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Conflict Resolution and Governance

My education has made a major contribution to my development

Swaan van Iterson, alumna in the Master's conflict Resolution and Governance, tells about her career path.

Swaan van Iterson

I have always had a great interest in social tensions, (ethnic) conflicts and nationalism. For my Bachelor's thesis (Interdisciplinary Social Sciences) I studied the identification of highly educated students in Hungary with the far right. Together with Folia Magazine (the UvA platform for journalism) I made a documentary on the same topic. Friends regularly asked me: "Don't you find it hard to focus on these kinds of heavy topics? Strangely enough, I never experienced it in that way. I was – and still am – very interested in the dynamics that underlie social tensions. In this regard, the title of my current position suits me perfectly: "advisor on social tensions and radicalization".

Two years ago I started as an advisor at the Center of Expertise for Social Stability (ESS) at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. At ESS we offer advice and (practical) tools to municipalities, professionals and social groups on how to deal with social tensions. In our work, we cover numerous topics: think about tensions around the issue of Black Pete, dilemmas in the prevention of radicalization among youngsters, the rising appeal of the extreme right, or tensions between different Turkish communities.

When I started at ESS, I immediately noticed that the knowledge acquired during my Master's degree in Conflict Resolution and Governance was very useful: I had gained a lot of relevant theoretical knowledge (for example on conflict and identity), but I had also acquired specific skills that I could apply very concretely (for example making a conflict analysis). The greatest added value of CRG, however, was the connection between theory, policy and practice we explored during the master’s degree. At ESS, I am involved in different research projects, and find it essential to ask myself the following question: ‘What does this mean in everyday practice?’

My education has thus made a major contribution to my development. The various activities that I undertook myself, however, were also enormously important. I wrote various (scientific) articles as a result of my thesis, worked at the international department of the Anne Frank House for several years, became involved in the European Commission's Radicalization Awareness Network, and followed a training in international relations and diplomacy at the Clingendael Institute. All these activities allowed me to become acquainted with the broad field of work that my studies prepared me for.

I find it hard to give a specific recommendation for prospective students, precisely because it is such a personal choice. Perhaps what I would like to advise more generally is: don’t allow yourself to be too rushed by the current-day study pressure, but choose your own pace and path. If your finances do not allow you to do an internship alongside your studies, for example, create some time and space to "explore" the work field in a different way. Taking enough time to explore yourself and your interests is so important: the search itself is really the most important training!