Inaugural Peace and Justice Transformative Leadership Program will bring together global changemakers

This January, 10 talented students—changemakers from across the globe—will convene at Gettysburg College for the inaugural Peace and Justice Transformative Leadership Program.

While at Gettysburg from January 8-14, the fellows will engage in workshops on various valuable themes, including effective facilitation and transformative leadership, grant writing for social impact, developing and mobilizing a resilient entrepreneurial mindset, policy-making for social change, and lessons gleaned from the U.S. Civil War for today’s polarized times, among others. In addition to Gettysburg College’s expert faculty, staff, and alumni, guest speakers will also include successful entrepreneurs Antonevia Ocho-Coultes, Henrik Scheel, and Craig Zelizer; Trinidadian-American artist, writer, organizer, and thought-leader Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs; and Matt Meyer, an internationally noted author, historian, and organizer.

Prof. Hakim Mohandas Amani Williams launched this program to provide undergraduate students with more opportunities to deeply explore peace and justice studies—ones often limited to graduate students. In addition to support from the Peace and Justice Studies Program, the College’s Garthwait Leadership Center, the Provost’s Office, the Eisenhower Institute, and the Consortium for North American Peace Programs also played critical roles in helping make the effort possible.

Prof. Hakim Mohandas Amani Williams teaching a class outside on the stairs of Breidenbaugh Hall
Prof. Hakim Mohandas Amani Williams teaching a class outside on the stairs of Breidenbaugh Hall

“It is my passion and life’s work to create spaces for undergraduates to get the skills that they need to translate their exciting visions about peace and justice into reality,” said Williams, recipient of the Daria L. and Eric J. Wallach Professorship of Peace and Justice Studies. “To have this kind of program created and hosted at Gettysburg College is quite momentous. The backdrop of this fabled U.S. Civil War site can provide many lessons for these young leaders during today’s deeply polarized times.”

Receiving a competitive applicant pool, nearly 80 undergraduate students from across the United States of America, Canada, and Mexico applied for the 10 fellowship positions. The selection committee—consisting of Williams, Philosophy Prof. Nathifa Greene, fellowship Co-Director Daniel Jones ’22, and Peace and Justice Student Council Officer Benjamin Johnson ’22—evaluated applicants with the following principal criteria: past leadership experiences and collaborations, how they intend to use the skills gained at Gettysburg, and the contents of their social change project proposal.

This year’s talented cohort includes:

  • Selena Alamir of John Carroll University, located in University Heights, OH. Alamir is on a pre-med track majoring in Spanish and minoring in chemistry, as well as peace, justice, and human rights.
  • Sherna Benjamin of Huntington University, located in Huntington, IN. Benjamin is a social work major and psychology minor.
  • Abigail Chase of American University, located in Washington, D.C. Chase is a justice and law major and psychology and international affairs minor.
  • Habiba Choudhury of Wellesley College, located in Wellesley, MA. Choudhury is studying peace and justice studies with a concentration in comparative racial regimes and human rights.
  • Noor El-Gazairly of George Washington University, located in Washington, D.C. El-Gazairly is a double major in peace studies and art history.
  • Luz Escobar Zapata of Villanova University, located in Villanova, PA. Escobar Zapata is a peace and justice and environmental studies major with an environmental management concentration.
  • Dora Mendelson of Colgate University, located in Hamilton, N.Y. Mendelson is a women's studies and peace and conflict resolution double major.
  • Savannah Prida of Arizona State University, located in Tempe, AZ. Prida is studying social justice and human rights.
  • Elisa Pugliese of the University of Toronto, located in Toronto, Canada. Pugliese is studying peace, conflict, and justice; sociology; and philosophy, specializing in bioethics.
  • Hyacinth Tauriac of Lasell University, located in Newton, MA. Tauriac is an undeclared first-year student with a strong interest in majoring in sociology.
  • Shivani Thanneer of New York University, located in New York City, NY. Thanneer is majoring in public policy, with intended minors in peace and conflict studies and economics.

“When I first learned that the fellowship will be held at the historical location in Gettysburg, I felt, as one of the first selected fellows, the experience will also be historic,” said Choudhury, who hopes to use this unique vantage point, coupled with the powerful network of fellows, to become a stronger leader and advocate for social justice.

Furthermore, recognizing the Battle of Gettysburg’s inherent fight for justice, freedom of choice, and a culture of peace, Benjamin, like many of her peer fellows, sees a distinct value in learning from the past to be better prepared for the future.

“The time at Gettysburg will further provide me the opportunity to critically reflect on my past community and advocacy work drawing on historical events, training, and diverse views of my peers to develop innovative strategies for the present and future to be engaged in building resilient communities within public and private spheres,” Benjamin said.

Alamir is most looking forward to connecting with a passionate group of like-minded leaders.

“I believe that working toward social change requires unity as well as solidarity,” Alamir said. “I hope that this program will help strengthen the unity between unique individuals in my generation and teach us how to unite students around us after the program has concluded.”

Following the week-long series, the Peace and Justice Transformative Leaders will apply the concepts and lessons they learned at Gettysburg in the world by spending a year designing, implementing, and assessing their own social change project—a legacy that Williams is excited to see at work in the world.

“I want Gettysburg College to become a national—and perhaps one day, an international—hub for fostering innovative peace and justice leaders who can help transform our world—for the better,” he said.

Learn about the peace and justice studies minor at Gettysburg College and how it is facilitating students’ reflection on peace and peace-building. For more information about the Peace and Justice Transformative Leadership Program, contact Prof. Hakim Mohandas Amani Williams at

By Molly Foster
Photos by Shawna Sherrell and Miranda Harple
Posted: 12/16/21