We spoke with Assistant Professor of Political Science Austin Knuppe about the war in Israel and Gaza to provide context and understanding to the university community.
Peacebuilding Student Spotlight: Joseph Myers
USU student Joseph Myers is the current CEO and Chairman of the Board at Allies2Refugees. Photo credit Fatima Sahar Razaei.
By Andrea DeHaan, CHaSS Communications Editor
Joseph Myers is the CEO of a nonprofit serving displaced communities in Afghanistan, Syria, and beyond. In his spare time, Myers is pursuing a degree in international studies with a minor in anticipatory intelligence and a certificate in global peacebuilding at Utah State University. Learn more about Allies2Refugees and hear how Myers is already applying what he’s learned.
Tell us about Allies2Refugees.
Allies2Refugees is a nonprofit organization with the goal of ending the global refugee crisis. We assist displaced men, women, and children through access to education, community, and opportunity. I work daily with individuals across the globe, but … most of my work is in Afghanistan, where we have our community center — a place where team members and many volunteers come together to create a space of safety and learning. Education is the best solution to solving many of the crises we face and will face in the future.
In the past year, one of our biggest achievements was teaching literacy classes to over 500 men, women, children, and young adults. We gained respect and admiration from the local Elders … who insisted that we hold our graduation ceremony in their facility to show their support for teaching and graduating women and young girls. It is only through unity that we [can initiate] lasting permanent peace. Without the support of the community and its leaders, much of what we do would be impossible or simply too dangerous.
How did you get involved with the organization?
I remember having this feeling of wanting to do something bigger. I have always connected with service and challenging myself. One night I was scrolling on Instagram and came across the Allies2Refugees page. I saw a lot of the activities [they] were already doing, and … I sent a DM asking to volunteer. After some time, I was invited onto the board and eventually came to the position I am in now.
How does this fit in with your studies at Utah State?
My study and current understanding of global peacebuilding have shaped the goals I have for myself and the organization. I could not have done what I have done without the knowledge I have gained from my peacebuilding classes. [They] allow me to accurately measure my success and set reasonable and vital goals. When you understand where you are headed, you are guided on your journey and have outlined the path you need to take. Understanding peacebuilding is really coming to understand the end goal of establishing positive peace.
Has your study of global peacebuilding impacted the work that you’re doing in Afghanistan and Syria?
Being able to incorporate the ideas, thoughts, and practices I learn at university into a real and impactful humanitarian NGO creates a purpose for learning far beyond myself. I will often hear something in class and within minutes, I’ll have sent out messages starting the process of [incorporating] what I have learned. The incorporation of knowledge gained is live and immediately impactful.
What advice do you have for other students looking to get involved in NGO work before they graduate?
Working for an NGO during [college] has become a fundamental aspect of my learning. Working in a related field and being able to apply what you learn while still in school is perfect. Explore, experiment, and be creative. It is the best way to find what you love doing and could see yourself doing in the future. Volunteer, apply, message people, and get out there. There is so much good you can do [before you graduate]. The skills you already have can improve others’ lives around the world.