Amanda Luz, Class 18 (2019-2021)
Twenty Blogs for 20 Years
Amanda Luz (UNC MEITE ’21) works in the intersection of capacity-building, public policy, and communications to develop information and tools that promote more equitable and civil society-led peacebuilding. She currently works for the non-profit People Powered, where she manages accelerator programs for local governments and civil society organizations in the Global South. Previously, she was a journalist and communications consultant for women-focused publications, companies, and non-profit organizations with a focus on gender equality.
When I arrived in Chapel Hill in the United States in August 2019, I could not imagine how life-changing this experience would be. We often talk about how our career can be greatly impacted by the opportunity to come to the Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center. We are offered many new learning opportunities in a renowned academic environment that can redefine the career of many young or mid-career professionals like me. Although this aspect is certainly a highlight, I am very grateful for how this experience supported me in expanding my dreams by connecting me to new people, new ideas, and new ways of doing things.
I grew up in Brazil and always wanted to be a journalist. For a decade, I worked on creating stories, managed the largest website for women in my country, advocated for women’s rights, presented workshops for gender-focused content, and designed gender-inclusive strategies for non-profits and brands. But after years of working with communications, I wanted to shift my focus from creating stories for and about women to supporting more girls and women to lead and share their own stories. In sum, I wanted to move from advocating about issues to providing tools and solutions to those who work on those issues. That’s when I applied to the Rotary Peace Fellowship to study in the Master’s in Educational Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
My studies about leadership development and civic engagement had a focus on gender equality and collaborative learning and were very much impacted not only but my program’s curriculum, but also by the peacebuilding and conflict resolution curriculum developed by Duke-UNC Rotary Peace Center. My studies were equally influenced by my relationships built with my cohort peers from different countries around the world and with the Peace Center’s professors and staff who served as our mentors many, many times.
We also had great highlights right at the start of our Duke-UNC’s experience. My cohort was lucky enough to welcome and interact with Filippo Grandi, the 11th United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in his visit to the Peace Center.
But after 7 months in North Carolina, my cohort was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of our initial plans for the Applied Field Experience and the Spring Conference as well as for our collective learning experience fell through. We needed to pivot quickly with the minimal information we all had available at the time, which required an incredible amount of resilience and determination for all of us. Many of the fellows from my cohort finished their programs remotely from their home countries. From my apartment, I remained close to the university although it was closed for the remainder of my studies. I still feel that I took the most I could from the experience and have memorable milestones from it.
I interned remotely for the non-profit Vital Voices in their civic engagement and politics program VVEngage, supporting women leaders from all over the world. I developed my own leadership development online program for girls, Líderes do Futuro, for my final master’s project. And I stayed in North Carolina after my graduation in 2021, where I currently work remotely for People Powered, supporting people who want to expand public participation and the voices of marginalized groups into government’s decision-making.
Thanks to my fellowship experience, I had the gift of acquiring new knowledge, new friendships, and new personal skills to become a more collective-focused, resilient, and action-oriented peacebuilder