Students Seek to Build Peace Through Business

Author: Joan Fallon

Several master’s students in peace studies recently spent two weeks with their MBA and law school classmates studying the impact of business in the post-conflict societies of Guatemala, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Mindanao in the Philippines.

The class, “Business on the Frontlines,” is taught by Viva Bartkus, associate professor of management at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and a faculty fellow of the Kroc Institute. 

Having spent weeks in the classroom studying development economics, politics, philosophy, and business, the students divided into four groups. Each team worked on a specific peace and business-related project that had been defined by the field partner, Catholic Relief Services.

  • In Guatemala, students focused on an agricultural project involving a business plan for a coop to expand from coffee to bananas. This team included peace studies master’s students Karla Alvarez and Anton Murra.
  • In Ethiopia, students worked with the Catholic Secretariat of Hararghe to strengthen its internal human resources and finance systems in order to assist its millions of beneficiaries. Peace studies master’s student Ezekiel Freeman was part of this team.
  • In the Philippines, students explored the extractive industries in Mindanao, where mining affects land rights, property rights, labor rights, human rights, and peacebuilding. Peace studies student Lidet Shiferaw was part of this team, which also included Hal Culbertson, executive director of the Kroc Institute.
  • In Egypt, students developed a plan to launch business-nongovernmental organization partnerships to create internships for unemployed, educated youth.

Field visits were coordinated by Catholic Relief Services, which works in more than 100 countries. In previous years, students in the class have traveled to Bosnia, Lebanon, Kenya, Rwanda, Mindanao, and Uganda. They develop business plans and recommendations that Catholic Relief Services can implement in local settings.

While in the field this year, students contributed photos and lessons learned to the “Business on the Front Lines” blog.

Contact: Viva Bartkus, 574-631-9997,