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.
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.
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, & Director, Center for Global Health Equity
- Jacques Du Plessis, Associate Professor, Information Studies
- Kaboni Gondwe, Assistant Professor, Nursing
- Kirk Harris, Associate Professor, Urban Planning
- Marissa Jablonski, Executive Director, Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin
- Paula Lucey, Clinical Assistant Professor, Nursing
- Lucy Mkandawire-Valhmu, Associate Professor, Nursing
- Margaret Noodin, Professor, American Indian Studies, & Director, Electa Quinney Institute
- Margret Petrie, Assistant Dean of Academics & Student Services, Freshwater Science
- Marie Sandy, Associate Professor, Educational Policy and Community Studies
- Aaron Schutz, Professor & Department Chair, Educational Policy and Community Studies
- Paru Shah, Associate Professor, Urban Studies
- Dimitri Topitzes, Professor, Social Work
- Christine Wolf, Assistant Director, Global Studies & International Studies
- W. Warner Wood, Associate Professor, Anthropology
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.
Ashely graduated from Alverno College with a major in art therapy and minors in Spanish language and culture, elective studies with a focus on health, and psychology. She has always had a passion for community efforts, volunteering her time between co-facilitating/facilitating art activities and English as a second language classes. She is also passionate about utilizing art to heal, create, and build peaceful relationships and understanding. She looks forward to learning and creating ways in which she can combine art therapy and sustainable peace efforts to support communities in Wisconsin and abroad.
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.
Victoria joins MSP as a youth educator from Nigeria. She is the director of OneAfricanChild Foundation for Creative Learning, an organization fostering values of global citizenship education for children in low-income communities in Nigeria. She is also the youth representative to the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee, the global coordination mechanism of the SDG-4 at the UN level. Through her position, she participates in consultative meetings, calling on world leaders to increase their commitment to education and stay accountable to their promises. Victoria enjoys connecting with people of diverse backgrounds and cultures.
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.
Albert Asiimwe Kabura
Albert graduated with a bachelor of bio-medical laboratory technology from Makerere University in Uganda. He has worked as a teaching assistant for hematology and blood transfusion science at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Kisubi. He also volunteered as a biology-chemistry teacher at Lawrence Kaweesi Memorial school, a village community secondary. The love to significantly contribute to the development of the humble community he comes from drove him to yearn for knowledge in areas of sustainable development and peacebuilding.
Jamie comes to the MSP program with a strong background in dance and other forms of movement and has come to appreciate the healing powers of moving the body. She believes that peace can begin with each individual and that if individuals are able to find peace within their bodies and themselves, they will be more likely to move about and interact with others peacefully in their daily life. Jamie graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a BS in dance in 2011, and her passion for studying movement led her to pursue both yoga and Pilates teacher training programs. She has been teaching yoga and Pilates in the Milwaukee area for the past five years. Jamie feels strongly about making movement more accessible to all people and is excited and honored to be working as a UWM community fellow with the Next Door Foundation as their Wellness Program assistant. Jamie is very grateful for the continued support of her loving family and friends as she starts this next chapter with the MSP program.
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.
Jeremy is an enrolled member of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa where he has lived for 12 years. He received a B.S. in psychology with minors in Native American studies, Native American social work, and natural sciences from UW-Stevens Point. Jeremy has a strong background in community coalition building. He previously served as program director of the Wisconsin Native American Tobacco Network and the Positive Alternatives Coalition and as community educator for his reservation community. Jeremy is a devoted father who is committed to being a catalyst for change for peace and equity among minority and socially disadvantaged communities and individuals.
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 international development. Jessica was inspired to apply for UWM’s MSP program to learn how to transform conflicts peacefully and develop nations equitably, specifically for women and children, in a rapidly changing, complicated world.
Sara (they/them) graduated from the College of Wooster with a neuroscience major and political science minor and joins the MSP after organizing for two years in Portland, Oregon. They seek to combine neuroscience and peace studies and want to build on their understanding of systems thinking, complexity and peacebuilding through this program. Eventually, they hope to build a neuroscience research practice that is community-led, accessible, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist. Sara is a content writer for Art For Ourselves Magazine and a member of the science activist collective Free Radicals. They also like to write poetry, sing and hike.
Katelin joins MSP as a Milwaukee-based artist who earned a Bachelor of Arts in studio art with a concentration in painting and drawing and a minor in French from UW-Milwaukee. As a Korean adoptee, she explores identity by juxtaposing her self-expression and experiences as a minority, with historic architecture and sculpture. Katelin is inspired by examples of multiculturalism and diversity in her community and works to promote conversations about equal-rights activism and its relation with art history. She believes art transcends disciplines by translating emotions, thoughts and reactions into something that can be empathized with and expanded on.
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.
At 19, Shannon went to prison and served 17 years for fatally shooting a fellow teenager who’d robbed him in a minor drug deal. Throughout his incarceration, he dove into personal development, writing, reading and all-around health while obtaining a BA in business administration (with more problems than help from the system), learning Spanish, writing a blog for five years (theinnervoice84.WordPress.com), having numerous articles published and creating a nonprofit that puts out the most widely read anti-mass incarceration publication in Wisconsin (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.
Elizabeth graduated from the UW-Stevens Point in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in dietetics. She soon after altered career paths and, in 2015, joined a Catholic religious order as a sister in an international community for over two years, loving her studies in philosophy. These experiences and much personal reflection led her to enter her work at the Riverwest Food Pantry in 2018 with a lens of holistic, trauma-informed health and wellness development, a sense of equity and justice for every human life, and a call to listen before acting in a community. She hopes that her work at MSP will allow her to more deeply cultivate this lifestyle of sustainable peacebuilding and wellness with herself and in collaboration with other entities as they so desire for personal empowerment and a greater quality of life for all involved.
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.
Mikala earned her BA in community engagement and education with an emphasis on peace and conflict resolution from UWM in 2018. She has been involved in activism and community organizing around student rights, environmental protection and social justice. She is currently starting the business planning process to open her housing co-op incubator for students interested in community organizing. Mikala has an enthusiasm for developing the potential of people. She strives to develop a holistic practice that is cognizant of the manifestation of difference. Through MSP, she hopes to continue to develop her understanding of intersecting issues of community, democracy, education and economics.
Christian came to the MSP program looking for a place to ground his interests in food, people and change. He studied communication and food systems at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and worked in a variety of roles and settings connected to social justice and food justice in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He is excited to join MSP and learn more about facilitation, interdisciplinary research and listening as he works with his cohort, undergrad students and teachers on projects and fieldwork.
Jeylan hails from Ohio and graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2017 with her Doctorate of Pharmacy, Master of Health Information Technology, and business & entrepreneurship certificate. Opportunity brought her to Milwaukee; but coming to her faith, engaging with the community and pursuing the MSP program have transformed the city into home. Jeylan serves on the United Nations Association-Greater Milwaukee Board as the young professionals chair and volunteers as a pharmacist at various Bread of Healing free medical clinics. She joins MSP as a project assistant investigating the effects of racism on public health in Milwaukee. Jeylan looks forward to utilizing her prior education within the MSP program to explore how faith, service, education, engagement and communication can be leveraged within existing institutions and systems for holistically healthier, peaceful communities.
Nikki earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee in international studies with a focus in international politics and world affairs, and a minor in political science. She joins MSP as a military veteran who has worked internationally with civilian, foreign and government officials. Nikki also spent her career studying civil affairs and intelligence analysis, primarily within the Middle East. It was her work abroad that sparked her interest in international relations and her domestic work that brought interest in conflict prevention. She would like to continue to pursue this passion further through MSP. She looks forward to applying MSP practices to ongoing international issues and expanding her skills and interests further. Nikki is excited to see where the MSP program will lead to her future career.
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.