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Leadership Summit in Thailand Further Shapes, Inspires Career Paths For 3 KSC Grad Students

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
Three students pose in front of a blue background at a symposium
Grad students Peter Graney '23, Courtney Barnes '23, and Marcos Silveira '23 called their participation at a leadership symposium in Thailand eye-opening and affirming.

There is a lot that is distinctive about a liberal arts education, and for Keene State students, the freedom to explore, to choose their adventures, to build the foundation of their future with bricks of their choosing…that is top-of-the-list stuff.

As we like to tell our students — undergraduates and graduate learners alike — the world can truly be your classroom. Study Away opportunities are a part of the highly customizable education our students are promised and dive into.

Take Peter Graney ‘23, Courtney Barnes ‘23, and Marcos Silveira ‘23 — three graduate students who aspire to careers aimed at a making global, quality-of-life difference. The good friends recently participated in an international leadership summit in Bangkok, Thailand…three of a more-than-400-delegate roster representing 46 nations.

The Keene State students left the week-long University Scholars Leadership Symposium at the United Nations Conference Centre with new friends, fresh perspective about the world’s rich cultural diversity as well as some of its most consequential human rights challenges, and a scrapbook of memories.

This unique exposure to people and causes, the three agreed, was validation of their personal and professional pursuits.

Powerful stuff.

We learned something new and impactful each day, met some great people, and the three of us grew closer as friends. We worked together to help problem solve current issues, whether it be global warming, peace-building, or human trafficking prevention.”

– Peter Graney, who aspires to document conflict in world hot spots

All three have undergraduate degrees in Holocaust & genocide studies from Keene State, and all three stayed at Keene State to pursue master’s degrees in atrocity prevention & human security.

Hosted by Humanitarian Affairs Asia, the summit brought together like-minded peers who share interests that support a more peaceful, inclusive and sustainable world.

Nurturing students to be compassionate global citizens by empowering them with these opportunities and these windows into faraway cultures and ways of life, which is the sort of personal brick-building experience that Peter, Courtney and Marcos were looking for.

The symposium was eye-opening and inspiring, said Courtney, who is from Sanbornton, New Hampshire. “It was everything we could have imagined and more.”

“I know what I want to do, but (at the conference) I could really feel the pull. Maybe this is where I’m supposed to be, in a building like this, doing this work. That’s how I felt.”

Peter, a native of Etna, New York, aspires to document conflict in world hot spots.

He’s a Sea Scout, Boy Scout and member of the college’s Global Cultural Club.

Peter said networking, presentations by attendees who come from places where communities are in real need and humanitarian challenges are significant, and a wide range of perspectives and discussion all made for a special, growth-filled week.

“It was neat. We learned something new and impactful each day, met some great people, and the three of us grew closer as friends. We worked together to help problem solve current issues, whether it be global warming, peace-building, or human trafficking prevention.”

The Cohen Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies at Keene State is one of the nation’s most respected Holocaust resource centers. Its new graduate programs — including a 16-credit atrocity prevention certificate — allow the liberal arts college to deepen its academic inquiry into human rights.

Both graduate-degree options are offered online and in person.

Marcos, from Littleton, New Hampshire, also has a second undergraduate degree, in psychology, and said he sees himself working with groups from around the world “to address personal, family, community, and cultural challenges, and continuing my lifelong journey of learning and discovering more of what it means to be human.”

“It was a wonderful experience,” he said of the conference. “Hearing from so many individuals who speak passionately about what drives them to pursue good in the world. Our differences are what make us connect. My only regret was that I was not able to meet every one of the nearly 500 people in attendance.”

The immersive conference included a Service Day in which delegates engaged in a river cleaning, the painting of a school, and mangrove and tree planting. Delegates heard from speakers on topics such as “Giving Hope to Kids,” “Do Something Great,” and “The Elephant Whisperer.” Networking tea sessions were a daily agenda item. All said, the event could not have been more aligned with Marcos’ career pursuits.

Courtney and Peter were tabbed as group leaders, as determined by the quality of their respective applications.

“Ideally, 10 years out, I would like to be working at the United Nations,” Courtney said, “or at an organization working on the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities.”

She opted to pursue her master’s “Because I just didn’t feel like I was done learning. I was just beginning to feel the calling for the work that I now know I want to do in this field.”

“Keene State, and my professors, they have given me so many opportunities, to learn and to make fantastic friends and connections,” Courtney added. “At the symposium, I met a delegate from Australia. It took us 24 hours to become completely inseparable; we hung out all day. She’ll be a friend for life.”

  • Learn more about Keene State’s Master of Arts in Genocide Prevention and Human Security.
  • Learn more about Keene State’s Graduate Certificate in Atrocity Prevention.
  • Learn more about Keene State’s Global Education Office and Study Away opportunities.

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