April 18, 2019 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Jillian Bjelan, fourth-year Political Science with an Honours Specialization in Social Justice and Peace Studies, had the opportunity to present a poster at the 2019 Notre Dame University Student Peace Conference, held on March 29-30, 2019.

“Presenting my research at the Notre Dame Student Peace Conference this year was an incredible opportunity. I was surrounded by peers who have all had different experiences and thus different research, ideas, critiques, and questions. I was asked questions that I had not previously considered and was engaging in conversations that challenged my own academic knowledge, which I am beyond grateful for,” says Bjelan.

Bjelan’s poster presentation was based on her research project, entitled “Justice After Genocide: Transitional Justice Methods in Rwanda.” She explains while the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda resulted in the country’s near destruction, Rwanda has managed to rebuild and reconcile the damage. This project examines the post-genocide years in relation to the transitional justice mechanisms used to create relative peace in Rwanda.  Bjelan’s project focused on three judicial models: the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the national court system, and the gacaca courts (a system of community justice). She analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of each model.

“I concluded that transitional justice is not a “one-size-fits-all,” but rather it was a plurality of methods that contributed to Rwandese genocide reconstruction,” says Bjelan.

The subject held special meaning for Bjelan. As the granddaughter of a Yugoslav immigrant, she was curious about her family’s history in a war-torn country. “Courtesy of my background, I am interested in examining how ethnic divisions are created and the ways in which societies are able to be reconstructed after devastation,” she says.

Bjelan was encouraged to submit her SJPS 4404 research project by her Social Justice and Peace Studies professor, Dr. Megan Shore.  The application included a brief biography of herself, an abstract of the project, what her project sought to achieve, and how participants could benefit from attending her session.

“It was rather easy to apply to the Conference and I recommend that other King’s students apply in the future because it is such an amazing experience,” said Bjelan.

Bjelan was selected to present from a pool of over 75 proposals submitted by students or student teams. She was one of 58 students from 25 colleges and universities presenting papers, media projects and workshops and that highlight their own research, practice and projects in the interdisciplinary field of peace studies.

The Notre Dame Student Peace Conference, endowed by Joan B. Kroc and sponsored by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, is an annual event organized by students and for students. Its mission is to provide space for graduate and undergraduate students from all colleges and universities to dialogue about peacebuilding, social justice, and conflict transformation. Each year, the event draws hundreds of students from across North America and around the world.

To learn more about the Notre Dame Student Peace Conference, please visit https://kroc.nd.edu/news-events/events/2019/03/29/notre-dame-student-peace-conference/