From Model UN to international peacebuilding

“Peacebuilding refers to the field I want to work in. It addresses systems and the policies that are producing cycles of violence within communities.”

Lauren Brook’s interest in global affairs was sparked when she participated in Model United Nations while attending Woodinville High School, but her experiences at Mount Holyoke ignited her interest in pursuing it as a career path.

Brook knew she wanted to major in international relations, and taking International Political Economy with professor Christopher Mitchell, who is also her advisor, only confirmed her intentions.

“I’ve always been interested in public service and giving back to a community either locally or globally,” she said. “International relations at Mount Holyoke is designed in a way that allowed me to pick my specialization, which was international peace and security.”

Brook’s International Political Economy class also inspired her to minor in economics.

“Professor Mitchell’s class encouraged me to focus on international peace and security and also helped me to find a way to incorporate the study of economics,” she said. “The interdisciplinary nature of international relations allowed me to balance both interests without choosing one and leaving the other out.”

Brook also credits professor Andrew Reiter’s classes on political violence and transitional justice with providing the skills needed for job interviews within the field of international relations. Brook utilized those lessons to help define her path for graduate school and a career as a peacebuilder.

“Peacebuilding refers to the field I want to work in. It addresses systems and the policies that are producing cycles of violence within communities,” she said. “It also creates policies that work to reduce violence and address grievances at the local level so conflicts resolved within society can have sustainable peace and recognition of human rights.”

Since her sophomore year, Brook has been a Student Leadership Fellow at the Weissman Center for Leadership in the leadership and public service program. She discovered the fellowship while browsing the College’s Job X website, and it has helped reinforce the education she has received from Mount Holyoke while helping to financially contribute to her education.

“As Fellows we’re facilitating events with outside speakers and are able to hear from other students about their interests related to leadership and public service, which has been really interesting,” she said. “A year and a half ago, we had Bernie Sanders speak, and then we had Ayanna Pressley speak last year. Being able to be a part of facilitating those kinds of cool experiences for students has been super special to me.”

Another work experience that was special to Brook was an internship with Senator Jo Comerford in the spring of her junior year. The COVID-19 pandemic provided Brook with few opportunities to engage with the towns of South Hadley, Amherst and other neighboring towns. The internship with Senator Comerford gave her the chance to learn more about the needs of people who live in the Connecticut River Valley. Brook also occasionally attended meetings that Comerford had with the University of Massachusetts-Amherst student body, which offered valuable insights into the perspectives of students at a larger, public university.

“The internship made me realize everything I’m doing at Mount Holyoke has consequences in the local community and outside and taught me the lesson that I will get nothing but good things from pushing myself out of my comfort zone,” she said.

Growing up playing basketball and swimming, Brook knew she wanted to be part of the community team sports can bring and decided to join the swim team at the College.

In her junior year, Brook took another step outside of her comfort zone when she became captain of the swim team after being persuaded to do so by her coaches.

“For me, being a captain emphasized how leading by example, being dedicated to what you’re doing and being honest is extremely important,” she said. “I didn’t really think about how leading by example would impact people around me, but seeing it has made me more committed.”

Last fall, Brook’s commitment to leadership and challenging herself took her away from the campus of Mount Holyoke to begin a joint bachelor’s/master’s program in international and development studies with a concentration in conflict, peace and security at the Geneva Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. She was one of four students to be selected and will return there for a year to complete the program after graduation. Brook credits Mount Holyoke for preparing her to balance a joint degree program while starting her graduate studies.

“I think the professors at Mount Holyoke are absolutely phenomenal. Although it may feel like they’re asking a lot from us, it’s not without reason. The type of assignments I was doing here, such as writing policy briefs, has been instrumental in preparing me for the program,” she said. “I didn’t come in feeling like the work was going to be too hard. I felt that I had been prepared because the professors here are invested in not just our academic success but in our professional success as well.”

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