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Environmental portrait of Nancy Dorcas

Nancy Dorcas, who emigrated from the civil war-ravaged Congolese conflict zone in 2007, participated in a diplomatic simulation at the U.S. State Department that included coaching by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Getting Advice Directly from the Secretary of State

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

Secretary of State Kerry with George Mason students

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.

“I never thought in my life I would even be at the State Department,” the Democratic Republic of the Congo native says. “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. She is now a junior majoring in conflict analysis and resolution with a concentration in international conflicts.

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

Conflict, she says, “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.”

The simulation at the State Department’s Diplomacy Center 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 says, “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 keeping 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 says.

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.

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

After she finishes her bachelor’s degree, she plans to pursue a master’s at 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,” she says.