Rotary World Peace Fellowship
The New Chapter
After 18 years of making my living from music (that’s 2000 concerts in 47 states and on four continents, ten CDs, etc.), I’ve stopped performing in order to pursue another long-held passion of mine, peace work. I’ve been named a Rotary World Peace Fellow by the Rotary Foundation to pursue a masters degree at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. The program began in February of 2009 and ends in June of 2010.
I’m doing this not because of any disappointment or weariness with my music career. The truth is that the last few years of my career were the best, by any measure, and each year was still improving from a business perspective. There’s no logical reason to make this change, only spiritual ones. In the end, it comes down to the fact that I feel like this is what I’m supposed to do now. Depending on how much sense that makes to you, I either can’t explain it to you, or there’s no need to because you understand perfectly.
About the Fellowship
Rotary International (yep, those folks who meet in your town) was founded in 1905 with the stated purpose of bringing together business and professional leaders “to provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.”
One of the ways they’ve worked toward fostering international goodwill is through their well-known international Ambassadorial Scholarship program, sending young people back and forth between nations to live and study for a year. In the orientation sessions for ambassadorial scholars it is made clear that academics are not the goal of the scholarship, relationships are. The idea is that when people build personal relationships internationally, they are less likely to go to war. Over 38,000 people have participated in that extraordinary program.
The Rotary World Peace Fellowship, however, is much less known, and much more competitive. It is based on a completely different model from the Ambassadorial Scholarships. It’s a very new program, having begun only in 2002. Each year, the Rotary Foundation accepts applications from all over the world, and from them chooses sixty Fellows to attend one of six programs at universities that offer exceptional two-year masters degrees in international peace work. Unlike the Ambassadorial scholarships, the Fellowships are academically focused, with the goal being that fellows leave the program better equipped to work for peace in the world. It’s an audacious goal, but Rotary is really trying to leverage world peace through this program.
Currently, Rotary partners with the University of Bradford (England), International Christian University (Japan), a cooperative program between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University, University of California at Berkeley, Universidad del Salvador (Argentina), and the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Rotary doesn’t dictate the content of the programs at all, they have simply chosen to partner with six of the best advanced degree programs in peace work in the world and send ten fellows to each university each year. There is also a three-month certificate program in Thailand.
The only rule for selection between the univerisities is that Fellows are not allowed to study in their home countries. Applicants list their top three choices in the application, and are notified at the time of their acceptance where they’ve been approved to go. Brisbane, where I’m studying now, was my first choice, with Tokyo as my second and Bradford as my third.
In order to be considered, applicants must fill a few requirements: an undergraduate degree in good standing with solid transcripts, proficiency in a second language and three years of field experience in a related field — aid work, peace work, community organizing, etc. The fellowship is aimed at mid-career applicants with some ‘real world’ experience. In my case, my experience founding and directing PEG stood for my qualifier.
The fellowship is extremely competitive, given that only sixty Fellows are chosen worldwide each year. Once selected, however, we are well-provided for. In an effort to make these fellowships equally available to applicants from developing nations as to applicants from the developed world, Rotary not only covers the cost of tuition and books, but also lodging and a living stipend, transportation there and back, and at U.Q. even provides a private computer and shared office space on campus for each of us. They also provide funding for an Applied Field Experience in the summer between the second and third semesters of the program.
About the Program at the University of Queensland
The actual title of the degree I’ll be pursuing at the University of Queensland is a “ Masters in International Studies, Peace and Conflict Resolution.” Of the nine Fellows in Class VII, my class, two others are from the US and the others are from Scotland, Kenya, Iceland, the Philippines and Slovakia.
We study for two semesters of course work, then leave for a three-month Applied Field Experience. Each Fellow conceives and designs his/her own AFE. It can be anywhere in the world (except, again, the Fellow’s home country). After the AFE, we return for a final semester, then graduate in June of 2010.
There is more information on the program, including curriculum, here.
And here is a seven-minute promotional video on the program:
I am currently in rural India working for a Gandhian aid organization called Arthik Samata Mandal. They work across a broad range of issues, advocating for the poorest of the poor. I will continue to blog about their work in the next couple of months while I am here.
– So what will you do after the degree?
The truth is that I have no idea. I’m headed to U.Q. because it feels like a calling, and I hope and believe that the next step will present itself while I’m there. There’s a chance that I will return to some of the speaking and performing that I’ve already been doing, but to be honest, that’s not what I expect. There’s also a chance that I will want to continue the studies and pursue a doctorate, but somehow that doesn’t sound like what will happen either. I think the thing that will happen is something I haven’t thought of yet.
– Do you really expect never to perform again?
I’m not making any promises one way or the other, but I am committed to doing this work of peacemaking in whatever way seems most effective, however I can be most useful. That may or may not involve playing music. The bottom line, though, is that I’m trying to make myself completely open to all possibilities.
– Did you decide to do this in order to come off the road and have a child?
No. It is amazing how well all that timing is working out, but the truth is that Deanna and I made the decisions about pursuing this Fellowship long before we considered the idea of having a child at the same time. As it turns out, little Mason was born October 31, 2008 and it was good of the little guy to show up almost three weeks early to give us more time to work on the passport and visa.
Will you perform in Australia while you’re there?
At this point I’m planning on not performing while I’m there. It’s been nearly twenty years since I was in school, and I think it’s going to take all of my attention. I’ve toured in Australia three times before, including a couple of years at the National Folk Festival, so I’ve got some good friends and a small audience down there, but I think I’d better keep my focus pure, at least until I feel more sure of myself as a student. Maybe in the later semesters.
The other reason to resist performing is that it’s going to be hard for me to stop. I love doing this, and I think I need to draw a clear line. If I let myself perform just a little, I think I’d soon be performing a lot, and that wouldn’t be honoring this new path or the extraordinary generosity of the Rotary Foundation.
That said, I hope I’ll be playing a lot in the living room, and I hope writing a lot as well. Who knows, maybe more than I am now. I may put up a song on my website from time to time. Stay tuned.
– Will you keep blogging?
Yes! I plan to be blogging here steadily, so please keep in touch!