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From Congo to State Department: Mason Makes A Dream Come True

August 5, 2016   /   by Buzz McClain

Nancy Dorcas (far right) and other Mason students participate in a conflict resolution simulation at the State Department with Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo provided by the State Department.

Nancy Dorcas. Photo provided by the State Department

When Nancy Dorcas responded to a post in George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution’s newsletter about participating in a diplomatic simulation at the State Department in Washington, D.C., she had no idea she and the other nine George Mason students attending would be coached by Secretary of State John Kerry.

“I never thought in my life I would even be at the State Department,” the Democratic Republic of Congo native said. “And to have Secretary Kerry there, it was a dream come true. Opportunities like these are important to me, which is why I love Mason.”

Dorcas emigrated from the civil war-ravaged Congolese conflict zone in 2007; after earning a degree as a paralegal at Northern Virginia Community College she began work at a Washington law firm and transferred to Mason.

She is now a junior majoring in conflict analysis and resolution with a concentration in international conflicts.

“I came here as a refugee,” she said. “Given my background, I decided that major would be a great fit.”

Conflict, she said, “is everywhere, and I grew up in a conflict zone. I want to understand why it is that way and what is going on, and to study why it never ends.”

Her ambition has not gone unnoticed.

“I see Nancy as a hard working lady who has learned how to overcome obstacles through knowledge and courage,” said Sahar Namazikhah, one of Dorcas’ conflict professors at Mason. “I witnessed how voraciously she learns and participates in discussions and practices. She knows the value of knowledge and learning.” 

The simulation at the State Department’s Diplomacy Center this summer provided students an opportunity to engage with practitioners in a fictional-yet-real-world immigration crisis. Dorcas represented the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

“My role,” she said, “was to explain what our organization has done to assist with the refugee crisis, what kind of resources we provided, what types of help we need in order to assist more refugees and to negotiate with the nation the refugees were migrating from.”

It was an exciting opportunity to practice her conflict negotiation skills, including active listening, alliance building and how to keep the focus on the issue rather than on a particular position.

“It is easy to focus on the stand we take, which might consequently prevent us from getting to a long-term solution,” she said. 

Near the end she found herself asking Kerry if there has ever been a “real-life” situation “where conflict escalated to the point there seems to be no solution at all? What do you do at that time?” she asked.

Kerry was firm in his reply.

“He told me, ‘There’s a solution to everything. The goal is to find how to achieve it.’”

After she gets her bachelor’s degree, she plans to pursue a master’s from Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Then she hopes to work to create peace, perhaps in her home country, perhaps in the United States.

But solving conflict is her future: “That is what I intend to do.”