Promoting Peace. Member Spotlight: Nancy Boyer

Nancy is an Adjunct/Affiliated Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography and Spatial Sciences and a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware. She also co-chairs the Education Interest Group of the Environmental Peacebuilding Association. She received her PhD in Political Science and International Relations from the University of Delaware, her MBA from The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, and her BA in Economics from Wellesley College. 

Joining MBBI 

Nancy joined MBBI recently, but has known of the organization for several years. She was introduced to the MBBI community by a colleague of hers at the University of Delaware, Saleem Ali, and has been participating in committee meetings of the Climate Change Project. Nancy was drawn to the philosophy behind MBBI’s work and mission to train members of communities to become mediators, as well as the networking aspect to connect with and learn from other members. 

Path to Peace 

Nancy explains that her interest in the peacebuilding field began organically as she was exposed to recurring debates around the legitimacy of war, instigated by conflicts in the last several decades. “I graduated high school the year of the Vietnam moratorium and when I went to college, there were still people being drafted and still major protests.” She was confronted by questions about the morality of war, why people were being killed, and why people were subjected to the trauma of fighting. These discussions would continue through her early professional career. “I met a lot of men who’d served overseas and suffered from the emotional wounds of war.” 

After graduating from The Wharton School, she discovered she wanted to live and work in Africa and accepted a position with a non-governmental organization in Ethiopia.  She taught English as an international language at a girls’ school and audited the finances of child care centers sponsored by a German aid organization. Ethiopia was technically a war zone, and her travel to Eritrea could only be done via plane due to safety concerns on the ground. These experiences led to her path towards peace studies and today, she is coordinating efforts to propose a Peace and Justice Studies Minor program at the University of Delaware. 

On Empathy

Nancy believes it’s key that peacebuilders put empathy at the center of their work. Though the concept of guaranteeing justice and making amends to those impacted by war can be difficult in practice, she reiterates that empathy and humility are key. “And remember that it could happen to anybody.” She encourages people to change their levels of thinking to understand how others in the world live. “One of my most heart-wrenching experiences was to be in an impoverished community near Somalia and see jet planes practicing overhead, burning gallons of expensive fuel, over homes that only have corrugated metal for a roof.” 

Progress in the Field 

Nancy appreciates the progress many organizations have made in recent years to diversify their personnel as they approach international relations and, more broadly, how they’ve been more accepting in the professional realm. “When I grew up, there were only male newscasters, for example. But look at it now. This was a huge revolution in my lifespan, or in the last 50 years.” 

As she looks at the direction toward which the current generation is moving, she says she’s optimistic for their future. “I think young people are terrific. I really like the things the next generation has worked out. The acceptance, the joy they have, and their social networks.” The appreciation she has for them is evident in all of her efforts to support students’ education in how to promote a more peaceful world. 

Article by Chloe Pan, MBBI Writer