collective work including abolition, transformative justice, anti-imperialism, and neuroscience for the revolution. Currently, Sara is hoping to enter the field of evaluation after completing their MSP. Find their articles and poetry at Art For Ourselves Magazine and catch them in their free time singing, laughing, and taking walks along the river.
Anna-Marie graduated with a B.A. in Art History and International Studies from UW-Milwaukee. After Graduation she served as the Executive Director of Historic Milwaukee, Inc. During her tenure she oversaw the development of several long-standing and celebrated programs including Remarkable Milwaukee and Doors Open Milwaukee. From Historic Milwaukee she moved into liaison and consultant roles in real estate, community development, arts, fund development and transportation. Anna-Marie is eager to apply Systems Thinking and Peacebuilding skills to additional studies in Urban Planning. With an eye toward unlearning divisive and alienating behaviors often rewarded in and perpetuated by Institutional and Corporate culture and policies, Anna-Marie hopes to build or join a community of trans-disciplinary practitioners with values-based, long-term strategies aimed at connecting people to places and places to community.
Renee graduated from Graceland University, majoring in elementary education with minors in studio art and church leadership. At Graceland, Renee was involved with Outreach International working with communities in South Texas and Nicaragua. Following graduation, she volunteered in Hawaii and South Korea with World Service Corps. When her time with World Service Corps ended, Renee stayed in South Korea for another two years to teach at an English immersion school. She enjoys traveling and working with communities around the world. Renee is eager to be a part of a program, which focuses on peace and creating a better world for future generations.
Shannon served 17 years in prison from the age of 19 to 36. Throughout his incarceration, he dove into personal development, writing, reading and all-around health while obtaining a BA in business administration, learning Spanish, writing a blog for five years (theinnervoice84.WordPress.com), having numerous articles published locally and nationally, and creating a nonprofit that has the greatest connection with those incarcerated in the WI prison system and showcases the successes, humanity, and agency of people with criminal records (thecommunitynow.us).
Clarisse earned her BA in sociology from the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso before coming to the U.S. and studying economics and nursing at Madison College. She is fluent in both French and English. Her current profession is as a nurse assistant. She is interested in furthering her knowledge and understanding of the impacts of climate change on human health.
Kate has been a practicing RN for several years and joins the MSP with a passion for learning systems tools that can be applied to health and wellness. She earned her BSN from UW-Oshkosh in 1995 and a holistic nurse baccalaureate certification from the American Holistic Nursing Association. She is currently an RN and the shared governance president for a local health care network.
Hassimi was born in Dedougou, a small town in Burkina Faso in West Africa. After high school, he enrolled at the University of Ouagadougou (Capital City) where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Physical Science and a master’s degree in Chemistry. He then moved to the U.S. to earn his PhD in Physical Chemistry at the University of Iowa. Hassimi decided to pursue the MSP, because of his belief that he can give a small contribution in bringing peace in some part of the world. He hopes to apply his MSP skills to work in Burkina Faso and other countries in Africa.
Christian entered into MSP searching for a place to ground his interests in a range of fields from food systems to interpersonal communication to social change. Coming from a background of communication and food access work in the Twin Cities, he now has had the opportunity to work with undergraduates in our peace studies courses, assist MSP and the ISCP with a network-asset mapping project, and conduct community organization research here in Milwaukee.
Alyssa studied Sociology, Community Organizing and Sustainability, and Social Equity and Diversity at UW-Oshkosh. During their time at UWO, Alyssa helped to found the Wisconsin Institute on Social Equity, whose focus was to address issues of equity on campus and in the community. Alyssa also interned with Neighborhood Partners, researching the relationship between social ties and a sense of belonging to one’s community. Alyssa grew up in Southern California, surrounded by her Filipina heritage. Since moving to Wisconsin, she has noticed a severe lack in representation of the Filipino community, something she hopes to change in the future. As the second oldest of six children, Alyssa has always been a helper, and their desire to help others, regardless of their need, is what brought Alyssa to the MSP program.
Jolynn comes to the MSP with a MA in Women’s Studies from the University of Cincinnati and two decades of professional experience in advocacy, program development, curriculum design, healing-focused care, and group facilitation throughout the field of domestic violence. Her breadth of experience in intervention programs has shaped her understanding of systemic oppressions and her belief that every human is worthy and capable of healing, transformation, self-determination, accountability, and loving connection. In MSP, Jolynn plans to focus on how to address the complex needs of those impacted by violence. She hopes to gain skills to help stakeholders reimagine whole, healthy, and just policies and practices reflective of their communities, responsive to human needs, and empowering individuals, families, and communities to heal from trauma and flourish in peace.
Rawand comes from Jordan. She graduated with a B.A. in Spanish and English (language and literature) from the University of Jordan. Her passion for the development and empowerment of communities stems from having served as an international volunteer with Erasmus+ in Spain, and from participating in international exchanges and other professional development activities. Rawand has a background serving at an INGO, working with young people whose lives are ravaged by war and poverty in Syrian refugee camps and across Jordan. Through the MSP, she seeks to be part of integrating future policy solutions for a more peaceful nation.
If you are motivated to understand the complex dynamics underlying the issues facing today’s world and dream about being an effective changemaker, we encourage you to learn more about the MSP!
The MSP is a cohort-based program that begins each year in September only. Applications are accepted until all spots for the cohort have been filled, or by June 1 at the latest.
Dates and Deadlines
- December 15: Applications completed by this date will be considered in the initial review and receive priority consideration for funding opportunities available through MSP.
- February 1: Applications completed by this date will be considered in the second round of reviews. International applications must be completed by this date to be considered for admission the following fall.
- February 2 – June 1: Rolling admissions for any remaining program spots. Applications completed after June 1 will be automatically rolled into the application pool for the following year.
- April 1: Acceptance deadline for funded positions and international students.
Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited program with a minimum GPA of 2.75 (4.0 scale) to be considered for admission.
To be considered for admission, all applicants must complete an online application, including:
- Pay the nonrefundable application fee;
- Upload unofficial transcripts from all schools attended, regardless of how long ago it may have been. Applicants will be required to submit official transcripts after an admission offer is accepted;
- Upload a current professional resume or CV;
- Upload a 2-3 page Personal Statement (Reason for Graduate Study). This essay should address any or all of the following:
- What brought you to MSP?
- Why is MSP a good fit for you?
- How will MSP help you advance your professional goals?
- Share a personal story that relates to why you want to join MSP.
- Which faculty member(s), community organizations, and/or global issues are you interested in working on while in MSP?
- Submit the names and email addresses of at least two references who will write a letter of recommendation for you. If possible, include one academic (e.g. advisor) and one professional (e.g. supervisor) reference. At least two letters must be received by UWM for your application to be considered complete.
- Upload a writing sample (max 10 pages) from within the past five years. The type of sample you submit is up to you. Examples include:
- Paper from a college course;
- Excerpt from an undergraduate thesis;
- Grant proposal
- Peer-reviewed article;
- a Web-based piece, such as a blog entry or news article;
- Project report or evaluation;
- Guided Research Essay (this is suggested if you do not have a writing sample you would like to submit).
- Upload evidence of English proficiency (international students only). The language of instruction at UWM is English. All international applicants must provide evidence of proficiency. View details at the UWM Center for International Education’s website. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.