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Alaina Cline ’25 gains intercultural competencies and conflict mediation skills at inaugural Leaders Across Borders workshop

For the Leadership Across Boarders Workshop Cline traveled to Corrymeela, a coastal community in Ballycastle, Ireland, dedicated to peacebuilding and promoting reconciliation. While she was there, she visited Giant's Causeway and the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede.

At a time when violence is erupting across the globe, Alaina Cline ’25 participated in an inaugural gathering of young global leaders learning how to create a more peaceful world. Cline, a political science major and religious studies minor at The College of Wooster, was one of 22 students selected from across the United States and the world for the Oct. 10-15 Leaders Across Borders weeklong workshop in Ireland.

The inaugural workshop, organized by Ohio Wesleyan University, included students who represented the 30 colleges and universities that are part of the Global Liberal Arts Alliance that is overseen by the Great Lakes Colleges Association.

The group started with a tour of Belfast where they learned about Northern Ireland’s political and religious conflicts known as the Troubles that started in the 1960s. “We heard what’s been occurring since the Troubles ended (in the 1990s), how the government is not very functional right now, and how people are reconciling with one another,” Cline said.

At the workshop in Corrymeela, Cline participated in numerous activities and simulations of peaceful negotiation and diplomatic relations. The group here is playing a game that mimics the Prisoner's Dilemma, discussing strategy and whether to cooperate with the another team.

At the workshop in Corrymeela, Cline participated in numerous activities and simulations of peaceful negotiation and diplomatic relations. The group here is playing a game that mimics the Prisoner’s Dilemma, discussing strategy and whether to cooperate with the another team.

The workshop continued at Corrymeela, a coastal community in Ballycastle, Ireland, dedicated to peacebuilding and promoting reconciliation. Activities included workshops, conversations, and reflections about conflict mediation, cross-cultural communication, and leadership with students from the Midwest and countries including Egypt, Pakistan, India, Ecuador, Japan. Nigeria, and France.

“We were able to have some great conversations because everyone was engaged and excited to be there. Everyone was from very different educational backgrounds, which opened our eyes to very different perspectives on these issues we were talking about,” Cline said. The discussions changed her perspective about how to deal with systemic issues of violence. Going into the conversations, she believed the best way to effect change surrounding violence was to change the structure of the system. “We talked a lot about how we can change individuals, and how even convincing one person and helping one person can make a huge difference.”

She returned to campus with a changed perspective and ideas for carrying out a yet-to-be-determined project for her Wooster colleagues. Cline already talked about her experience in a Peace Studies course where she is a teaching assistant for Kent J. Kille, professor of political science and her nominator for the Leaders Across Borders workshop. He nominated her for the worship after she had taken the Peace Studies course and added the religious studies minor to her political science major. “She became very interested in approaches to peace, including tying religious perspectives to peace and violence. This opportunity fit perfectly with her interests,” he said. Upon her return, “Alaina was able to reflect upon her trip in a class presentation which ensured that others on campus could learn from her experiences.”

Cline signs a “peace wall” with artwork on it from non-Irish artists. The wall has been reclaimed by visitors signing their names or a message of peace.

Cline signs a “peace wall” with artwork on it from non-Irish artists. The wall has been reclaimed by visitors signing their names or a message of peace.

Cline, who is active on campus as a member of the Moot Court team, Model UN, Scot Council, and College Democrats, said Wooster prepared her for the workshop through her classes and APEX Fellowship with the Trinity United Church of Christ. The small class sizes and diversity in the classrooms helped enhance her cross-cultural conversations and gave her confidence to be able to walk up to people, ask questions, and have conversations with them.

The Peace Studies course, where she first learned about the Troubles, was the impetus for her interest in the intersection of religion and politics. “I was introduced to the idea of religion influencing both peace and violence, and it all kind of clicked for me. I became interested in how religion motivates people to engage in violent or peaceful actions,” Cline said. She knew the topic would include concepts she could apply to her junior and senior Independent Studies.

Her APEX Fellowship with the Wooster church during the summer also aligned with her interest in helping religious individuals and organizations form communities to engage in peace and justice. As a research assistant for housing at the church, Cline spent the mornings serving breakfast to underserved, impoverished members of the community. During the afternoons, she researched policy solutions for the church to consider addressing homelessness. She said the fellowship and the Leaders Across Borders experience have helped her confirm she wants to pursue a Ph.D. focused on peace and conflict. “I find it to be very meaningful. I don’t just want to study the violence aspect; I want to figure out how we can make it better.”

Featured Image: For the Leadership Across Boarders Workshop Cline traveled to Corrymeela, a coastal community in Ballycastle, Ireland, dedicated to peacebuilding and promoting reconciliation. While she was there, she visited Giant’s Causeway and the rope bridge at Carrick-a-Rede. 

Posted in Experiential Learning, News on November 13, 2023.


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