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Alexandra Schaerrer­-Cumming with African children

Alexandra Schaerrer-­Cumming’s work in trying to resolve issues in East Africa showed her the importance of accounting for how people see themselves.

Finding Perspective and Growth through Grassroots Conflict Resolution Efforts

Alexandra Schaerrer­-Cumming developed a keen interest in learning about repres­sion, ethnocentrism and intolerance as a young girl in Switzerland.

Schaerrer­-Cumming is now a PhD student at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR), where she is learning multiple disciplines, including the importance of identity in resolving conflict.

Although she grew up in Switzerland, the atrocities of the former Yugoslavia were never far from Schaerrer­-Cumming. The fallout of that brutal period inspired her to pursue a career in helping those in conflict regions and brought her to George Mason to learn how to influence policy, no matter where the conflict takes place.

I became friends with a young girl who had managed to escape the carnage that was taking place in her country [of Yugoslavia], and the way she described the horrors and terror of war made me re­evaluate the direction I wanted my life to take.

Alexandra Schaerrer­-Cumming, PhD Candidate, School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution

A passion for linking theory to practice in the field of conflict resolution eventually led Schaerrer­-Cumming to work with grassroots organizations in Tanzania and Mozambique after she com­pleted her master’s degree in international studies at the Swiss Polytechnic Institute of Zurich.

While working in East Africa, she had the opportunity to experience firsthand some of the region’s pressing issues, such as poverty, a lack of education and job opportunities, corruption, security concerns, tribal violence, HIV/AIDS and many more.

“This experience provided me with emo­tional and intellectual growth to allow me to garner a better understanding between the role of economic, social and polit­ical factors on the outbreak of conflict, security dilemmas and competition for scarce resource allocation,” she says.