Summer Institute in Northern Ireland: Lessons in Community Peacebuilding

Parade in Northern Ireland

[Photo by Enrico Manalo]

Courses and Credit - Schedule & Fees - To Apply - Faculty - Request Information

Today, Armagh City is a friendly place with beautiful, historic stone buildings, cafes and restaurants and population with an optimistic outlook. However, in the midst of four decades of conflict, Armagh county was referred to “bandit country” and in the latter phases of the Troubles (the common name for the conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century), disputes over parades between residents and the Orange orders (Protestant fraternal organizations) drew world media attention. So, how did Armagh residents get from those troubled times to the present day, where the marching season passes without major incidents? Are these disputes resolved or merely managed? What methods are used? What have local community activists got to teach the rest of us about how to move a community from a fraught, conflict-riven state to one where the summer is no longer faced with a sense of dread? Where and how do ethnic minority and LGBTQ communities fit into contemporary Northern Ireland society? How do the next generation, born in peacetime, see the future? 

Program Overview

The summer institute in Armagh will focus on the enormous achievements of local activists and agencies in bringing Armagh to its current state of peace, through years of community dialogue, negotiation and with the formation of new institutions and processes.

Representing a chance for participants to engage with local peacebuilders, this ten-day program aims to deliver mutual benefits for participants and locals. Participants learn about the Northern Ireland conflict, get an intimate perspective of the methods and practices used to address this dispute and in dialogue with local practitioners, and critically evaluate their effectiveness in Northern Ireland and their utility in other contexts.

The program will be led by Professor Darren Kew and Professor Marie Breen-Smyth, a native of Northern Ireland who has written extensively about conflict in a range of settings. The institute’s faculty contains experts and practitioners from Northern Ireland and the US. The Institute is organized in partnership with a consortium of Armagh residents, brought together by Will Glendinning, former head of the Community Relations Council in Northern Ireland and coordinator of Diversity Challenges. The local consortium will organize the logistics, participate in classes and visits with the US participants.

The ten-day institute will focus on the achievements of the past and the key contemporary challenges still facing peacebuilding in Northern Ireland: dealing with the past and provision for victims; memorials; parading; flags and paramilitaries. A background and overview of the Northern Ireland conflict will be provided on March 27th for participants on campus prior to the field visit to Northern Ireland. The program will begin with a survey of all these issues, with expert speakers on each topic and then focus in more detail on two of these issues: dealing with the past and parading.

Participants will stay in en-suite accommodation in the family-run Charlemont Hotel in the city center, where classes will be held. In addition, the program includes visits to Belfast, with a tour of the city’s peacelines and political murals, and a visit to the ancient city or Derry/Londonderry. Other trips and visits can be organized on request and advice offered for participants with particular interests.

Cultural Activities and Historical Context

Armagh City, where St. Patrick founded his main church as early as 445 AD, has been the Spiritual Capital of Ireland for 1500 years and is currently home to both the Church of Ireland and Catholic archbishops. In Pagan times, this area housed the Royal Mounds at Navan, the seat of the High Kings of Ulster. Participants in the Summer Institute will have the opportunity to explore the city of Armagh, its museums and ancient monuments as well as to sample local music and Guinness in the evenings.

Courses and Credit

Attendance at the Summer Institute will award 3 credits, CONRES 603: Advanced Negotiation/Mediation.

Participants have the option to earn 3 additional credits by registering for CONRES 696: Independent Study and completing a written assignment of 2000 words under the direction of Professor Breen-Smyth.

Credit is granted by UMass Boston; but students (or graduates) from any university are welcome. Prior to registration, students should verify with their home institution that transfer of credit from UMass Boston will be accepted.

Schedule & Fees

July 8-18, 2018
Total program cost has three parts:

  1. Tuition fee payable to UMass Boston (includes UMass Boston travel insurance)
    CONRES 603: $799 (subject to change)
    CONRES 696: +$650 (optional)
    Non-credit: $799 (subject to change)
  2. Logistics fee paid directly to the host organization in Ireland, Diversity Challenges
    $2,800* (subject to change)
    The travel vendor, Diversity Challenges, will require non-refundable deposits of $250 by April 6, and an additional $250 by May 5.
  3. RT airfare that is the responsibility of the participant
    Please do not purchase airfare or make travel arrangements until you have received formal notice of acceptance into the program.

* The logistics fee will cover the accommodation, program-related local transportation, meals, and entrance fees. Participants will pay this fee directly to the travel vendor, Diversity Challenges.

To Apply

Application Deadline: Friday, March 30, 2018

» Download Application

Application Requirements

Participants should have an interest in peace-building and conflict resolution.


Professor Marie Breen-Smyth
Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance University of Massachusetts Boston

Professor Darren Kew
Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance University of Massachusetts Boston

Professor Karen Ross
Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance University of Massachusetts Boston

Will Glendinning
Former head of the Community Relations Council in Northern Ireland and coordinator of Diversity Challenges

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the program open to people who are not currently students?
Yes, but you will still need to pay University registration fees (which includes mandatory travel insurance) and will be expected to participate in all classes and institute trips/activities.  All participants will be provided with orientation materials that outline the history of the conflict. 

Do I need to be a graduate student?  Can undergraduates participate?
No, you do not need to be a graduate student.  Undergraduates can also participate and are encouraged to apply.

Do I need an academic background in mediation/negotiation/conflict resolution?
No, you do not need a background in the discipline but you should have an interest in peace building and conflict resolution. 

What are the classes like?
Classes take place daily on-site at the Charlemont Hotel where participants will stay during the institute. They are taught by University professors, local activists and community members. 

What have past participants said about the program?
“Thank you for lovely ten days, there is no way to truly understand the conflict without a trip here.” 

“This has been one of the best experiences of my life.  I never knew the complexity of the issues here; the US media focused on Protestant vs. Catholic; the conflict was so much more than a religious one; it is one of identity that stretches back centuries.  I am eternally grateful for this opportunity.”

Do I need to arrange my own flight?
Please do not make travel arrangements until you are formally admitted to the program. If there is enough interest and participants are able to commit to fixed travel dates, we may be able to book a group flight.  Otherwise, you will be expected to arrange your own flight.   

Is financial aid available?
While there is not program specific financial aid available, there are competitive grant options available to UMB Conflict Resolution Graduate Students and UMB Undergraduate Students. 

UMB Conflict Resolution Graduate Students are encouraged to apply for the David Matz Fellowship, which can provide full or partial funding for the program. Please contact Kelly Ward Mason for more information on the David Matz Fellowship:

Undergraduate students are encouraged to apply for the Beacon Student Success Fellowship for financial support. Information about the program can be found here:; please direct questions to the Office of Career Services and Internships: 617.287.5519.  The application period for Summer 2018 is set to begin in March.

Request Information

For further academic information please contact:

Kelly Ward-Mason
Wheatley Hall, 4th Floor, Room 128A
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Blvd
Boston, MA 02125

For application and travel information, please contact:

Erika White
Wheatley Building, 1st Floor, Room 003


Please be advised that international programs are subject to change, slight or major, at any time due to circumstances beyond our control; this includes any and all fees, dates, itinerary, and program activities. We will do our best to inform all applicants of any changes in as timely a manner as possible.