MASON NEWS 04/21/14
By Buzz McClain

The drama of the conflict in Crimea comes to Arlington on April 23 when representatives from Ukraine and Russia share the stage during a program called “Beyond Crimea: The Evolution of the Crisis in Ukraine.”

The April 23 forum will include — in addition to those from Ukrainian and Russian embassies­­ — civilian and military policy and peace experts as well as a former ambassador to Ukraine from the United States. The event begins at 7 p.m. at George Mason University’s Founders Hall on the Arlington Campus and is free and open to the public (register here).

“Beyond Crimea” is a collaboration between George Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution’s (S-CAR) Student Association and Advisory Board.

“Given our keen awareness of trends in contemporary regional conflicts, S-CAR students are in tune to the transnational nature of the crisis in Ukraine and the high potential for an escalation in violence,” says Sean Heravi, the master’s student representative to the Advisory Board and a Marine Corps veteran from Nazareth, Pa.

“While parties to the conflict continue beating the drums of self-determination and aggression, students at S-CAR feel compelled to provide an alternative space for constructive and balanced dialogue. Consistent with the mission of S-CAR to ‘disrupt cycles of violence,’ students hope to engage academia, policymakers and the international public in an effort to problem-solve and think inventively about opportunities for a peaceful resolution,” Heravi says.

Among those participating in the dialogue are Karina Korostelina, an S-CAR professor from Crimea who has written a new book about Ukraine and national identity; former ambassador to Ukraine (2003-06) John E. Herbst; Lawrence Wilkerson, a retired U.S. Army colonel who is now distinguished visiting professor of government and foreign policy at the College of William and Mary; and Idil P. Izmirli, a visiting S-CAR professor and the Crimea analyst for Eurasia Daily Monitor at the Jamestown Foundation. Kevin Avruch, S-CAR dean, will welcome the panel; a reception follows at 9 p.m.

“No matter how contentious the conversation or conflict, this is exactly the kind of work that Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution is called to do: Analyze underlying root causes that make conflicts intractable while exploring opportunities for de-escalation and tools for nonviolent transformation,” says moderator Michael Shank, PhD Conflict Analysis and Resolution ’13, S-CAR adjunct professor and associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

That the forum is driven by students is not surprising, or even unusual at S-CAR. In fact, the school hosts many events large and small each week that explore wide-ranging issues beyond course work, many of them organized by students who have the encouragement of the administration. Those students, historically, begin their own peace resolution and analysis programs in other parts of the world after they leave Mason.

“This student-organized discussion is illustrative of the leadership coming out of S-CAR, as they are putting in practice the theory from the classroom,” says Shank. And in this case, “the timing couldn’t be more urgent as Ukraine continues to countenance violence.

“If the panel moves Washington policymakers and pundits closer toward constructive engagement, with cooler heads prevailing, then the discussion will be making a positive and important impact.”